Japan from the inside out

Archive for December, 2010

War ‘n peace in the East

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tsze-lu asked about government. The Master said, “Go before the people with your example, and be laborious in their affairs.”
– The Analects of Confucius

FOR THOSE people interested in conducting some peace education with North Korea in a language they’ll understand, Joshua Stanton at One Free Korea presents and expands on a suggestion by Kevin Kim:

(K)nock down one major symbol per NK provocation. Flatten the Ryugyong Hotel, for instance, then start knocking down those Great Leader statues. Shell the stadium where the Arirang Festival takes place, powder the King Il-sung hall of gifts, blast away one leg of the NK Arc de Triomphe and let it topple, etc. If nothing else, such strikes would drive NK nuts. Whether they would demoralize the populace, embolden them to rebel, or solidify their loyalty to the Dear Leader, I have no idea, but if we think purely in terms of symbols, Pyongyang is a target-rich environment.

Mr. Stanton takes the idea and runs with it:

(A)ny attack that strikes at the state’s spiritual legitimacy and its most unpopular aspects would advance our interests in neutralizing North Korea as a threat.

He thinks cities, hotels, stadiums, and even military casualties should be avoided. Instead, he suggests as targets the palaces of the Kim Family Regime and the offices of the security forces:

I’d bet that the North Korean people would actually approve if they learn that KJI or KJU’s fancy palaces were bombed, particularly by the South Koreans. The North Koreans can’t even show video of the damaged palaces without highlighting the gross inequality of North Korean society and suffering an even greater propaganda backlash. Instead, we should use the occasion to show the world, including the North Korean people, how KJI and KJU live in splendor while everyone else lives in squalor.

We could go back and forth on this forever, but there is also anecdotal evidence that some North Koreans think the Kim Family Regime is entitled to its lifestyle. When former Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro was in North Korea to discuss the release of the Japanese abductees, the abductees and their families took a break for something to eat and drink with the Japanese delegation. The teenaged son of one of the abductees asked his father in astonishment why other Japanese were allowed to order the same beverage that Mr. Koizumi drank.

While the boy was ethnically Japanese, he was born, reared, and educated in North Korea. His response suggests that some people in that country would think it was natural for the Dear Leader to enjoy Hennessey-stocked palaces and the finer things of life.

That’s a risk I’d take, however.

Meanwhile, further to the south, the Chinese emotional investment in their cultural superiority continues to manifest as a severe case of arrested political development. Believing that it is an obscenity to award Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize, they decided to create a peace prize of their own: the Confucius Peace Prize.

That’ll show ’em!

But they’re still magnanimous:

Organisers suggested that one day the Confucius Peace Prize committee and the Nobel committee could cooperate, even jointly awarding peace prizes to the same nominee.

Until then, we’ll have to wait until the Norwegians have become as sophisticated as the Chinese in these matters. Considering whom they selected to receive last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, that might not be such a long wait.

There were six nominees for the honor of receiving the first Confucius Peace Prize. The winner is former Taiwan Vice President Lien Chan. The Chinese are working fast–their prize will be granted one day before the Nobel.

Both ceremonies might suffer from similar unfortunate circumstances: namely, the absence of the laureates. Mr. Liu will not be in Oslo to receive his award because the Chinese government thinks he should deal with more pressing matters. And if Mr. Lien wants to receive his award in person, the organizers better get on the stick. His office says he’s heard nothing from China about it.

Also nominated were “Nobel Peace Prize winners Mahmoud Abbas and Nelson Mandela, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Chinese poet Qiao Damo and the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s second-most important figure.” Here’s the reason the organizers selected Mr. Lien:

“Lien Chan stood out from the six nominees as he built a bridge of peace between Taiwan and the (Chinese) mainland, bringing happiness and good fortune to the people on both sides of the (Taiwan) Strait.”

What that means is that during a 2005 meeting in Beijing, he and Hu Jintao (as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) agreed that Taiwan is part of China and that they would work together to prevent Taiwan independence.

Yes, that’s much more important than anything Nelson Mandela or Bill Gates ever did.

He and the current Chinese government seem to share other views about the conduct of public affairs. Mr. Lien’s father was also a Taiwanese government official, and the family got gloriously rich by purchasing agricultural land and getting it rezoned. Now isn’t that what Confucius had in mind about “going before the people with your example”?

As Michael Turton of The View from Taiwan points out, the Chinese committee said the new prize was created to “interpret the viewpoints of peace of (the) Chinese (people).”

“How different this idea is from the USSR’s Nobel parody, the Lenin (originally Stalin) Peace Prize, “awarded by a panel appointed by the Soviet government, to notable individuals whom the panel indicated had ‘strengthened peace among peoples'” (Wiki). The prize went to Communists and sympathizers, but even so, the USSR felt that a pretense of universality was necessary.”

They can call it peace if they like, but peace on Chinese terms with the rest of the East Side in vassalage to China more closely resembles the general framework of a protection racket. And isn’t that the same principle underlying North Korea’s foreign policy?

Maybe next year they should give the award to Jackie Chan. Good God, y’all! (If the screen turns black, click the link at the bottom to view the video. It’s worth it.)

Posted in China, Military affairs, North Korea, Taiwan | 4 Comments »


Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 8, 2010

THAT’S funny–no one calls Franklin Delano Roosevelt a neocon!

Writes Robert Higgs:

Historians have always known, however, that the true story was nothing like this patriotic fable dispensed each year on December 7 for popular consumption.

Note that interest in examining this aspect of history does not make one a Japan apologist. There are more colors than black and white, and there are more percentages than 0 and 100.

Posted in History, International relations, World War II | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Another way to make lemonade from lemons

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 8, 2010

THE FOLLOWING ARE some excerpts from an article that appeared in today’s Nishinippon Shimbun.
Production of paper diapers for adults is skyrocketing as the population ages, and local governments must consider how to dispose of them as garbage after use. In 2009, paper diaper production was 1.7 times that of 2003. Efforts are spreading nationwide to reuse them as a fuel source to reduce garbage volume, and some local governments in Kyushu have begun recycling them. Potential hurdles to their reuse, however, are the difficulty of separating them from other refuse and the recovery costs.

