Japan from the inside out

More on Matsumoto

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, July 5, 2011

KAN NAOTO’S last reliable ally in government, PNP head Kamei Shizuka (ex-LDP, social conservative) rushed to Matsumoto Ryu’s defense and insisted he shouldn’t resign his position as the minister in charge of reconstruction for his treatment of the Iwate and Miyagi governors.

No, come on now! Why would I make that up?

“There is no meaning in (reconstruction) measures unless they are premised on the opinion of local people. What he said was proper…It’s improper to turn this into a problem. There are politicians who think that saying Quit! Quit! is politics.”

Mr. Kamei’s use of the word politics, by the way, is in a positive sense, without the negative connotations often present in English. That usage is common in Japan.

Meanwhile, freelance journalist Itagaki Eiken (who once covered the prime minister’s office for the Mainichi Shimbun) adds some tasty spices to the stew.

* Mr. Matsumoto lost it when Miyagi Gov. Murata wasn’t present when he was ushered into his office, but it now turns out that the former Reconstruction Minister arrived in Miyagi quite a bit earlier than scheduled. The governor kept him waiting for “one minute and 50 seconds”.

* One of Mr. Itagaki’s sources told him this:

“That’s typical of the way Matsumoto behaves. The people he hangs out with regularly are all yakuza types. That’s why he talked to the governors like a gangster.”

* The first order of business in Tohoku is clearing away all the rubble. That will involve the skillful use of what Mr. Itagaki refers to as “the roughnecks” of the industrial waste industry. That in turn requires a politician who can navigate the often bloody world of the yakuza. According to Mr. Itagaki’s source, that’s the reason the prime minister selected Mr. Matsumoto for the job. (His family also became fabulously well-to-do in the construction industry.)

* Mr. Matsumoto’s use of the expression about youth giving precedence to age with the Miyagi governor originates in Confucianism. Mr. Itagaki says his choice of expressions suggests he’s “pre-modern” and perhaps an authoritarian. He adds:

“Starting with former lower house president Doi Takako, this attribute is shared by all the politicians from the former Socialist Party. Essentially, there are many such examples of improper behavior among socialists.”

Isn’t it odd how Sengoku Yoshito immediately comes to mind?

When I was writing the original post on the story this morning, I briefly considered making the same point. As Mr. Itagaki notes, there are “many such examples”, also in the West, of leftists — presumably egalitarians — who don’t understand the use of authority when dealing with other people, especially people they consider their inferiors, either socially or professionally.

To cite one of those many examples, John Kerry, who was the Democratic Party nominee for U.S. President in 2004, is well known for getting angry at the servant class and yelling, “Don’t you know who I am?” when they don’t hop to it and bring the canapes quickly enough to suit him.

Having lived near the People’s Republic of Berkeley (California) for seven years (and studied Japanese at the university), I’ve seen “many such examples” first hand.

It’s a funny old world.


Writing on his blog, Prof. Ikeda Nobuo is intrigued by the circumstances involving the brouhaha over Mr. Matsumoto. There was no national news coverage of his problematic behavior on the day it occurred. It was only after a video from local TV was uploaded to YouTube that night, and it got a quick million hits, that the news media started to discuss it. Even the opposition LDP and New Komeito seemed reluctant to make an issue of it at first.

Prof. Ikeda suggests that might be because no one wanted to run afoul of the Buraku Liberation League, of which Mr. Matsumoto was once Vice-Chairman. Using another expression for that group, he calls Mr. Matsumoto the “Dowa Boss”. He thinks those ties are the reason someone of Mr. Matsumoto’s limited abilities made it as far as the Cabinet, and wonders whether those ties are not unrelated to the money the family made in the construction industry.

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2 Responses to “More on Matsumoto”

  1. Jeffrey said

    This is getting to be so frustrating. The Japanese have been so poorly represented for the last 20 years, but I hoped that the tsunami and quake could have been a new “Black Ships” moment for Japan. Seems, however, that the dithering and incompetence that has characterized Japanese politics since the collapse of the bubble will find no end.

  2. […] For more information about this scandal, check out the posts over at Shisaku and Ampontan. […]

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