Just How Long Have Human Beings Been Fishing

This image of what are currently the world’s oldest known fish hooks has been showing up in news stories this month.

World's Oldest Fish Hooks

These are about 23,000 years old and were discovered in a cave in Okinawa, Japan. Researchers have been excavating the cave which was apparently used by successive groups of human beings for fishing as early as 35,000 years ago.

As the researchers note, this suggests that fishing technologies were more widely distributed at an earlier date than previously thought,

Maritime adaptation was one of the essential factors that enabled modern humans to disperse all over the world. However, geographic distribution of early maritime technology during the Late Pleistocene remains unclear. At this time, the Indonesian Archipelago and eastern New Guinea stand as the sole, well-recognized area for secure Pleistocene evidence of repeated ocean crossings and advanced fishing technology. The incomplete archeological records also make it difficult to know whether modern humans could sustain their life on a resource-poor, small oceanic island for extended periods with Paleolithic technology. We here report evidence from a limestone cave site on Okinawa Island, Japan, of successive occupation that extends back to 35,000?30,000 y ago. Well-stratified strata at the Sakitari Cave site yielded a rich assemblage of seashell artifacts, including formally shaped tools, beads, and the world’s oldest fishhooks. These are accompanied by seasonally exploited food residue. The persistent occupation on this relatively small, geographically isolated island, as well as the appearance of Paleolithic sites on nearby islands by 30,000 y ago, suggest wider distribution of successful maritime adaptations than previously recognized, spanning the lower to midlatitude areas in the western Pacific coastal region.

Nancy Pelosi Visits Hiroshima Memorial

On September 2, Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking U.S. politician to ever visit the Hiroshima memorial. According to the Associated Press,

The Democrat, who came to this western port city for a two-day annual gathering of Group of Eight legislative heads, joined other speakers in paying their respects at a memorial to the Hiroshima bombing. One by one, each bowed, then laid flowers at a white, arch-shaped monument containing the names of more than 200,000 victims of the nuclear blast.

No serving U.S. president or vice president has ever visited Hiroshima. As speaker of the House of Representatives, Pelosi is second in line to the presidency after U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Post notes that the nuclear weapons used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed 220,000 people within a few months and, of course, led to the quick surrender of Japan.

What goes missing from these figures, of course, is the sheer and unimaginable murder of civilians by the Japanese empire from its invasion of China in 1937 to its unconditional surrender on August 15, 1945.The death toll is staggering. The United States’ indiscriminate bombing of Japan killed an estimated 670,000 civilians; but the Japanese empire murdered several times more civilians than that just from their forced labor programs throughout Asia.

Ruddy Rummel, in his chapter on Japan’s democide from his excellent Power Kills notes that,

From the invasion of China in 1937 to the end of World War II, the Japanese military regime murdered near 3,000,000 to over 10,000,000 people, most probably almost 6,000,000 Chinese, Indonesians, Koreans, Filipinos, and Indochinese, among others, including Western prisoners of war. This democide was due to a morally bankrupt political and military strategy, military expediency and custom, and national culture (such as the view that those enemy soldiers who surrender while still able to resist were criminals).

At the time of the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, World War II was still raging in many parts of Asia and some estimates put civilian casualties in Japanese-controlled territories as high as 8,000 per day in the time period shortly before the end of the war. Despite facing certain defeat, Japan was still engaged in wholesale murder in the parts of Asia it still controlled.

Pelosi’s visit to the Hiroshima memorial might be a bit easier to understand if Japan still was not engaged in wholesale denial of its role in World War II. In the United States, there is an ongoing debate over the morality of dropping nuclear weapons on Japanse cities. In Japan, however, history textbooks that whitewash imperial history are bestsellers.

Japan as Safe Haven for Parental Kidnappers

The Japan Times recently published an excellent article on Japan’s role as a safe haven for parents who kidnap their children in violation of child custody orders in their home countries.

The article leads with the case of Murray Wood whose two children went from Canada with his ex-wife to visit their ailing grandfather in Japan in November 2004. The children have remained in Japan ever since, despite a Canadian court’s ruling months earlier that granted Murray Wood sole custody to the children.

Unfortunately, Wood has few options since Japan is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction which sought to prevent exactly this sort of cross-border child abduction by parents. Under that convention, children like Wood’s would have to be promptly returned to their country of origin which would have the final say in all custodial matters.

According to the Japan Times,

The Canadian Embassy said it is presently dealing with 21 cases of child abduction, while the figure for the British Embassy was about five. The U.S. Embassy said it is aware of 20 children who have been abducted and taken to Japan.

So why hasn’t Japan signed the convention like most developed countries? A 1996 Los Angeles Times article suggested that cultural norms related to marriage and divorce were the likely reasons. According to the Los Angeles Times,

In Japan’s historically non-litigious society, the family court is designed to provide ways for problems to be resolved amicably, with the help of a court-appointed mediator. Attorneys said there is no legal mechanism to award joint custody of children, but the noncustodial parent may be given visitation rights.

. . .

Kunio Koide, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official, said his government does not see the need for signing the treaty because Japan’s Protection of Personal Liberties Act prevents an individual from being illegally restrained. But Koide acknowledged that it would be difficult to prosecute a parent under that act.

The article further notes that Japan does not treat parental kidnapping as a crime, so even in cases where parents have been convicted of parental kidnapping in the United States and managed to travel to Japan, the United States is not able to extradite those individuals from Japan.

Sources:

Lost in a Loophole: Foreigners Who Are on the Losing End of a Custody Battle in Japan Don’t Have Much Recourse. Evelyn Iritani, Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1996.

Japan remains safe haven for parental abductions. Masami Ito, Japan Times, December 31, 2005.

Whaling Shock — Japan Paid Solomon Islands for IWC Vote

Former Solomon Islands whaling officials revealed the biggest non-secret about the annual International Whaling Commission meetings — Japan is paying some countries to vote to overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling.

Former Solomon Islands IWC Commissioner Albert Wata told ABC’s Four Corners,

Yes, the Japanese pay the government subscriptions. They support the delegations tot the meetings in terms of meeting air fares and per diem.

Solomon Islands Fisheries Minister Nelson Kile told the program that Japan paid the Solomons membership fees in the IWC,

Yes they do (pay the fees). I’m not really sure but probably for 10 years I think.

So far, though, Japan’s efforts have yet to pay off. Its efforts to overturn the moratorium again failed earlier this year at the 2005 meeting of the IWC.

Source:

Japan ‘brought Solomons whaling votes’. Associated Press, July 18, 2005.