The municipal government of Hoki-cho, Tottori, teamed with local businesses to begin trial production of solid fuel using a system that processes used paper diapers. If the system is shown to be effective, they envision using it at such facilities as hot spring resorts to heat boilers. Trial calculations suggest the system could result in savings of up to JPY three million annually.

One of the first local governments in Kyushu to become involved is Oki-machi, Fukuoka. They formed ties with the Total Care System company of Fukuoka City, which has a recycling plant for paper diapers in Omuta. The municipality has conducted trials in which the residents collect the diapers separately in special bags and a municipal vehicle stops by to pick them up.

Oki-machi is currently paying a substantial amount of money to neighboring Okawa for the incineration of burnable refuse. Said a municipal official, “Paper diapers account for about 10% of the town’s burnable refuse. Recycling them would lessen the burden on the environment and reduce public expenditures.”

Total Care System also collects used paper diapers from hospitals and long-term care facilities. They treat and process the diapers and recycle them as fireproofing material.

The Japan Hygiene Products Industry Association reports that 5.019 billion paper diapers for adults were produced in 2009, an increase from the 2.996 billion paper diapers in 2003…The association points out, however, that few municipalities dispose of the diapers separately and treat them as burnable garbage…Those local governments with their own incineration facilities find that to be a more efficient and economical method of disposal.

(end translation)

Here’s a Kyodo article on the same subject from April, and another from CNET. Speaking of incontinence, the author of the latter managed to hold in the “Weird Japan” snark for most of his entry, but still wound up wetting himself in the last sentence.

Noborikawa Seijin is 78 years old, but I don’t think he needs special underwear yet. He just released another CD this year.

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Posted in Business, finance and the economy, Demography, Environmentalism, Government, New products | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Well, excuse me!

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 8, 2010

HERE’S an excerpt from a podcast at Scientific American:

(O)ne study published in Neuroimage found that when faced with the same image, people’s neural responses are totally different. Scientists found that when American subjects viewed a silhouette in a dominant posture (standing up, arms crossed) their brain’s reward circuitry sparked. Not so for Japanese subjects. For the Japanese, their reward circuitry fired when they saw a submissive silhouette (head down, arms at sides). This physiological response matches a well-known behavioral difference: Americans favor and encourage dominant behavior. Japanese culture reinforces submissive culture.

There’s a link to Neuroimage, but I couldn’t find the study in a quick sweep. I’d be interested to see the age breakdown of the Japanese subjects, among other things.

The blurb also cites an interesting difference between Chinese and Americans.

One of my uncles had a stroke that caused no physical impairment, but required him to relearn certain speech and thought processes, as he put it. His physical function of speech was normal, but he found that he was making simple mistakes, such as confusing gender words (he, she). He was also frustrated because he could no longer understand some jokes. Within a remarkably short period of time, however, to outward appearances he had recovered to what seemed to be his pre-stroke level. (He always insisted that he hadn’t, however.)

He later told me that he couldn’t explain it, but that he understood first-hand through his experience that language programs the brain. The structure and syntax of the Japanese language is such that it might be a factor in the Neuroimage study.

The link is here. As Vox Day, the self-described “Internet Superintelligence” jokingly put it, “Neuroscience is racist.”

Posted in Science and technology | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Tropical real estate

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 6, 2010

AT THE END of the Cold War, Hiramatsu Shigeo was one of the first to warn that the Chinese would become a global military power. An expert on Chinese military matters and the author of more than 20 books, he recently wrote an op-ed for the Sankei Shimbun about Japan, China, and the Senkakus. Some of it is already familiar to people who have been following recent events, but the rest of it is worth reading in English. Here it is.

Why do Japanese politicians and the mass media never tire of doing the same thing whenever something happens in the Senkaku islets? Dozens of Chinese fishing boats have been active in the area since July, but the mass media didn’t consider it news until 7 September, when one of those ships rammed two Japanese Coast Guard cutters. Until then, few Japanese were aware that the Chinese fishing boats were prowling in our territorial waters.

The Senkaku islets were incorporated as Japanese territory in 1895. Koga Tatsushiro of Ishigaki leased four of the islets from the government and began operating a dried bonito business on the main islands of Uotsuri and Minamikojima. They became his private property when he purchased the islands in 1932. On the eve of the Second World War, Mr. Koga left the islands and they reverted to their uninhabited state. They are now owned by a Japanese man in Saitama.

Consequently, the 12 nautical miles around the islands are Japanese territorial waters. Under international law, international vessels with the exception of military craft may pass through the area unobstructed, but they are not permitted to conduct any sort of activities while there or to prowl about. The Japan Coast Guard warns intruding foreign ships and has them depart. When dealing with dozens of fishing boats, however, this becomes a never-ending game of chasing away offenders that return later. That’s no easy assignment.

This state of affairs has been brought about by the peace-at-any-price principles of our government, mass media, and pundits. The primary responsibility for the most recent incident lies with the Democratic Party government. Though the peace-at-any-price elements were also present during the days of Liberal Democratic Party government, the DPJ excesses have gone well beyond those of the LPD…

…With the intermediation of former Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke, the territorial issues were shelved and Japan, China, and Taiwan reached an agreement to begin joint development of the oil resources only. Several months later, however, in December 1970, China used editorials, first in Xinhua and then in the People’s Daily, to claim that the East China Sea was a Chinese sea, and that the oil resources of the East China Sea were Chinese resources. Their attacks on Japan were particularly harsh: “Will Japan again plunder Chinese resources? Is this not militarism?” Plans for joint development evaporated with this bluster.

The threats were effective. Since then, a state of affairs has emerged in the East China Sea in which Japan can only warn the Chinese (fishing boats) about their activity in Japanese territorial waters and are unable to expel them. Recently, the Japanese Coast Guard ordered a Chinese survey ship to cease and desist in the waters near Amami Oshima. The Chinese ignored the order, replied that “This is China’s sea”, and continued their survey. (N.B.: Amami Oshima is part of Kagoshima and lies roughly halfway between Kyushu and Okinawa.)

…When I began my studies of China 50 years ago in graduate school, my academic supervisor gave me this advice, “Be careful of the Chinese. When they are in a position of superiority, they become overbearing toward others.” Another professor said, “Remember this well. The Chinese will smack you on the face with their right hand as they hold out their left hand demanding money or goods.” At that time, I couldn’t believe what they told me, but when the Chinese demanded an apology and compensation after Japan released the arrested fishing boat captain and allowed him to return home, I realized those two professors were right.

