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December 3, 2010 / Rick Martin

The last word on objectivity

I was just reading a post by Alan Mutter entitled ‘Objective’ journalism is over, Let’s move on which reminded me of a lively Twitter debate among some Japan-based people on this very topic.

The takeaway from Alan’s article: Read more…

December 1, 2010 / Richard Smart

Wikileaks and Japan – an idea of what to expect (1985-1995)

As well as revealing the keywords for leaks, Wikileaks has also so far revealed the dates of the documents it has obtained from Tokyo Embassy. With more time, and if in need of doing so, it is possible to cross reference documents against significant events.

A simple example of what is missing from the files: There are no leaks from around the date Sept. 11, 2001.

The leaks become a flood around 2005, with none for a decade before that year. but before that there are only seven leaks, dating between Jan. 8, 1985 and March 20, 1995. Here we will look at the potential contents of some of those leaks.

Jan. 8, 1985 (EFIS, JA, IWC-2): This leak will tackle whaling, two years before a ban . EFIS stands for commercial fishing and fish processing, according to research using the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Handbook. IWC is the International Whaling Commission, and JA is of course Japan. Whaling was not banned for commercial purposes until 1986 (when the 1987 catch was set to take place, see here.)

July 4, 1985 (PTER , PREL): PTER stands for terrorists and terrorism. PREL stands for international relations. Big terrorist events around this date? A Provisional Irish Republican Army bombing campaign had just been foiled, and Japan may have had reason to discuss that. But the date is also six days before the Rainbow Warrior was bombed and sunk in Auckland.

March 2, 1990 (PREL, JA): No idea. Any help appreciated.

Feb. 23, 1991 (MARR, PTER, JA): MARR stands for military and defense arrangements. Possibly related to Japan’s $10 billion financial support for the first Gulf War.

April 1, 1992 (EFIN, JA): EFIN stands for financial and monetary affairs. Possibly relates to Taiyo Kobe Mitsui Bank, which renamed itself on this day, or the bursting of the Japanese bubble as a whole.

June 21, 1993 (PINR, PINS, PROP, MNUC, KN, KS, JA): PINR stands for intelligence; PINS national security, PROP propaganda and psychological operations, MNUC military nuclear operations, KN North Korea and KS Kosovo. As a G-7 summit took place in Tokyo two weeks after this, it likely relates to security for the event. Perhaps a threat assessment.

March 20, 1995 (PREL, ASEAN, APEC, NPT, UNSC, BX, JA): Nuclear negotiations. Most countries extended the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty indefinitely and without conditions in May of this year.

November 30, 2010 / Richard Smart

Wikileaks and Japan – an idea of what to expect (1)

As Japan Probe correctly points out, most data released via Wikileaks on Japan on Nov. 29 was tedious. Nothing to see there. However, no analysis has yet appeared of what we can garner from the teaser released yesterday by Julian Assange’s organization.

5697 cables of 251,287 total cables list the US Embassy in Tokyo as the origin.
Source: The Guardian,  (Google Fusion Tables)

First, the Japan leaks that are yet to be released show activity at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo is dominated by a small amount of subjects (note that most leaks will include more than one subject) :

KEY (1)

  • PGOV    Internal Governmental Affairs
  • KPAO     Public Affairs Office
  • OIIP    International Information Programs
  • KMDR     Media Reaction Reporting
  • ECON     Economics
  • PREL    External Political Relations
  • PINR    Intelligence
  • ELAB    Labor Sector Affairs

The above image shows all subjects within the Japan leaks that are mentioned more than 1,000 times (notably, labor sector affairs are mentioned some 1,861, with a massive gap then following to foreign trade, which is mentioned 445 times.

The issues that will dominate leaks (in terms of volume): Internal government affairs, public affairs, international information programs, media reaction reporting, economics, external political relations, intelligence and labor sector affairs.

Meanwhile, the following subjects were mentioned in more than 100 leaks:

KEY (2)

  • PGOV    Internal Governmental Affairs
  • KPAO     Public Affairs Office
  • OIIP    International Information Programs
  • KMDR     Media Reaction Reporting
  • ECON     Economics
  • PREL    External Political Relations
  • PINR    Intelligence
  • ELAB    Labor Sector Affairs
  • ETRD    Foreign Trade
  • PARM    Arms Controls and Disarmament
  • MARR    Military and Defense Arrangements
  • ENRG    Energy and Power
  • PHUM    Human Rights
  • EFIN    Financial and Monetary Affairs
  • KNNP    Nuclear Non- Proliferation
  • CH    China (Mainland)
  • KN    Korea (North)
  • EAGR    Agriculture and Forestry
  • KS    Korea (South)
  • EAID    Foreign Economic Assistance
  • SENV    Environmental Affairs
  • PTER    Terrorists and Terrorism
  • OTRA    Travel
  • IR    Iran
  • ETTC    Trade and Technology Controls
  • MNUC    Military Nuclear Applications
  • TBIO    Biological and Medical Science
  • KSCA    Science Counselors and Attachés
  • EINV    Foreign Investments
  • SOCI    Social Conditions

Human rights, China, terrorism and Iran all make appearances. The story of the last 65 years in Japan is arguably the story of its relationship with the international community and the way that its alliance with the United States has effected Its global position. The Wikileaks documents will give plenty of food for thought for those interested in that story. A clearer picture of Japan, and the way it is viewed by its ally across the Pacific is sure to emerge.

