AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Japan’s election: Is either party listening?

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, July 31, 2007

For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts, laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes, his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering a warning, “All glory is fleeting”.

IT WAS A HISTORIC ELECTION IN JAPAN. The victors were stunned by the magnitude of their victory. The losers appeared shell-shocked, so dazed it seemed as if they would require minders to keep them from walking into the walls. The mass media was agog with the sheer spectacle and novelty and couldn’t stop talking about it.

Sound familiar? It should—that’s exactly what happened nearly two years ago when former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party shocked the nation (and delighted the voters) by dissolving the lower house of the Diet, calling a new election, and flattening the opposition like so much road kill to win the second highest majority ever in that body.

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On Sunday, the winds of change abruptly reversed direction at gale force as the voters literally kicked the LDP out of the driver’s seat and gave control of the inaptly named upper house to the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

The astonishing margins of victory in these two epochal elections created a huge majority for the LDP in the lower house and a substantial majority for the DPJ in the upper house. It is critical for the continued health and survival of both parties–and the creation of a viable two-party system in the country–that the LDP and the DPJ come to grips with an increasingly volatile, demanding, and independent electorate. Yet neither they, nor the mass media, have given any indication that they comprehend what these elections mean.

Why the DPJ won

Traditional party ties in Japan are unraveling and are no longer the single most important factor in winning elections. The critical element for victory is capturing the independent voter. In the 2005 lower house election, 20.2% of the voters in Kyodo exit polls classified themselves as independents; the DPJ won 38.2% of that vote, while the LDP won 32.6%.

On Sunday, however, 18.7% of the voters identified themselves as independents, and the DPJ won an outright majority of 51.2%. The percentage-point total of the LDP share of the unaffiliated voters plunged by nearly half to 16.7%.

What were the reasons for this swing to the DPJ? I haven’t been able to find an exit poll for voters nationwide, but I did find one in a Kyoto newspaper for the Kyoto region.

Here’s what it said in Japanese:

投票で重視した問題を聞いたところ「年金・社会保障」が42・8%と他を圧倒し、最大の関心事だったという結果が出た。「格差社会是正」「憲法改正」「景気対策」「政治とカネ」「教育改革」と続いたが、いずれも1割から数%だった。

Of the issues voters gave priority to when casting their ballots, the one that generated the most interest by far was the problem with pensions and social security. (It was revealed recently that the government has mishandled the records for the pension accounts of millions of citizens; it was at that point that the poll ratings for the LDP tanked.)

A total of 42.8% of the voters cited this issue in exit polls. The other issues, including the income gap in society, Constitutional amendments, economic policies, “politics and money” (financial scandals involving Cabinet members), and educational reform, in that order, were cited by 10% of the voters or fewer.

While the low percentage citing “politics and money” is something of a surprise, no one should be shocked at all that the pension problem was such a major factor. The revelation during Mr. Koizumi’s tenure in office of the failure of many politicians (and show business personalities) to make pension payments roiled the political waters and forced the resignation of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda. Current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe considered the issue important enough that he devoted an entire chapter to it in his book, Toward a Beautiful Country.

The revelation of the Social Insurance Agency’s utter incompetence in handling the matter, and the government’s utter incompetence in grasping the extent of the problem and explaining it to the people, sealed their fate.

Indeed, the president of the DPJ, Ichiro Ozawa, had to resign from the party presidency once before because of pension problems, though he was never charged with a crime.

Another factor being mentioned by the media, but which doesn’t show up in the exit polls, contains more than a little irony. Mr. Koizumi, the previous prime minister, made it his mission to destroy the LDP in order to rebuild it. Unfortunately for the party, he also destroyed the local organizations in the construction and agricultural industries on which the party had relied for its support. When the issue of pensions became prominent, these party stalwarts, no longer bound so closely to the LDP, jumped ship. There was LDP blood in the water on Sunday in those areas that had formerly been party strongholds, particularly agricultural districts.