It is now no longer possible to ignore a China that has grown powerful. Whenever an incident occurs, we must not have a flustered response, but rather carefully analyze past Chinese tendencies. We must not treat the symptoms, but present a strategic response.
(end translation)

The failure of the mass media to pay close attention will surprise no one, but that statement about the Senkakus being private property caught me off guard. Mr. Hiramatsu is right (though it seems Koga Yoshitsugu bought the islands and not his father). Here’s Foreign Minister Maehara Seiji speaking on NHK on 7 October:

“The Senkaku islets are currently the private property of Kurihara Kunitatsu (N.B.: 国起; I think that’s Kunitatsu) of Saitama City. Since October 2002 the Japanese government has leased the land from the Kurihara family for JPY 30 million a year. After the war, when the islets were effectively under the control of the United States, fees for the use of the land were paid to Koga Yoshitsugu, the owner at that time.”

Here’s the rest of the story. Koga Tatsushiro was a merchant who relocated from Fukuoka to Okinawa to expand sales channels for Yame tea. While there, he came up with the idea of turning green turban shells into buttons for expensive clothing and exporting them. That made him a wealthy man. He used the money from that business to operate a dried bonito plant in the Senkakus, with 280 people working on site.

Koga Yoshitsugu

His son Yoshitsugu bought the islands (with the exception of Taishojima) in 1932 for JPY 15,000 yen, which would be about JPY 25 million in today’s money. Restrictions on supplies and the lack of fuel in the days just before the war caused Yoshitsugu to abandon the business. Mr. Koga was still alive when the 1970 dispute broke out with China and Taiwan. At the time, he said that he had been leasing one island to the Americans since 1950 for gunnery practice for $US 1,000 a year. He also paid property tax to the city of Ishigake.

Yoshitsugu and his wife Hanako had no children, and in the 1970s they sold two of the islands to Mr. Kurihara, with whom they had a close relationship. Mr. Kurihara, who is now about 70, owns and operates a wedding ceremony hall in Saitama. Yoshitsugu died in 1978 and his wife sold the other two islands to the Kurihara family. A younger Kurihara brother named Hiroyuki said that his brother and older sister own two of the islets each. The sale price for the first two islets was reported to have been about JPY 46 million, but Hiroyuki says that price is too low because everyone had become aware of the nearby oil deposits by the time of the sale.

As Mr. Maehara notes, the national government leased the islands from him in April 2002, and the lease is formally in the name of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

They might ignore Chinese behavior in the Senkakus and domestic Japanese protests about that behavior, but the Japanese mass media jumped on that story. The news led to a flood of media inquiries at the Kurihara home, which the family has deflected. One reporter called the house, and a woman answered the phone:

“I’m the maid, no one else is at home…for details, please ask the Cabinet Secretariat. Journalists are coming to ask questions…No one is at home. I can’t say anything. I’m sorry. Please take care of yourself.”

Last month a woman who identified herself as Mrs. Kurihara said something very similar to a different caller, but added that it was now a national and not a personal matter. She also said they’ve been getting calls from overseas.

Kurihara Hiroyuki provided some details to the media through an intermediary. He said his brother has been to the property only once, but he has visited many times himself. He says the mountain on the main island has a virgin forest, the nearby waters are breeding grounds for swordfish, and Ise ebi can be caught by hand at night.

Now that the owners have gotten older, they are wondering what to do about the islets. The property is subject to inheritance taxes, and it will be taxed at a much higher rate than normal because the public sector is using the land. If the taxes aren’t paid, the land will be confiscated. Isn’t big government wonderful?

Hiroyuki also reported that he was told an oil company made an offer in the pre-bubble era to buy the islets for JPY 35 billion, but was turned down. Both the Koga family and the Kurihara family have wanted to maintain the islets in a condition as close as possible to their original state to honor the memory of Koga Tatsushiro. He said the family is just as upset with the lack of a Japanese government response to China as the rest of the country. He added they might consider a sale if Japan, China, and Taiwan agreed to use the islets to develop maritime resources, and a small port was built for ships as a safe harbor. The nearby sea is often rough and dangerous for ships.

Meanwhile, as this Japanese government website (in Japanese) shows, the American military is still using the islets for gunnery practice, specifically for air-to-surface and ship-to-surface weapons.

Hit that link to Ise ebi if you’ve got the time.

Amami Oshima is the fifth largest of the country’s many smaller islands (not counting the four main islands). Though it has recently attracted many surfers, the frequent rainfall means it has the shortest amount of sunshine during the year of any part of Japan.

Some Amami soul music!

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Posted in China, History, International relations | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Things they said

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 6, 2010

HERE’S A SAMPLE of what the politicos in Japan have been talking about—and writing about—for the past week.

Your Party Secretary-General Eda Kenji:

“Your Party submitted to the Diet on 10 November a resolution calling for the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

“Since then, however, no one in the Democratic Party, the Liberal-Democratic Party, or the other parties has paid any attention to it, and Japan’s mass media hasn’t discussed it. The resolution died when the Diet recessed this week.

“The Chinese embassy seems to have been engaged in some strong lobbying. It so happens that a certain weekly magazine is running an article this week about DPJ Diet members enjoying a round of golf with the Chinese ambassador (at the latter’s expense).

“The Nobel awards ceremony will be held in Oslo on 10 December. The world’s attention on this issue will continue to intensify, but Japan shows no interest in even covering it. This issue could become a litmus test for questioning the commitment to human rights of each political party, each faction, the media, and therefore, the Japanese people.

We’ve already seen the color on the litmus paper, Mr. Eda. Sengoku Yoshito talks about Japanese vassalage as if it were a fait accompli, and the fey accomplices of the mass media emasculate themselves for the chance to squat in the jump seat next to power and prevent the simple folk from finding out what the Chinese are really up to.

Former Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro still has it:

“Not everything was bad about the Senkakus incident. We found out that the ‘Japan-U.S.-China equilateral triangle’ theory that the DPJ brought up after they took control of government is a load of nonsense.”

That’s an excerpt from a recent speech in Yokohama. A photo taken during the speech shows his hairstyle is almost back to normal. And give the man credit for accepting who he is. He never seemed to care that he was getting gray—unlike Aso Taro, Kan Naoto, Sengoku Yoshito, Yosano Kaoru, and probably Hatoyama Yukio.

