Aso in no position to criticize judo champ's English

TOKYO —

These days, it seems like almost every time a former prime minister of Japan opens his mouth, a new controversy is stirred somewhere. But one who hasn’t been heard from for a while, notes Shukan Bunshun (Feb 27), is the right honorable Taro Aso, the current deputy prime minister and finance minister in the current Abe cabinet. You know, the guy who, while at the speaker’s dais, frequently fumbles the readings of kanji.

This time, Aso said, “If judo’s [Yasuhiro] Yamashita had been able to speak English, he would have been made chairman of the international sports organization. But because he couldn’t say anything at all, during ‘that bout,’ as team manager, he couldn’t protest to the referees by saying, ‘Something’s wrong here.’ That’s because he doesn’t know English. Unfortunately that’s the truth.”

Yamashita took the gold medal for Japan at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in the unlimited weight class, and was subsequently made a recipient of the “People’s Honor Award” at the age of 27. He currently serves as one of the directors of the Japan Olympic Committee.

“Aso’s remarks came up during a question and answer session of the budget committee in the House of Representatives,” says a reporter who covers political affairs. “A question had been raised by legislator Hiroshi Hase about the necessity for ‘sports diplomacy.’ Even though it was not intended to reflect on athletes’ ability to communicate in English, Mr Hase (who himself was also once an Olympic wrestler the same year Yamashita took the gold medal) seemed to be taken aback by Aso’s response.”

The “bout,” to which Aso was referring was at the 2000 Olympics at Sydney, when Yamashita was head coach of the Japanese judo team. In the final of the super heavyweight class, Shinichi Shinohara lost to French judoist David Douillet based on a controversial split decision by the three referees.

Yamashita could be seen on TV harshly criticizing the decision. It was this that Aso chose to raise as an example of Japan’s poor English education.

The aforementioned reporter said, “Slips of this nature have become Mr Aso’s stock in trade, so when I heard it, all I could think of was, ‘Well, there he goes again.’ It was just like his remark last July about the Nazi’s ignoring Germany’s Weimar Constitution. He just took the criticism in stride.”

Actually Yamashita has become friends with another famous judoka, Russian President Vladimir Putin. And as for his English ability, the Asahi Shimbun of Feb 15 reported that Yamashita sometimes steps in to act as an interpreter at international conferences and as a director of the International Judo Federation, speaks in English.

Aso, who after graduation with a degree in economics from Gakushuin University, matriculated at Stanford University and the London School of Economics. He’s made numerous prepared speeches at international conferences, but an unnamed foreign correspondent based in Tokyo had this to say: “Mr Aso might have a high opinion of his own English ability, but it’s not at the level where he can go overseas and understand it. While he can get along with foreigners easily enough by exchanging hearty jokes, his English listening comprehension is almost nil.”

Following a visit to the Obama White House in 2009, Aso began talking to the president in English, but abruptly switched to Japanese midway in the conversation. A transcript issued after the talk labeled his remarks as “inaudible.”

  • 28

    HaraldBloodaxe

    Aso is a...what's the word? My poor English...

    Ah yes. Tosser.

  • 16

    Sensato

    These days, it seems like almost every time a former prime minister of Japan opens his mouth, a new controversy is stirred somewhere.

    These days it also seems like almost every time a serving PM of Japan opens his mouth, a new controversy is stirred somewhere.

  • 14

    kimuzukashiiiii

    I love taro aso. He is just so stupid.

  • 6

    cleo

    We need them to bring back obasuteyama. For stupid old tired old cringe-worthy old politicians whose brain cells (if they ever had any) have all deserted them.

  • -2

    Pandabelle

    “Mr Aso might have a high opinion of his own English ability, but it’s not at the level where he can go overseas and understand it. While he can get along with foreigners easily enough by exchanging hearty jokes, his English listening comprehension is almost nil.”

    I find this very hard to believe, considering Aso is a graduate of two prestigious overseas universities. Methinks the anonymous writer has an ax to grind here.

  • 5

    Pukey2

    Following a visit to the Obama White House in 2009, Aso began talking to the president in English, but abruptly switched to Japanese midway in the conversation. A transcript issued after the talk labeled his remarks as “inaudible.”

    Inaudible? Or perhaps incomprehensible?

    Aso and Mori would make a lovely couple!

  • 6

    Sharon Arai

    There you go again.... Go international Japan..don't ignored English~

  • 1

    davestrousers

    I'd normally be up for a bit of Aso-bashing, but here is Aso using his English to charm Obama: http://youtu.be/qy-mxY5tCvU

    Seems OK to me, I'd probably stutter and stumble a bit too in front of the cameras and the president.

  • -4

    jeankawabe

    I have spoken with Mr. Aso and I assure you his English is perfect! No matter how stupid the press makes him out to be he is a very articulate and intelligent man.....wonder if it is because he is from Izuka in Kyushu and the press thinks that anyone from this part of the country is a country bumpkin.

  • 10

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    I have spoken with Mr. Yamashita, who speaks fluent judo -- not sure how well he does on other topics -- but he certainly didn't deserve to be put down by a fellow Nihonjin, if that's what it was.

  • 10

    Lowly

    I wish Aso would put-down the idiotic j education system that teaches English the way it is taught and the university entrance exam system, which created a world of people whose English is as bad as Yamashita's (supposedly) is.