This combination of factors demonstrates clearly that the DPJ didn’t win the election, but rather that the LDP lost it, and lost badly.

Factors that weren’t at issue

It has been suggested in some quarters that the election revealed the “Japanese people’s displeasure for the conservative nationalist agenda of Prime Minister Abe”.

The exit polls show this wasn’t even on the voters’ radar. This is simply wishful thinking on the part of some people on the left. Even newspapers of the left overseas, such as The Guardian in Britain, never brought up the subject in their analysis of Sunday’s election.

This should not be a surprise to anyone who actually pays attention to Japanese politics. DPJ president Ichiro Ozawa presented his own draft Constitution in 1999 when he was the head of a different party. This draft was slammed by Yukio Hatoyama, then head of the DPJ, as being “too nationalist”. (Mr. Hatoyama now serves under Mr. Ozawa in the party as its secretary-general.) If voters were looking for a safe haven from nationalism, Mr. Ozawa’s DPJ wouldn’t qualify.

The political philosophy of former Prime Minister Jun’ichiro Koizumi is not so radically different from Mr. Abe’s; indeed, Mr. Abe seemed to have been Mr. Koizumi’s hand-picked successor. In addition, Mr. Koizumi unapologetically visited the Yasukuni shrine–with all those Class A war criminals–at least a half-dozen times, causing riots in China and South Korea. Nonetheless, he and the LDP trounced the DPJ in the 2005 election.

As we’ve seen before, the position of some DPJ members is more extreme than that of many in the LDP. In fact, lower house member Jin Matsubara of the DPJ signed the Washington Post ad against the comfort woman resolution and could fairly be termed a Nanjing Massacre denier.

Also, as we’ve seen before, the Kyodo poll taken after the current brouhaha arose over the American House of Representatives’ comfort woman resolution showed that Mr. Abe’s support slid just 0.4 percentage point. Considering the 3% margin of error in most polls, it is mathematically possible that the issue actually benefited him.

What happens next?

Nobody knows, and anyone who is offering predictions is indulging themselves by blowing smoke rings.

Mr. Abe says he will continue in office after what will probably be a major Cabinet reshuffle next month. He still may be asked to resign to take responsibility, but LDP sources already were saying last week, when the dimensions of the defeat were taking shape, that he would continue in office.

The most likely successor would be Foreign Minister Taro Aso. Mr. Abe’s retention of office for the present could mean one of two things: first, the LDP leadership thinks Mr. Aso would be a liability, most probably because of his quirky public statements (these have been well-documented elsewhere). Or, it could just as easily mean that Mr. Aso is not interested in taking the job as a caretaker until the next lower house election. That election does not have to be held until 2009, but it is likely to be scheduled earlier.

Though the DPJ now controls the upper house, the only real power it can exercise is to block LDP legislation initiated in and passed by the lower house. The upper house seldom initiates legislation itself. The lower house can still overrule the upper house with a two-thirds majority, which, due to the LDP’s huge advantage, will not be that difficult to do with the help of the New Komeito coalition partners, unaffiliated members, and members of small parties. Still, any bills that pass during the next Diet session starting in December will require a level of bipartisanship that has never existed in postwar Japan.

The upper house has only blocked a lower house bill six times in 60 years, and the last time it tried, with then-Prime Minister Koizumi’s postal privatization bill, Mr. Koizumi dissolved the lower house, won an overwhelming mandate, and reintroduced the bill. The upper house caved in.

It has been said that party discipline is stronger in Japan than elsewhere. What that really means is that party politics in Japan is still immature; Diet members seldom cross party lines, even if it were to mean voting their convictions. They’ll toe their own party line rather than compromise or reach common ground with their opponents.

That’s a recipe for gridlock, and no one in the country looks forward to it at all. The DPJ will have to play its hand very carefully in the upper house. On the one hand, it has to be assertive in advancing its own agenda to continue to ingratiate itself with the electorate. Being overly aggressive in blocking the LDP, however, could cause the voters to become irritated with its obstructionism. We’ve already seen that today’s Japanese electorate is very alert, quick to change direction, and ready to punish anyone in the political class.