Some men have it. Some men never will.

The Democratic Party thought eliminating income tax deductions for children and replacing them with direct government stipends was one of the key planks of their election platform last year. They claimed they could easily find the money to pay for it, which everyone knew was bollocks, but the media was so anxious for a change of government they looked the other way.

The party offered several excuses to justify the policy, all of which were either outright fabrications or collectivist drivel. (‘Society as a whole has to be responsible for rearing children’ was one of them.) Since it became the law of the land earlier this year, some parents are actually receiving less than they did under the old system. But then the policy was never about what was best for the children, but rather what was the best way to bribe the people into swallowing statism.

When they could no longer sustain the fiction that the money was there for the finding, the national government decided to dragoon local governments and private companies into paying for their fantasy. Society as a whole has to be responsible for rearing children, right? Last week, Hosokawa Ritsuo, Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare, met with Kanagawa Gov. Matsuzawa Shigefumi, who is the representative of a group of sub-national governmental executives in the Tokyo region. Said Mr. Hosokawa:

“Please understand that the nation’s finances are tight.”

Replied Mr. Matsuzawa:

“If the government continues placing a (financial) burden for the child allowance payment on the regions, a revolt will occur in the regions….The regions are not the slaves of the national government.”

By now, it would have occurred to anyone who wasn’t a politician who considered it his solemn duty to spend other people’s money that if the nation’s finances are that tight, they should stop spending money they don’t have, cut taxes and services, and allow income-earning parents to use their own resources to raise their own children as they see fit instead of pushing the fiction that society is everybody’s nanny.

Kan Naoto’s term as prime minister reached the six-month mark this past week, and in a speech in Chiba on the 4th, he said:

“It’s been a lively six months, and we’ve made quite a bit of progress in different areas. But we’ve lacked the ability to communicate what we’re making progress on now, and the preparations we’re making for future progress. I want to actively communicate to the people what I think.”

Just because Barack Obama uses the same excuse doesn’t make it any less empty. Both the American and the Japanese public got the message. Communication is the least of your problems.

Incidentally, Mr. Kan cited as one of his administration’s major successes Vietnam’s award of a contract to Japan to build a nuclear power plant.

One Japanese pundit recycled an old Ishihara Shintaro quote about Aso Taro this week:

“The Prime Minister earned the people’s contempt. Contempt is the most frightening thing.”

He was updating it for application to the current prime minister.

The DPJ has been trying to find another coalition partner to either give it a majority in the upper house, which it lacks, or to give it a two-thirds majority in the lower house, which would render the lack of an upper house majority moot. They haven’t had much luck so far—who likes hanging out with losers?

One possibility fueling media gossip is a grand coalition with the LDP. Ishiba Shigeru, chair of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, was asked about that during a TV interview on the 4th. He answered:

“In the DPJ, the policies of Prime Minister Kan Naoto and former Party President Ozawa Ichiro are 180 degrees apart. There is no cohesion to their foreign policy or fiscal policy. I am absolutely opposed to a grand coalition that would amplify that confusion.”

The DPJ government started out last year with a three-party coalition that included the Social Democrats. They split when Hatoyama Yukio backed off his promise to remove the Futenma air base from Okinawa.

Current DPJ Secretary-General Okada Katsuya wants to woo the SDPJ back into a ménage à trois. While admitting that the two parties still had their differences, he said:

“We confirmed several times with the Social Democratic Party that last year’s three-party agreement was valid. I believe there is a strong relationship of trust.”

Said SDPJ head Fukushima Mizuho during a TV interview:

“There have been no talks about returning to the coalition.”

She added that there ain’t gonna be any talks as long as the DPJ sticks to the policy of keeping the base in Okinawa.

What few people remember is that little more than a year ago, it was Mr. Okada’s assignment to negotiate the terms of the SDPJ’s participation in the coalition with Ms. Fukushima. He found her tactics so obnoxious he stormed out of the room and refused to continue.

Ms. Fukushima got what she wanted by calling Ozawa Ichiro’s number.

Another pundit recycled a different quote, this time from former DPJ head Ozawa Ichiro on the reasons he tried to cut a deal with then-Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo for a grand coalition three years ago:

“The DPJ is a young party and there are doubts it has the ability to take responsibility for government.”

First, the good news: The other DPJ elders hated the idea. Now the better news: There’s no longer any doubt about their lack of capabilities.

While we’re on the topic of coalition governments, Peter Hitchens of Britain reminds us why they are a perversion of the democratic process. A coalition government consisting of two ostensibly incompatible parties now rules that country, and former prime minister Sir John Major recently endorsed the arrangement. He hoped they could “prolong cooperation beyond this Parliament”, which could lead to a realignment of British politics.

Sir John also explained the intrinsic grooviness of coalition governments from a politician’s perspective:

“Two parties are more likely to enjoy a tolerant electorate for policies that are painful.”

Wrote Mr. Hitchens:

“Or, in other words, that a coalition can ram through unpopular policies (Mr Major is an expert on those) more easily than one-party governments.

“This is, of course, even more the case when the third party actually agrees with the Coalition about almost everything, and is still trying to work out how to pretend to be the Opposition, when it doesn’t really want to oppose.

“What a perfect outcome for the political class – two liberal parties in permanent power…(a)nd an Opposition that doesn’t oppose. A pity about the rest of us.”

Now that Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito’s day in the sun seems about to go into eclipse, the meta-commentary is starting to emerge in a crepuscule with the nellies. Too bad the chattering class got it backwards—everyone would have been better off had they started chattering when he assumed his current portfolio, rather than now.

The public’s hopes were raised this week when Mr. Sengoku suggested he might give up the position of cabinet secretary and focus on the Justice Ministry, but he bummed everyone out again by walking it back later in the day.

Kamei Shizuka of the People’s New Party—remember them?–tried to smooth things over:

“He’s a lawyer, and well-known for turning black into white. Well, they say that sometimes there is truth in a joke, but he was just joking.”

You know what they say on the Internet: ROTFLMAO.

Banno Junji, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, reflected on the philosophical journey of his old friend:

“Sengoku chose the pink-colored path (i.e., he’s a pinko). He saw there was no future in the mass struggle. Some have since turned to the right, but he looked for the pink, thinking that holding firm was the masculine thing to do.”