A written collaboration between Rick Martin and Richard Smart

November 29, 2010 / Richard Smart

Wikileaks – the diplomatic stuff

So far the stuff below has been released.

And two more points:

We are struggling to find ANY mention of Japan in the Iraq War Logs… help?

And the full Afghan mentions of Japan are here, with an index here.


Tip: Check the index as the war logs are generally tedious details about Japanese batteries used in Afghanistan.


And as far as today’s release goes, there appears to be a single entry on Japan, which is:


5. (C) Japanese DCM Kunio Umeda reported that PM Taro Aso,
who had visited Beijing April 29-30, had said Premier Wen
Jiabao was “very tired and seemed under a lot of pressure”
from dealing with the economic crisis, while President Hu
Jintao had seemed “confident and relaxed.”  PM Aso had
requested China not implement its planned compulsory
certification of IT products in China, while Premier Wen had
insisted the law was consistent with China’s WTO commitments.

November 15, 2010 / Rick Martin

Best places to run in Tokyo: A more empirical approach

I recently completed a piece on about the best places to run in Tokyo. These sort of lists tend to make me uncomfortable, and this one would be impossible unless I ran all of the trails personally — tricky to say the least.

I decided that the best approach would be to survey the Namban running club, a local group of runners well familiar with good runs around town. So I whipped up a few questions and then proceeded to do what I always do when faced with a data-related project. I emailed Chris Amico to see what he’d do. He wisely advised that I trim the fat, because the last thing you want is for your respondents to get bored.

So I then distilled my original, more lengthy survey to the following five criteria, administered using a Google Spreadsheet form:

Read more…

August 8, 2010 / Rick Martin

The data behind Japan’s aging population

In keeping with Richard’s post about the massive Wikileaks’ data file on the Afghan war, I though I’d continue the theme by rolling out some numbers on Japan’s elderly who are making unusual headlines these days, with many of them being reported ‘missing.’

Note the quotation marks. They’re important. Read more…

July 27, 2010 / Richard Smart

Wikileaks’ Japan data on Afghanistan: an index

Below will be a brief description of what is included in each Wikileaks entry on Japan in its Afghan leak. The raw data is available here. All mentions of Japan are in bold on that site (Richard Smart’s blog). Before, a couple of brief warnings:

  • Confirm that we caught all mentions, we may not have.
  • Download the file for yourself.
  • Search the blog text, I may have missed a couple of words that needed to be in bold.

The entries


A description of a cache found. Includes a Japanese radio.


An IED attack occurs, a Japanese battery is used to power the weapon.


Sub-contractors to a Japanese road construction company discover an IED. It is defused with no casualties.

A Japanese TV crew films in Afghanistan.

A description of a village at a meeting. The school there was Japanese built.

The Afghan people mention Japan as a major donor.

A Japanese NGO discusses health care.

The governor of Ghazni mentions a meeting with the Japanese ambassador that took place in Japan.

U.S. deputy under-secretary of defense and Afghan foreign secretary discuss the idea of developing military relations similar to Japan-US ones. Afghan minister welcomes idea of a US, Japan, Australia, India fringe meeting at a conference.

A bridge in Nangarhar that was built by the Japanese collapses, five rescued, three missing (and probably died).

A retaining wall built by a Japanese NGO collapses, leading to agricultural problems in a village.

A Japanese watch is used as part of a home-made weapon.

Afghanistan requests Japanese assistance to strengthen electricity supply.

Key to this entry is that Russia would need time to forgive Afghanistan of its debt.

Again, and explosive device contained a Japanese battery.

Japanese are constructing a physical therapy center.

Japanese have made wells for an area of Afghanistan, but more are still needed.

A Japanese-built school lacks certain resources.

Japan-made batteries power an explosive.

A Japanese NGO refused to bribe an official, and thus ended work on a bridge.

Information on how Japan helped to fund some district centers in Afghanistan.

A Japanese NGO helps improve rice production in Afghanistan.

ENTRY 25-26
Discussions include a Japanese grassroots project.

Confusion about an alleged Japanese project to build a road near Bamiyan.

A man named Lt. Corp. Ostlund alleges disinterest in helping an area called Aranus from both Japan and South Korea.

Documents a dispute between two villages over the location of a Japanese-built school.

Japan and Italy are suggested as potential nations that could help fund a road project.

Details Japanese funding for a health facility.

A fund request sent to the Japanese.

Announcement of a new office for a Japanese organization called JAIC (more than likely a mistake – JICA).

Documents the aim of getting Japanese funding for a health clinic.

Batteries made in Japan used in an explosive/

A description of the Japanese-funded Women’s Poultry Project.

Japan battery used in explosive.

A hydro-project funded by Japan may be repaired.

Assessment of (perhaps entry 38’s) hydro project.

Description of a recovered Japanese-made transceiver.

Notes on the kidnapping and murder of Japanese aid worker Kazuya Ito.