Can the DPJ be trusted to behave responsibly? That’s very unlikely. As other commentators have noted, their entire existence so far has depended on being “not the LDP”. They have yet to offer the voters a clear picture of what they would do if they were in power. The lack of a common political philosophy among its membership prevents it, for one thing. They’ve also never been forced to take the idea too seriously before, because they were never this close to power before.

What does party president Ichiro Ozawa think? We don’t know.

Mr. Ozawa has heart problems and is not in the best of health. He was so exhausted by the month-long campaign that he could not appear on television Sunday night to discuss the victory and present his party’s vision. That job fell to Mr. Hatoyama, as Mr. Ozawa is spending the next two days recuperating.

This is not the first time his health has interfered with his duties as DPJ president. After his reelection as party president, another hospital visit once prevented him from confronting Mr. Abe in the Diet during the regular debate between the party leaders.

It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Mr. Abe and Mr. Ozawa square off against each other in a lower house election. The LDP might be buying time until it can find a suitable replacement for the prime minister, and Mr. Ozawa’s health might not permit what would be a more strenuous campaign in a lower house election. If he has difficulty coping with a short election campaign, how would he stand up to the rigors of running a government?

What sort of policies will the DPJ pursue? We don’t know that, either.

Sunday night, a television reporter asked Mr. Hatoyama what policy the DPJ had for continuing economic growth.

Mr. Hatoyama snickered.

He tried to sidestep the issue by saying that it was a complicated subject, but that the party wanted to involve smaller shopkeepers in the recovery rather than just the big corporations.

A serious politician from a serious party would have immediately given a serious answer drawn from a serious policy statement that had been prepared in advance. That Mr. Hatoyama was unable to do so speaks volumes about the DPJ’s readiness to assume control of government.

Therein lie the problems of Japan’s current political system. The LDP is waning and has no immediate prospects for rejuvenation. The DPJ is steadily gaining ground nationwide, particularly in local government, but has yet to demonstrate that it is ready for prime time. The Japanese voters are increasingly expressing their dissatisfaction with the answers of the past and are more than willing to administer serious pain to either party for incompetence or the lack of a serious program. And, as Mr. Koizumi’s victory two years ago showed, they will enthusiastically support and reward someone who speaks directly to them and offers a clear policy with a specific choice.

The quote at the top of this post is the last lines of dialogue spoken in the movie Patton. The Democratic Party of Japan is now enjoying the honors of triumph and should continue to do so for the immediate future. The LDP is walking as dazed prisoners in chains before them.

But the DPJ needs to start listening to the voice of the servant whispering from the back of the chariot that glory is fleeting—particularly political glory in Japan, particularly today.

If the DPJ doesn’t pay attention, the electorate will unsheathe its terrible swift sword yet again. It’s happened to them before. The LDP also failed to listen, and the result was Sunday’s massacre.

And it will keep happening until somebody in national politics starts to take the voters more seriously than they do their own interests.

25 Responses to “Japan’s election: Is either party listening?”

  1. It has been suggested in some quarters that the election revealed the “Japanese people’s displeasure for the conservative nationalist agenda of Prime Minister Abe”. The exit polls show this wasn’t even on the voters’ radar.

    Right. I think the main point is people don’t care about these issues. They just plain out don’t care. They want their bread and butter.

    It’s sort of like, what’s he on about all this constitutional stuff for, give me my pension funds!

  2. ponta said

    ”As we’ve seen before, the position of some DPJ members is more extreme than that of many in the LDP.”

    That’s quite correct, for instance,
    Miwa Nobuaki
    http://www.miwa-n.jp/report.html

    “はっきり言って右です!!”