    And then use his influence to make a better system.

  • 2

    tmtmsnb

    "- - because he couldn’t say anything at all, during ‘that bout,’ as team manager, he couldn’t protest to the referees by saying, ‘Something’s wrong here.’ That’s because he doesn’t know English."

    If there was something wrong in the judgment, a critical one, and if through proper protestations (in English) the wrong could very possibly have been righted, then the leader’s language capability to carry out such protestation is an important issue worth raising, either by Aso, or anybody else. In this case Aso’s own English ability is absolutely irrelevant.
    That said, English speaking as qualification for being a leader is a joke. Give him an interpreter: the leader for winning the game, interpreter for protesting.

  • 2

    smithinjapan

    The guy can hardly understand his native tongue, let alone a foreign language. Glad to see him proving how much of a moron he is again.

  • 1

    BertieWooster

    Cleo,

    We need them to bring back obasuteyama. For stupid old tired old cringe-worthy old politicians whose brain cells (if they ever had any) have all deserted them.

    Agreed, but wouldn't this be, "Ojisuteyama?"

  • 2

    HonestBloke

    If the pot is going to call the kettle black, it seems these days the pot is expected to be some other color.

    Truth is truth. Forget the source for a moment. Now remember the source. Yes, Aso is illiterate even in his own language and is a creep who comes from a family of slavers and makes no apologies for it. But the truth is still the truth.

  • 3

    Gobshite

    Aso is comedy gold.... As much as I think he and his geriatric cronies should be retired, his verbal diarrhea would be missed.

  • 1

    bruinfan

    There is a lot of work to be done in this country on the linguistic front. Many aren't interested in English and that is fine. However, the way English is taught by the most in this country leaves much to be desired-- especially at the junior high school and high school levels. Some of the past prime ministers spoke pathetic English as well (Mori, etc.)

  • 3

    FightingViking

    Using a few more interpreters could help a lot...

    "Why you laugh ? Shudup ! Shudup ! Why you laugh ?" springs to mind... (and I DO need a job right now... I also proofread)

  • 3

    genjuro

    Foot in mouth. Again.

  • 1

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    wonder if it is because he is from Izuka in Kyushu and the press thinks that anyone from this part of the country is a country bumpkin.

    Ahem! There's a slight difference. Aso's not from Izuka -- his family owns Izuka. He was raised mostly in Tokyo.

  • 1

    Amidalism

    If there is a problem with anyone's English in this country the cause to be looked at is the pathetic education system that they have for it.

  • 1

    nyunt_shwe

    His excellency Mr. Aso has no ouster, but very dull!! I doubt his English ability very much!

  • 2

    Paul Arenson

    As to Mr Aso being from Izuka, let me assure you there are many people here (Yes, I live very close by) who detest him for his gaffes and embarrassments to the nation. The are many fine people in Iizuka, particularly those who suffered from descrimination as members of a low social caste who were, in theory only, liberated in the last century but continued to live in povery working in the mines and then thrown out of work in the early 60s. Japan's equivalent of Appalcia. Aso's family employed slave laborers, as is well known to many of us here in the Kitakyushu area.

    Just like Mori, he should crawl back into the woodwork and speak whatever language he chooses to his fellow cockroaches.

  • 1

    safinator

    I believe the correct term is judoka not "judoist" ? somebody correct me if Im mistaken please -

  • 0

    toshiko

    Aso was raised in Tokyo. It is just his big mouth based on his stupid mind. @Bertie: You are right. Oba is female old people. Oji is male old people. Ojisuteyama. . @safimatpr" Judoka is Japanese language. . Judoist is translation of judoka. You are correct. In Japanese old books, Judo was Yawara.

  • 0

    Fukuppy

    English education again? Seriously? What is it with the Japanese and English? They seem obsessed with it and yet have chosen a course of action (JET/ALT/Eikaiwa) that will never teach them to speak it because the goal is 'to have fun' and 'enjoy English' rather than actually get down to the hard task of actually learning it. It's all Genki English and no real studying. All these years of JET and they have changed so very little for such a huge investment. If they really wanted the country to speak English they could easily have done something about it by now. It's no use blaming those who came through the silly system. But English - get over it, Japan!

Login to leave a comment

OR
  • 営業/建設機械  

    営業/建設機械  
    MB Japan 株式会社、埼玉県
    給与:給与要相談 歩合制 給与参考例・・・2013年度営業職月給平均 45万円  
  • TOEICインストラクター

    TOEICインストラクター
    Berkeley House Language Center / バークレーハウス語学センター、東京都
    給与:時給 3,000円 相談可
  • TOEFL・IELTSインストラクター

    TOEFL・IELTSインストラクター
    Berkeley House Language Center / バークレーハウス語学センター、東京都
    給与:時給 3,500円 相談可
  • 海外留学担当者

    海外留学担当者
    Berkeley House Language Center / バークレーハウス語学センター、東京都
    給与:月給 25万円 ~ 35万円 相談可
  • PR and Communication Specialist

    PR and Communication Specialist
    Italian Chamber of Commerce in Japan、東京都
    給与:給与についての記載なし

More in Kuchikomi

View all

View all