Japan from the inside out

Goodbye hello

Posted by ampontan on Friday, June 3, 2011

– The great mountain rumbles and brings forth a mouse (Japanese proverb)

Kan Naoto's impersonation of Foster Brooks

ON THURSDAY 2 June, the opposition no-confidence motion was voted down in the lower house of the Diet at about 3:30 p.m., even though just before lunch it seemed as if it would be carried. Here’s what people had to say about the day’s events.

Before the vote

Prime Minister Kan Naoto spoke with a group of DPJ and LDP Diet members in the Kantei on the night of 1 June:

“I and others of the baby boomer generation will withdraw. We want you to create a new Diet.”

Former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio, when asked about the possibility he would leave the DPJ:

“Rather, I think we must renew the Democratic Party. It was not my intention to create this sort of Democratic Party.”

Nishioka Takeo, president of the upper house and DPJ veteran who backed the no-confidence motion:

“I think this opportunity today will be a turning point for overcoming the national crisis.”

Former chief cabinet secretary and current deputy chief cabinet secretary Sengoku Yoshito on Ozawa Ichiro, one of the two primary leaders of the rebellion:

“We will not be able to maintain the parliamentary cabinet system with people of that sort, who are out of control.”

Former DPJ president and defense minister Maehara Seiji on the no-confidence motion:

“This is not for the greater good.”

Aisawa Ichiro of the LDP:

“We submitted this motion in the belief that it was the best choice for the state and the people. This will be an important day from the perspective of thinking about the future of Japan and its politics.”

Prof. Kobayashi Yoshiaki of Keio University:

“In view of conditions in the Tohoku region and the Supreme Court decision (on the unconstitutionality of the difference in district sizes), I do not understand why politicians can make the judgment that it is appropriate to dissolve the Diet and hold a general election.”

Miyazaki Gov. Murai Yoshihiro on the motion:

“I hope they avoid it, because it would pointlessly create a political vacuum…there’s a shortage of people in the coastal area, and we can’t even issue a verification of damage. Making us create a new registry of voters would be inhumane…

On Prime Minister Kan’s threat to call an election:

“An election is physically impossible. I’m astonished that even though he’s been to the area and seen the damage for himself, he would say that without taking (the situation) into consideration.”

Before addressing the DPJ Diet members’ meeting at noon, Mr. Hatoyama met with Mr. Kan and talked him into resigning at an unspecified date —- something he was unable to do the previous day. Here’s the full text of the memorandum to which they agreed, as released by the news media:

* To not destroy the DPJ
* To not allow the return to an LDP government
* To have a sense of responsibility for rebuilding the earthquake-damaged area and saving the victims.
1. Establish a basic law for recovery
2. Establish the prospects for formulating the second supplementary budget

Most people think they listed their priorities in the order of importance to them. Everyone noticed right away that the document contains nothing about a resignation.

The two men then addressed the DPJ meeting at around noon, and Mr. Hatoyama announced he was changing his vote. That’s when everyone knew it was all over but the shouting — of which there was quite a bit during the later Diet debate.

Matsuda Kota, Your Party upper house member and the founder of Tully’s Coffee Japan, when he heard the news:

“Prime Minister Kan brought up three points at the DPJ Diet members’ meeting: (1) Expend every effort for rebuilding and recovery (2) Not split the DPJ (3) Not hand over the government to the LDP. Those are not objectives, those are one person’s wishes. Other than (1), none of them make any difference to the people.”

Kumagai Yutaka, LDP upper house member:

“There’s already no prospect (for recovery). That’s why we’re demanding he step down.”

The no-confidence motion was defeated by a vote of 293-152. Seventy DPJ MPs showed up for a meeting with Ozawa Ichiro the night before in an apparent expression of intent to vote for it, but only two did. They were former Agriculture Minister Matsuki Kenko, an Ozawa supporter, and 29-year-old Yokokume Katsuhito. The party intends to kick both of them out, though Mr. Yokokume already quit the party in disgust last week.