    第十回(6月19日up!)
    「憲法改正だ!」「特別会計をつぶせ」「日本再生はオレに任せろ!」
    第九回(6月9日up!)
    「自衛隊問題」「自衛隊は誇りある職業」「自国は自国で守る!」
    第八回(5月30日up!)
    「違法朝鮮利権への対処」「売国議員は血祭りに」「戦争の清算などすでにない!」
    第七回(5月16日up!)
    「特定アジアの言うこと聞く暇無し」「犯罪外国人を摘発しよう!」「北朝鮮と国交正常化の必要なし」

  3. ampontan said

    Ponta: Thanks for that. That’s an interesting comment he made about the NEETs in his latest video.

  4. Durf said

    The May Chuo Koron has a good piece by Takenaka Harukata on the status of the House of Councillors and what various election results would mean for Abe in his dealings with it post-election. It’s a bit dated in the light of the LDP’s plummeting popularity in the leadup to the election, but there’s an English translation of the piece in the latest Japan Echo including a postscript covering some more scenarios that seemed likely given the position Abe found himself in. (Not available online, but I can send you a copy if you’d like to take a look.)

  5. ampontan said

    Durf: Yes, thanks for your offer, I’d like to read it.

    I’ve been reading an interesting book that is a different roundtable discussion by three former politicians called 参議院なんかいらない, which I’m tempted to translate as “Upper House? We Don’t Need No Steenkin’ Upper House!”.

    I wanted to finish and write a summary before the election, but that takes time. I still plan on doing it.

    There have been suggestions in the past that the upper house be eliminated, and I heard a TV commentator mention it again Sunday night.

  6. Ken said

    It is critical for the continued health and survival of both parties–and the creation of a viable two-party system in the country–that the LDP and the DPJ come to grips with an increasingly volatile, demanding, and independent electorate.

    Well put. The media seemed to be spoon-feeding them what to do, especially since the pension issue blew up, but the LDP, which had months to prepare a plan to limit the damage before it went public, failed miserably. The DPJ has no plan either, though they don’t have the Cabinet (nor will any time soon), so the burden is still with the LDP on this one.

    I don’t think the public even gives a second thought to the ‘nationalist’ agenda of Abe, other than to express that certain elements of it, such as his education and constitutional reform, are not what they want to hear about at this time. Thus their relative absence from poll responses.

  7. Durf said

    @Ken: Some years back the DPJ got considerable media attention for its shadow cabinet. I imagine the party still maintains such a thing, but it certainly isn’t in the public eye any more. It was an effective way to let people know that you were at least practicing to hold the reins one day.

  8. Aceface said

    ”There have been suggestions in the past that the upper house be eliminated”
    I think I’ve read that some where in Ozawa’s “Blueprint for New Japan” back in the 90’s.He must have different thought now,at least this week.

    “I imagine the party(DPJ) still maintains such a thing, but it certainly isn’t in the public eye any more.”
    Probably that is the reason why we have ex-Chosen Ilbo Japan manager,Hak Shin Shin as NEXT deputy defense minister of DPJ on one hand,while we have some freak like Miwa,calling out for dealing with “illegal Korean interest”(read Pachinko) and “No need for listening to specific East Asian neighbors”on another.

  9. AC said

    Eliminating the Upper House would have to be done by constitutional amendment, which would require a two-thirds majority in both houses. Somehow I don’t think two-thirds of a group of politicians from whatever party will ever agree to eliminate their own jobs.

  10. […] results. While some have voiced support for the DPJ and their leader Ozawa Ichiro, others have argued that the DPJ victory is grounded more in dissatisfaction with the LDP — and, in particular, palpable anger and frustration over the pension fund fiasco — […]

  11. mitaker said

    I don’t believe that there’s anything inherently good about there being two equally powered political parties vying for votes. I think that it is much better that the people all agree on the same party in a completely fair, objective vote. A single party rule in a fair democracy of multiple political parties means the people agree and are united under common values and common goals. That some people voted for the DPJ for the sake of a two-party system is like the stereotypical American who debates (or argues) for the sake of debating. Unlike Americans, Japanese believe there’s nothing inherently good about disagreement. Especially in a country like Japan where other than the LDP, no party actually represents a concrete party platform, people should not be voting to create a two-party system.