Not just anyone can discern the connection between pinkiness and masculinity. One has to be a professor at an elite university to develop vision of that sort.

More to the point was the observation of LDP Diet member Gotoda Masazumi:

“Mr. Sengoku has no humility. People who have criticized authority become insincere about authority once they attain a position of authority.”

Didn’t Mr. Kamei say he was insincere even before he was in a position of authority?

What could Mr. Gotoda have been talking about? Telling opposition MPs during Question Time to “clean out your ears and pay close attention”, or chiding reporters during news conferences for their “base conjectures”, using vocabulary that seldom appears in ordinary discourse–that sort of thing.

More surprising than the attitude itself is his apparent belief he could gain anything by it.

The upper house censured both Mr. Sengoku and Mabuchi Sumio, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and transport. That does not require their resignation, as a lower house vote of no confidence would, but it does mean the aides have been sent out to collect the cardboard boxes for hauling their papers. Some have called on them to resign, but the rough-and-ready rougeistes are going to tough it out for now. The party bigwigs backed them up. Koshi’ishi Azuma, for example, said, “It isn’t necessary”.

The DPJ approach to censure resolutions has evolved over the past two years. When they seized control of the upper house after the 2007 election, they insisted the LDP government had to follow their instructions because the vote represented the most recent expression of the will of the people. The upper house also censured then-Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo in 2008 and demanded his resignation. The big boss man of the party in those days was Ozawa Ichiro. Here’s a constitutional interpretation he delivered ex cathedra on 9 June 2008:

“A censure is the same as a motion of no confidence in the Cabinet. It’s just that systemically, a motion of no confidence is recognized only in the lower house. If the proposal should pass, it will be no different than if there had been a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet (because of the most recent expression of popular will).”

Two days later, after the proposal passed, Mr. Ozawa said:

“There is no alternative to seeking the judgment of the people through a lower house election to resolve the issue once and for all…The composition of the upper house physically expresses the most recently expressed will of the people. If they (the LDP) think popular sentiment is on their side, they should dissolve the Diet and hold a general election. If the LDP can win, that would be fine. But they seem to be afraid of an election. This is the ruling party of government? They have to have a little more confidence.”

Cut-and-paste works for me.

Actions speak louder than words, they say, and the DPJ took action this week by creating new publicity posters to festoon public places throughout the nation at yearend. At the request of their supporters, the party removed the face of Prime Minister Kan from the posters. (In terms people on the pink path would understand, he’s become a non-person.) The party chose not to use any photographs at all, which is another act that speaks louder than words. The poster has only the slogan “Putting the lives of the people first” in red lettering on a white background, with the party name at the bottom.

Maybe it’s possible to choose the pink path and be masculine after all. It takes real moxie to continue to use a slogan that people stopped taking seriously long ago.

But maybe that’s another example of what Mr. Kamei thinks is a joke.

It’s the song, not the singer:

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Shimojo Masao (13): On the Senkaku islets

Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 3, 2010

PROF. SHIMOJO MASAO has been occupied with other matters lately and has been unable to write for the site, but yesterday he sent this article on the Senkaku Islets.

TENSIONS have recently erupted between Japan, China, and Taiwan over the territorial rights to the Senkaku islets. The eight islets, which include Uotsuri and Kuba, lie about 175 kilometers northwest of the Yaeyama archipelago in Okinawa and about 195 kilometers northeast of Taiwan, and are under the jurisdiction of Tonoshiro, Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture. They have been Japanese territory for more than a century, since 14 January 1895.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China claimed the Senkakus on 11 June 1971, while the People’s Republic of China claimed them on 30 December the same year. The reason both Taiwan and the PRC claimed the islets is the content of the report issued by the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) of a survey of the East China Sea seabed in 1969. The report stated it was possible there were deposits of oil resources on the continental shelf of that sea.

The territorial claim of the Chinese government is a special case in that they view the Senkakus as ancillary islands to the province of Taiwan, which they consider to be part of China. The grounds for the Chinese territorial claim is that when the Ryukyu Kingdom (now Okinawa Prefecture) became a vassal state of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Senkakus were used as a landmark on the sea route when the Chinese emissary visited. Therefore, insist the Chinese, they were aware of the islands first. Another basis for their claim that the islets are Chinese territory is that Qing Dynasty emissary Xu Baoguang did not include the Senkakus in the 36 islands of the Ryukyu chain in his Annals of Zhong Shan.

The Japanese incorporation of the Senkaku islets as terra nullius in 1895 was proper under international law. The problem, however, is the wide divergence in historical understanding between the two sides. While Japan asserts that the Senkakus are Japanese under international law, the Chinese say they were historically Chinese territory and that their incorporation into Japan was an imperialist occupation. Chinese fishing boats have nonchalantly continued to carry out fishing operations in Japanese territorial waters near the Senkakus, and this fait accompli informs the Chinese historical awareness that the islets are Chinese territory.

That is the reason China tried to justify the collision when the Chinese fishing vessel rammed the Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats on September 7, and the captain was arrested on suspicion of obstructing public officials in the line of duty. Even when the Japanese took a firm stand and repeatedly insisted that the Senkaku islets were Japanese territory, the Chinese did not agree. Japan’s Democratic Party government deployed a coastal surveillance team of about 100 members to Yonaguni, an island near the Senkakus, on 21 November as part of their evaluation of National Defense Program Guidelines, saying they could detect Chinese military vessels and aircraft in the area with radar. The Chinese countermeasure was the immediate dispatch of two fishery patrol vessels to the area near the Senkakus that passed through the adjoining Japanese waters.

A response of this type, however, is not a wise choice. It is not too late for the Chinese to reexamine their historical awareness before both countries become emotional. In the same way that South Korea continues to illegally occupy Takeshima with no historical justification whatsoever, the Chinese have demonstrated no historical basis for their claim that the Senkakus are Chinese territory.