A total of 33 MPs weren’t present for the vote, 17 of whom were from the DPJ, including Ozawa Ichiro and Tanaka Makiko, Kakuei’s daughter and former Foreign Minister in the first Koizumi Cabinet. There is some sentiment for booting them out too, but a decision on that has been postponed.

After the vote

Prime Minister Kan:

“Well, that was good.”

LDP President Tanigaki Sadakazu:

“He made absolutely no reference to when the prospect for recovery would be established. This is nothing but a farce.”

Toyama Kiyohiko of New Komeito, whose party voted for the motion:

“Rather than declare he would resign, Prime Minister Kan declared he would stay in office. There’s a problem with the news media reporting.”

Kumagai Yutaka:

“The mass media is showing captions on TV calling it a declaration of resignation, but what is the basis for that?”

Your Party President Watanabe Yoshimi:

“The prime minister didn’t specify when he would resign. Unless a deadline is reached, the incentive will be for him to be to prolong it. We can’t have that sort of irresponsible politics.”

On the last-minute change of mind by Mr. Hatoyama and his former Internal Affairs Minister Haraguchi Kazuhiro, who the day before said he was ready to vote for the motion and leave the party:

“They just created a disturbance to bring down Prime Minister Kan. Their motives were impure.”

When he saw which way the vote would go, Mr. Ozawa told his supporters they were free to vote as they wished:

“We’ve gotten something out of him (Kan Naoto) that we’ve never been able to get before, so it’s probably best to leave (the resignation) up to him.”

Mr. Hatoyama was asked several times when Mr. Kan promised to step down, as some people thought they were just blowing smoke.

“He won’t be staying until the secondary budget is passed, it’s when the prospects are there for the early formulation of the budget. That will happen in mid-June.”


“I reached an agreement with the Prime Minister to step down when the prospects are established for formulating the second supplementary budget. I don’t think it’s that far off. Summer is too long.”


“The content of the second supplementary budget will be decided by about the end of June. In other words, the outlook for its passage will have been established.”

That’s not what DPJ Secretary-General Okada Katsuya said, however:

“Former Prime Minister Hatoyama’s statement about the passage of a second supplementary budget and a basic law for recovery are not conditions for the resignation.”

That’s not what Financial Services Minister Yosano Kaoru said either:

“(Prime Minister Kan) did not use the word “resign”. It’s not as if he reached an agreement with the opposition parties to resign.”

The Asahi Shimbun was confused:

“The prime minister has already said several times that he expects to formulate the second supplementary budget sometime around August, and then submit it to the Diet. He’s also said that he thinks the problems at Fukushima will be resolved by next January at the latest.

Seko Hiroshige, LDP upper house member:

“He’ll resign when there’s an outlook for a response to the earthquake and the nuclear disaster? I think he’ll stay put with the excuse that there’s no outlook in sight.”

Kakizawa Mito, Your Party MP:

“Here’s the reason I can’t trust the Kan Cabinet. No matter how often he says something, he doesn’t do it. Even though he understands, and he’s been warned that a situation will grow serious without a change of approach, he can’t do anything to prevent it. Then, when it happens, he gets angry. That pattern keeps repeating itself. It’s really futile. The damaged region will continue to suffer if a change is not made.”

Maehara Seiji:

“I have extremely mixed feelings about this. Just because the motion was defeated doesn’t mean we’ve settled anything. There’s no change in the problem of the legislation for the special government bonds and other issues. We’re really going to have to rack our brains.”

People outside the political world also had some choice words:

Kurogane Hiroshi, manga artist:

“They talk about the great mountain rumbling and producing a mouse, but this didn’t even produce a mouse. What was this slapstick of the past few days all about? The people have a sense of powerlessness and exhaustion over the DPJ’s lack of ability to conduct the affairs of government. Though they’ve been spiritually beaten, the people who suffered in the disaster have suffered even further by being shown this farce.