    Like the surveys and such reveal, the reason why the DPJ won this election is because there were problems with nenkin. This is really a problem with government in general, not with the LDP in particular. It’s a particular department within a government. Even if you could make the argument that the LDP was incompetent, one should probably vote for the person who’s slightly incompetent but has good values rather than vote for the person who is competent at promoting bad values.

    Then again, what exactly are the values of the DPJ? Ampontan really shows that the DPJ isn’t exactly a leftwing party or a rightwing party. It’s more a party that disagrees with whatever the LDP believes in. Such a party could not exist in any other mature democracy.

    Like the exit polls show, the only problem was nenkin. If the nenkin thing didn’t happen, the Japnaese people have shown through previous elections that they support LDP values (which I believe are creating an efficient government, this including Postal reform and such; more actively promoting peace in the world through joining the security council and having a real army; keeping Japanese traditions while fixing what needs to be fixed, this i believe is related to educational reform).

    That the Japanese people voted for the DPJ this time shows that Japanese people perhaps do not understand the graveness of their decision and that they might not be truly ready for a democracy…

  12. tomojiro said

    “I don’t believe that there’s anything inherently good about there being two equally powered political parties vying for votes. I think that it is much better that the people all agree on the same party in a completely fair, objective vote.”

    I think that the Chinese communist party will agree on that. And also the Japanese communist party. That’s what they always saying. Of course, “the party which all agreed in a completely fair and objevtive vote” is the communist party.

    You are a LDP supporter. So instead the communist party,its the LDP.
    But, sorry. I have to say that I feel you (and maybe other LDP supporters) and the “communists” don’t understand democracy properly.

    It’s not about “american” or “japanese”. It is about democracy. Of course the language used during the election is different, but the principle is the same.

  13. Aceface said

    “That the Japanese people voted for the DPJ this time shows that Japanese people perhaps do not understand the graveness of their decision and that they might not be truly ready for a democracy…”

    Whoa.That’s exactly what I’ve felt about American presidential elections in this century…
    But put aside my feelings,What exactly wrong with voting for a party that is neither right nor left and against everything LDP does?
    First of all,LDP itself is “take-all-that-there-is”political party for decades. Secondly,DPJ is a coalition of various party who never had themselves in power,thus do not have singular chain of command or political dogma.Thirdly,where is the concept of check and balance in your idea of democracy,Mitaker?

  14. Ken said

    Durf, true about the ‘shadow Cabinet’ but I haven’t heard anything about it in years. I’m wondering if now might be a good time for them to resurrect it?

    I do think that talk of doing away with the Upper House altogether is hypothetical reactionary fringe talk, even if there might be valid reasons for doing so. Political winds sway, and in 10 years it will be in control of some other party (the LDP or perhaps one that doesn’t yet exist), and those who espouse the idea now will oppose it later (see Ozawa in the early 90s on this issue). Rather than doing away with the Upper House, it seems as though toning down the muscle of the Lower House might benefit Japan more in the future.

  15. H_of_C said

    “The upper house cannot initiate legislation itself.”

    This is not true, though upper house-initiated bills are rare so far.
    http://www.sangiin.go.jp/eng/guide/f_c_6.htm

  16. Aceface said

    ”Durf, true about the ’shadow Cabinet’ but I haven’t heard anything about it in years. I’m wondering if now might be a good time for them to resurrect it?”

    DPJ simply stopped calling it as “shadow cabinet”which gives you sort of secret soceity-like negative image.They are now calling it “Next Cabinet次の内閣”.

  17. ampontan said

    H-of-C: Thanks for that information. Learn something new every day. I’ve made the change in the article.

  18. Durf said

    DPJ simply stopped calling it as “shadow cabinet”which gives you sort of secret soceity-like negative image.They are now calling it “Next Cabinet次の内閣”.