Of course the Chinese passed near the Senkakus every time their sent their emissary to the Ryukyu Kingdom when the latter was their vassal state. It is true that one part of the Senkaku islets were shown in a map in Zhou Huang’s Treatise on the Ryukyus, and they are not included as one of the 36 Ryukyus as described in Xu Baoguang’s Annals of Zhong Shan. That alone is not grounds for claiming that the Senkaku islets are Chinese territory, however. That’s because Ming Era Taiwan, known as Dongfan, was inhabited by indigenous people and Chinese rule did not extend to the island. The Da Qing Yi Tong Zhi, a 1744 geographical survey of the Qing empire, showed that Taiwan was part of Japan during the reign of the Emperor Tianqi (1621-1628). It was also occupied by the Dutch for a time.

The Qing Dynasty annexed the island in 1684, but their rule did not extend beyond the southwestern part of the island. It did not reach the northern part of the island until 1723, when it established the Zhanghua and Danshui sub-prefectures.

The territory controlled by the provincial authority established during the Qing Dynasty did not extend over all of Taiwan. That can be confirmed by the Taiwan Fuzhi (Annals of Taiwan Prefecture), written by Gao Gongqian and others in 1696, and the maps in the Chongxiu Taiwan Fuzhi (Revised Gazetteer of Taiwan Prefecture) by Fan Xian and others in 1747. The eastern half of the island, which includes the Taiwan mountain range, is left blank, evidence that Qing Dynasty rule did not extend there.

In addition, the map of Taiwan Prefecture in the latter source shows the northern boundary of their control to be the Keelung (Jilong) Castle, while the Fengyuzhi in the Taiwan Fuzhi explains that the territory stretches 2,325 li northward to Mt. Keelung, thus defining the territorial border of Taiwan. The Senkaku islets are 195 kilometers northeast of both the fort and the mountain, so they obviously were not considered part of Taiwan. This can be confirmed with the map compiled at the order of Emperor Qianlong in the Da Qing Yi Tong Zhi. The map of Taiwan Prefecture is the same as that in the Taiwan Fuzhi and shows the Keelung Castle as the northern border of the territory. That map in turn was later used as the model for the Taiwanfu Jianyutu in the Qinding Gujin Tushu Jicheng (Complete Collections of Illustrations and Writings from the Earliest to the Current Times) of 1728. There was no change in the extent of the territory when the Republic of China was founded in 1912. That is shown in the Danshui Tingzhi (The Danshui Sub-Prefecture Gazetteer) compiled at the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1871, the Huangchao Xu Wenxian Tongkao (Comprehensive investigations based on literary and documentary sources) dating from the Republic of China era in 1912, and the Qingshigao (The Draft History of Qing) completed in 1927.

From these Chinese documents, it can be stated on the basis of historical fact that the Senkaku islets have never been Chinese territory, and that the Japanese government’s possession of them as terra nullius was appropriate under international law. The Chinese, however, say that the Senkakus have historically been Chinese territory, and criticize Japan’s incorporation of them as an imperialist occupation.

That is based on ignorance. One can only say theirs is a historically warped territorial ambition of the same type as South Korea’s occupation of Takeshima and Russia’s occupation of the Northern Territories and the Kurile Islands.

– Shimojo Masao

Map of Taiwan Prefecture, Da Qing Yi Tong Zhi, Vol. 335 (Takushoku University Collection)


Prof. Shimojo told me that he found the map shown here in the university library. The book in which it was found is about 100 years old, had not been examined for a long time, and the university was not aware of the map’s existence.

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Government in absentia

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More than a problem with intelligence or skills, the incompetence of the “Incompetent Gang of Four” (Kan, Sengoku, Maehara, Okada) is apparent in their overconfidence and inability to see beyond their own self-protection. They are unable to solve any problems because of an irrefutable absence of the ability to negotiate or to learn. In the worst case, they are unable even to recognize the problem. As shown by an attitude and statements that suggest the ones in the wrong are a stupid public that won’t support the Cabinet, and the Liberal Democratic Party who challenges them to debate in the Diet, failure is always treated as an external problem. The “Incompetent Gang of Four” is always right.
– Miyajima Satoshi

EVERYONE KNOWS the current Japanese government is in trouble, but it’s even worse than you knew: They’re operating as if they’ve been infected by the same Stuxnet worm that attacked the Iran nuclear program from the inside out. The world’s first weaponized computer virus took control of the centrifuges and damaged them without destroying them, while concealing what it was doing from the engineers at the control panel. As this report says: “In other words, the worm was designed to allow the Iranian program to continue but never succeed, and never to know why.”

Is there a better way to explain the behavior of the Kan Cabinet?

Outside Tokyo

A city council election was held in Matsudo, Chiba, on 21 November. The Democratic Party endorsed 11 candidates in that election, including four incumbents, and nine of them lost. One of the incumbents didn’t receive enough votes to have the cash deposit for his candidacy returned. Your Party backed two new candidates, and their aggregate vote total exceeded that of the four DPJ incumbents by more than 1,000.

Reporters for the regional edition of the Mainichi Shimbun interviewed the defeated candidates. Said one:

“We called voters to campaign for their support and votes, and as soon they heard it was the DPJ they hung up on us.”

He said he didn’t realize the central government could have that much of an impact on elections. (He should have paid closer attention to the American election returns earlier this month.) He added that people would yell at him in public when he tried to give street corner speeches:

“If that’s how you’re going to act, the DPJ can’t be entrusted with the national government.”

Moaned another one of the losers:

“One long-time party supporter asked me to leave when I visited him. ‘Go home’, he said, ‘I’m not letting the DPJ in.’”

All the DPJ candidates reported that voters dismissed them at their public campaign appearances and expressed anger at being “betrayed by Prime Minister Kan”.

Every picture tells a story (Sankei Shimbun photo)

In fact, this might have been the first election anywhere in which the losers agreed with the voters. Another incumbent, the party secretary-general in Chiba’s seventh district, said the candidates had daily “mini-meetings” during the campaign, and they often asked themselves, “Just what are they doing (in Tokyo)? It wasn’t just the gaffes—it also was the Senkakus and the Okinawa base.”

They tried to distance themselves from the national party by telling the voters they too wanted the government to get serious, but as one of the defeated candidates explained, “In the end, we had to carry the burden of the party name.”

The Mainichi thought one of the reasons for the outcome was the increase of independent voters due to the influx of new residents resulting from the urbanization of the area. Voters everywhere are more frequently identifying themselves as political independents, and that trend is particularly strong in Japan. The gaggle of RDD public opinion surveys find that those who claim no party affiliation make up more than 40% of the electorate, while the Jiji news agency poll, which is generated by face-to-face interviews, shows the default figure of independents to be more than 50%.