“Prime Minister Kan said he would resign, without specifying when he would resign. The people won’t have any expectations for a lame duck prime minister to begin with, and it’s not possible for him to manage Diet affairs. It would have been better to make a change at the top. Mr. Hatoyama, who lent his power to Prime Minister Kan…Mr. Ozawa, who misread the situation…and the LDP, who couldn’t corner that DPJ. If politics of this sort continue, the people will suffer a real misfortune.”

Rengo Chairman Koga Nobuaki, the largest support group for the DPJ:

“The DPJ has not developed into a ruling party of government….Just because the no-confidence motion wasn’t adopted doesn’t mean anyone should raise their hands and shout hallelujah, or say they’re relieved. Unity is not that simple a matter.”

On the motion:

“The act of submitting a no-confidence motion itself at this time means they’re completely divorced from the sense of the people. I am angry at the lack of (good) politics in this situation, and deeply regret it.”

Back to Matsuda Kota:

“I’ve never been as disappointed in Japan’s politicians as I am today. All those Diet members who said they’d support the motion until just a few hours beforehand — how impressive of them to calmly mount the podium and cast their nay votes! More for the party than for the country, more for their faction than for their party, and more for themselves than for their faction.

“Were they afraid of losing their seats in a general election? Were they afraid of being disciplined by the party? Just who was it who shouted that Japan would never recover unless Prime Minister Kan stepped down. If it’s so easy for you to stick your finger up and wait to see which way the wind is blowing, don’t put on airs and tell other people what you think. Don’t make any comments for the TV or mass media. Don’t say anything that would confuse the people.

“This was really pathetic.”

The Metrosexual Faction of the DPJ

At a post-vote news conference, reporters asked Mr. Haraguchi why he changed his mind in less than 24 hours:

“Going along with an opposition no-confidence motion is the path of evil.”

They also asked him whether he would be a candidate to replace Kan Naoto when the latter stepped down:

“I don’t know whether I have the qualifications, but if I’m asked, I won’t run away.”

Freelance journalist Nitta Tamaki:

“Just what sort of a man is Hatoyama Yukio? He couldn’t do anything when he was prime minister, he talks smooth, and he’s the DPJ’s posturing millionaire.”

On what almost happened instead:

“His brother Kunio can’t figure out Yukio. A few days ago, he asked Masuzoe Yoichi to join them in a new party.”

Mr. Kan at a news conference at 9:00 p.m., on when he would resign. Emphasis mine:

“We must be headed toward recovery and reconstruction, and have the second supplementary budget for 2011 for reconstruction. I said (I would resign) when there are prospects for moving in the direction of building a new society.”

Finally, one of the two DPJ rebels, Yokokume Katsuhito, who left the party last week. He’s wise beyond his years:

“I am extremely appreciative and thankful for the help I received from everyone in the DPJ. But beyond that, I daresay the DPJ has already completed its historical role, and the meaning for its existence has been lost.”


Even Richard Nixon resigned when it was time to go. Kan Naoto is incapable of even that.

Politicians who think they can contribute to “building a new society” have demonstrated by that statement their unfitness for public office.

Some in the DPJ were pleased at their victory and the large vote margin. That is akin to expressing marvel at one’s particularly large and well-formed bowel movement.

Some still think it’s possible the Hatoyama Brothers will create a new party using their money, Ozawa Ichiro’s retail political skills, and Masuzoe Yoichi, former LDP Health Minister, as prime minister.

“I can stay until it’s time to go.”

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2 Responses to “Goodbye hello”

  1. toadold said

    There is a old joke that dates from WW II about the experts the FDR administration sent to factories to help boost production. An engineer at one of the plants said, “X represents an unknown quantity and a spurt is defined as a drip under pressure. So what we are hearing from are unknown drips who are under pressure.”
    Here is a US “expert” on the current political situation in Japan:

  2. Matt Oh said


    I’m all for holding experts to the highest standards of expertise, and I am interested in what it is about the linked piece that earned Mr. Auslin the dreaded scare quotes, if you have the time.


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