    The 次の内閣 term might give a more forward-looking vibe than “shadow cabinet,” but that term is a standard one in English and has no “secret society” connotations to any native speaker, in my opinion. (The Japanese 陰の内閣 does sound a bit more sinister though.)

  19. Aceface said

    「影の内閣」のほうがもっとイメージが悪いよ。

  20. Durf said

    ふむふむ。両方ググってみたけどどっちも使われている、と判断した。でも確かに「影」が多い。

  21. Aceface said

    日本の野党には「陰」のほうが合ってるかもね。

  22. mitaker said

    I’m not advocating a single party state. There’s a a fundamental difference between a single party-rule (or sometimes called dominant party rule) and an authoritarian state, which is the Communist Party of China and also what the commenters above are trying to compare my belief to.

    I’m saying that if there are equal and fair elections and the people still vote for the same party because they believe in the same values and the same goals, this is the ideal situation. This is the situation that every nation strives for. A united nation with common interests. That the people have common needs and desires is the reason why a nation even exists in teh first place.

    In a nation like Japan, it is far easier for this to occur than in a country like the United States. The Japanese people all speak the same language, grew up hearing the same fairy tales, believing in the same religious beliefs, and all physically similar, as well. It’s because of these commonalities that we grew up into a nation where pretty much everyone wants the same thing. Which also makes it very important that we look after the minorities which is the bushido value of sokuin (if you read Kokka no Hinkaku).

    And it just so happens that the LDP, not because it’s a take-all-party (as Aceface seems to believe), but because it holds the values that the Japanese people believe in, is the party that became that single-rule party. The LDP has very concrete values, especially under Abe’s administration. Read his book. He spells it out very clearly what he wants Japan to become. The Japanese people support his goals. We want Japan to take a more responsible role in international peacekeeping, we want to keep the shotengais and traditional Japanese townscapes and citiscapes, we want an efficient government, we want to be proud of being Japanese, not taught to be ashamed of being Japanese from textbooks, we want to be America’s equal partner, united under common values, we don’t want to apologize to China/Korea any more….. on and on.

    I have no idea what the DPJ wants. I dont’ know what they’ll do in power. I don’t want a party like that in government and neither should anyone else in Japan. Clearly, anyone in any other democratic country could see the problem with a political party whose only “manifesto” during their election campaign is to advertise that the other party happened to be the party in power when one department of the government screwed up. Voting for this party for the sole sake of creating a two party system, voting for a party that does not have common values with the people or any values at all for the matter, is suicidal. That is really what this election was.

  23. Don said

    Mitaker, if you’re a troll, you’ve given a masterclass in baiting here. On the off chance you actually believe what you’ve written, please allow me to take a big gullible bite.

    Do you have Japanese nationality, as your use of “we” would imply? Your exceptionally narrow and condescending views of the country and its people would suggest otherwise.

    “That the Japanese people voted for the DPJ this time shows that Japanese people perhaps do not understand the graveness of their decision and that they might not be truly ready for a democracy…”

    Exactly. Let’s revoke the voting rights of these poor feeble-minded plebeians as they’ve shown they’re obviously not intelligent enough to vote for the LDP.

    “The Japanese people all speak the same language, grew up hearing the same fairy tales, believing in the same religious beliefs, and all physically similar, as well. It’s because of these commonalities that we grew up into a nation where pretty much everyone wants the same thing.”

    Thank you for reminding us that all Japanese people think alike, a hive mind if you will. And let’s be honest here, who can really tell them apart? They all look the same to me too! A ha ha ha…

    “We want Japan to take a more responsible role in international peacekeeping, we want to keep the shotengais and traditional Japanese townscapes and citiscapes, we want an efficient government, we want to be proud of being Japanese, not taught to be ashamed of being Japanese from textbooks, we want to be America’s equal partner, united under common values, we don’t want to apologize to China/Korea any more….. on and on.”