As for what the Matsudo election portends for the DPJ, Ubukata Yukio, the DPJ Diet representative from Chiba’s sixth district, distributed an e-mail magazine with the title, “We can only apologize to the DPJ candidates”. Mr. Ubukata wrote:

“If we go into the local elections next spring the same way, we’ll have the same results throughout the country.”

Meanwhile, two Chiba City councilmen affiliated with the DPJ left the party the same week.

Inside Tokyo

Nakano Kansei served as the DPJ Secretary-General in 2002. Last week he said:

“A national strategy is not possible without foreign policy and defense, but I doubt the current cabinet is headed in that direction.”

At a dinner with other politicians on the 29th in Tokyo, Ozawa Ichiro was resigned to the government’s failure. He was quoted as shrugging off the Kan Cabinet: “What can you do about it?” (sho ga nai)

He added:

“At this rate, the local parties will revolt, and the DPJ government will collapse from the bottom up.”

They thought someone would fall for it?

The quasi-public television and radio network NHK broadcasts important Diet proceedings live. On the 10th, they began coverage of Question Time in the lower house budget committee at 11 a.m. The committee session had begun 30 minutes earlier, but the broadcast was delayed because the DPJ government had not granted NHK permission. A political reporter for a national newspaper told one of the weekly magazines that the committee proceedings were supposed to have started at 10:00 a.m., but the opposition Liberal Democratic Party objected to NHK when they saw there would be no broadcast. The start was delayed 30 minutes.

The reason NHK didn’t turn on the cameras? “The DPJ told NHK that the LDP said a broadcast wouldn’t be necessary.”

The committee’s business that day? The first round of opposition party questioning of the government after reports had emerged that a Coast Guard officer had uploaded to You Tube the videos of the Chinese fishing boat ramming in the Senkakus.

Last year, the DPJ campaigned on the promise of a “clean and open government”. Those words have now become a weapon in the hands of every print and broadcast media outlet in the country.

Speaking of the video

The Kan Cabinet claimed that the national interest would be harmed if the videos were released to the public.

Last week, the upper house budget committee finally received a 44-minute video from the government, which it distributed to all the opposition parties. The LDP gave a copy to the national media.

If the national interest has been harmed, no one seems to be aware of it.

Sleepy and tipsy

Gendai Business Online ran an article describing the government’s initial response to the appearance of the videos on You Tube. Lower house DPJ MP Kawauchi Hiroshi heard that the videos had been uploaded from a reporter on the night of 4 November. He immediately called the Kantei (the Japanese version of the White House) to confirm the facts with Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito and the measures they would take to deal with the situation.

“It was just before midnight when I called the Kantei to get in contact with Mr. Sengoku. An aide answered the phone and said, ‘I cannot connect you with the Chief Secretary.’ When I asked why I couldn’t talk to him in this emergency, he replied, ‘The Chief Cabinet Secretary has already retired for the night. I will inform him of the matter tomorrow morning.’ I was stunned.”

The Gendai article notes that Mr. Sengoku is the point man in the Kan Cabinet for gathering important information. When he is sleeping and not to be disturbed due to extreme fatigue—something that is happening with greater frequency—not only is there no crisis management, the Kantei itself ceases to function.

Prime Minister Kan Naoto has been complaining that he lacks information because Mr. Sengoku is monopolizing the flow, but when the video went up on the Net, he was out drinking with another DPJ Diet member. Saito Tsuyoshi explained:

“Mr. Kan invited me out for some drinks to celebrate my appointment as Acting Diet Affairs Committee Chair. We arrived at a traditional Japanese restaurant in Akasaka after 9:00 p.m. and had dinner. One of Mr. Kan’s aides was also with us, but there was no indication whatsoever of any report that the videos had been released.”

They left after 11:00 p.m., when word on the Net was spreading and the mass media was beginning to move. At that point many ordinary citizens knew more about what had happened than Prime Minister Kan.

Mr. Kan learned about the videos after midnight and characteristically lost his temper. He turned on the TV and started shouting, “Where? What channel is it on?” When he was told it was on the Net and not on television, he was frantic. “How do you watch You Tube? What do you do?”

Mr. Sengoku, by now awake, was more interested in who released the videos. He first suspected the culprits were either the Coast Guard or the Naha prosecutors.

They started discussing the possibilities. Mr. Kan’s aides suggested Foreign Minister Maehara Seiji, a Sengoku ally. Mr. Sengoku brought up the name of Haraguchi Kazuhiro, a Cabinet minister in the Hatoyama government and an Ozawa Ichiro stalking horse who has been critical of the government’s handling of the incident.

In other words, the highest-ranking officials in the DPJ government suspected the videos were released by other high-ranking officials in the DPJ government.

Foreign affairs, part #2

DPJ Diet member and former Environmental Minister Ozawa Sakihito, the head of a study group of party members, arranged a meeting with Chinese ambassador Chen Yong-hua. He and his group thought it would be a good opportunity to discuss the Senkakus and the North Korean shelling of South Korea. They invited all 412 of the DPJ Diet members to attend.

22 showed up.

Shooting blanks

Boldly going where no LDP government has gone before, some ministers in the Hatoyama Cabinet took immediate action to demonstrate that a governmental New Age had arrived in Japan after forming a government in September 2009. Then-Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport Maehara Seiji started firing right away, and one of his targets was the suspension of construction work on the Yamba Dam in Gunma. He was anxious to show that the days of unnecessary pork barrel construction projects were over.

Unfortunately, Mr. Maehara had not studied the issue in depth before making his decision. The dam in question was controversial in the truest sense of the word. Many people opposed the project, launched decades ago to provide more water to the Tokyo region, but many also thought there was a need for it, particularly the public sector at the sub-national level. The due diligence required to make a sound decision was neglected in favor of a publicity splash.

Earlier this month, Mr. Maehara’s successor Mabuchi Sumio quietly lifted the suspension on work on the dam.

Ibuki Bunmei was right: Like grade school boys with pistols…


A ceremony was held on the 29th marking the 120th anniversary of the founding of the Diet. Attending were the Emperor and Empress, and their second son Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko (the parents of the future Emperor).