    Do go on! I want to commit this to memory so I can pretend to be Japanese too!

  24. tomojiro said

    Mitaker

    Now I perfectly understand why you are supporting the LDP and Abe, and people like you are the very reason that I oppose the LDP AND ABE.

    “In a nation like Japan, it is far easier for this to occur than in a country like the United States. The Japanese people all speak the same language, grew up hearing the same fairy tales, believing in the same religious beliefs, and all physically similar, as well. It’s because of these commonalities that we grew up into a nation where pretty much everyone wants the same thing. Which also makes it very important that we look after the minorities which is the bushido value of sokuin (if you read Kokka no Hinkaku).”

    Oh,my god,the “myth” about Bushido. What Fujiwara mentions in his book as “Bushido” is a creation by Nitobe in the early 20th century, combined with christian and confucian ethics. It is not a tradition nor does it have any relationship to “samurai” from the Edo era.

    Read this book.
    http://www1.odn.ne.jp/kamiya-ta/busido-gyakusyu.html

  25. mitaker said

    Quite obviously, when I say that Japanese people are similar, I am not saying that Japanese are like robots programmed identically. I am merely arguing that Japanese people have a very large common denominator (or greatest common factor, whichever makes more sense). Like I said before, Japanese people speak the same language, eat the same food, share common childhood memories and landscapes, share common culture, and look physical similar. Westerners perhaps do not realize the graveness of these traits, as I can see from Don’s post. Just by looking the same and speaking the same language alone, such a strong bond is immediately formed that cannot exist with a language or appearance barrier. Americans know best how physical appearance has torn their country apart, causing the Civil War, the bloodiest war America has ever fought with casualties surpassing WWII.

    But most importantly, Japanese people DO in fact share common values. We all grew up reading or at least hearing the philosophies of peace in Tezuka Osamu’s manga or Miyazaki Hayao’s animations. We all go hanami in the spring, hatsumode in January, bon-odori in August… We believe in Shinto and Bushido despite how much Westerners like to argue that they are invented traditions (what isn’t?). We read the haiku of Matsuo Basho while seeing the same scenery he saw ages ago go through the same passing of the seasons.

    It’s only natural that Japanese people tend to hold common political values as well. It makes perfect sense. Just consider how people vote in the US. American political affiliation is strongly correlated with economic standing, race/ethnicity, and religion. Richer people vote Republican. Minorities vote Democrats. Devout Christians vote Republican. Gays vote Democrat. So on and so on. Considering that Japanese people have historically been “100million people, all middle class,” all ethnically Japanese, and all a strange mix of Shinto, Buddhist, and Christian tradition, it wouldn’t be strange if they all voted similar.

    Of course there are always minorities in Japan who vote different from the great majority. But Japan’s majorities are not 55% or 60%. They are closer to 90%, 95%. It was only natural that we’ve had a single-party rule in a completely fair democracy. In addition to the fact that other than the LDP, none of the other political parties even have party manifestos that are coherent (other than the Communist party, which obviously is not a favorite of the majority).

    Finally, democracy only works because the people understand how the democratic institution works. The American founding fathers feared that the masses are not intelligent enough to understand democracy. However, that issue seems to have been resolved perfectly over their 200+ year history. But Japan with only half the number of years of experience with democracy, and with a democracy developed not by the commoner but by the aristocrat and later by a foreign government, to gather interest and understanding of the system by the masses has proven difficult.

    To vote for “some other party” because one department in the government messed up while the current party was in power shows complete ignorance of the Japanese people in how democracy works or how the government in general works. They just placed a party in power without considering whether they represent the values of the people! This is completely reckless and irresponsible voting! As Ampontan says, the DPJ didn’t even have any goals to talk about after they won the election! What did the Japanese people see in the DPJ?

    Conclusion is, Japan needs to put more emphasis on Civics classes in schools.

    And Don, I am Japanese for the matter, born and mostly raised here (Japan).

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