After an initial ceremony, the Prince and Princess stood up to wait for the arrival of the Emperor and Empress. One MP, identified only as a “veteran DPJ Diet member”, couldn’t restrain himself and yelled out:

“Hurry up and sit down. Can’t you see we can’t sit down either?”

The incident was related by Your Party upper house member Sakurauchi Fumiki on his blog, who also said the comment “was beyond imagining”.

The Sankei Shimbun interviewed the member in question without mentioning his name. He allowed that he “might have” said it and complained again that no one could sit down.

Like grade school boys with pistols who have to go to the bathroom…

Other people’s money

Last week, the Diet passed yet another stimulus package, this one worth $US 61 billion. One would have thought the nation’s sewers were clogged from all the stimulus money that’s already been flushed down the toilet.

The news reports were vague about how the money would be spent, saying only that the funds would be allocated to help support local governments. It’s true that several prefectural governments are struggling to keep their heads above the rising tide of red ink. Could the stimulus actually have been a public sector bailout?

Here’s a hint: One of the party’s biggest organizational supporters is the labor union for local government public employees.

The bureaucrats too

Recall that Koga Shigeaki, a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry and a critic of DPJ civil service reforms, was asked last month to testify in the Diet. Mr. Sengoku opposed his appearance and added a gangsterish threat:

“It could adversely affect his future.”

Mr. Koga had been tasked to visit local companies around the country, discuss their interaction with the Ministry, and to file a report. The title of the final three pages of his report was Personal Comments, and they were sharply critical of METI conduct.

The opposition in the Diet asked to see a copy of the report. METI obliged, but removed the three pages with Mr. Koga’s criticism before sending it over. When they were called on it, the ministry explained:

“’Personal Comments’ are the individual impressions of the person himself, and are not part of a survey report for the Diet members.”

And the prosecutors

Livid over the YouTube release of the Coast Guard’s Senkakus videos, Sengoku Yoshito ordered a full court press of an investigation that mobilized up to 80 members of the prosecutors’ office. “This is a grave situation,” he thundered, and made it known that he wanted to nail the leaker’s hide to the wall.

The prosecutors decided not to arrest him.

In their 5 December issue, the weekly Sunday Mainichi wonders if the prosecutors wanted to extract some revenge from Mr. Sengoku for shifting on them the responsibility for the decision to release the Chinese fishing boat captain without a trial.

A source familiar with the investigation said it was likely the probe would continue, and that the leaker might eventually be fined for violating the National Civil Service Law.

Rather than get upset, Mr. Sengoku should be relieved that the government will be spared the entire country demanding to know why the Chinese skipper went scot-free while the Japanese Coast Guard navigator had to face trial.

Political onanism

Here’s DPJ Secretary-General Okada Katsuya speaking in Tokyo recently, as quoted by the Mainichi Shimbun:

“We won’t be the ruling party forever, but if we can (stay in office), I think about eight years (would be appropriate).”

In other words, he thinks the Diet should not be dissolved during the remaining three years of the term, the DPJ will win the subsequent election, and the new term would also last the full four years.

One Japanese blogger wondered if the country could survive that long under uninterrupted DPJ rule.

Mr. Okada may not have been joking. Prime Minister Kan invited his predecessor, Hatoyama Yukio, out to dinner at a Tokyo Chinese restaurant on the 27th, and the two met for about 90 minutes. Mr. Kan told him:

“I won’t quit even if the Cabinet support rate falls to 1%.”

Last week, Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito was formally censured by the upper house. That is legally non-binding, but it has an impact nevertheless—Fukuda Yasuo lasted only two months after being censured, and Aso Taro three.

Mr. Sengoku was asked on the 29th if he would resign. He answered:

“Absolutely not. I’m completely committed to my duties now…I’ve gained the confidence of the lower house. (i.e., the no-confidence motion didn’t pass the DPJ-dominated chamber.) There has to be a legal disposition regarding the issue of whether there is confidence or censure (i.e., the censure is not legally binding).”

Yes, Japanese attorneys can be every bit as assertively obnoxious as their brother lawyers in the West.

MLIT Minister Mabuchi Sumio was also censured by the upper house, and he won’t resign either. As he explained,

“Reform is my assignment.”

L’etat, c’est moi” in Japanese is 国家は私である, in case you’re wondering.

Meanwhile, Shinhodo 2001 released its latest public opinion poll on Monday.

Here are some of the results for the answers to the question of what the Kan Cabinet should do next:

Dissolve the lower house and hold a general election: 47.4%
The Cabinet should resign en masse and allow a new government to take over: 14.2%

Thus, more than 61% of the respondents think the Incompetent Gang of Four should be gone. They disagree only on the manner of departure.


Do not support the Cabinet: 72.6%
Support the Cabinet: 21.0%

The Cabinet’s ability for crisis management is high: 2.2%
Normal: 22.0%
Low: 74.0%
Don’t know: 6.4%

What party do you intend to vote for in the next election?

DPJ: 13.6%
LDP: 29%

Mr. Sengoku thinks it’s all the media’s fault. At a news conference on the 30th:

“We’ve implemented different policy reforms, but the mass media never writes anything positive about us.”

How quickly he’s forgotten.

For several weeks, the circumstances of Mr. Kan’s support rating resembled the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote after running off the edge of a cliff and furiously windmilling in midair before plummeting to the canyon floor. Many voters bought the argument that there had been too much turnover in the Prime Minister’s office, so the government was buoyed by negative support rather than positive support. The new poll results show that what some are calling the Own Goal Cabinet has performed so abysmally, even that argument can no longer keep them airborne.

In just six months, they’ve managed to alienate most of the electorate, most of the party members at the sub-national level, and former party executives at the national level. Incompetence on that scale isn’t a fluke—you have to work at it.

How do they expect to deal with the public, the opposition in the Diet, and overseas governments now that they are essentially a squatter government? Your guess is as good as mine.

It doesn’t require any guesswork to understand why they’re so desperate to hang on, however. Mr. Kan and Mr. Sengoku are men of the left who’d dreamed of taking power for 40 years before their chance finally came. They are well aware that once they leave, a second chance to put any of their philosophy in practice is unlikely to come for some time. Admitting failure isn’t part of their worldview.

Japan is now a country with a government in absentia.

Great trumpet solo:

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