Japan from the inside out

The little rascals

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 24, 2011

IT didn’t take long for Japan’s media to come up with a nickname for Prime Minister Noda’s Cabinet. In some quarters, they’re now known as the “Chibikko Gang”. That’s how the Japanese translated the name of the troupe of children that starred in the Our Gang comedy shorts made in Hollywood from 1922 until 1944.

No, it is not a term of endearment.

The two main reasons for the selection of the nickname are the new Foreign Minister, Gemba Koiichiro (47), and the new Finance Minister, Azumi Jun (49). Mr. Gemba was elected to the Fukushima Prefectural Assembly at the age of 26. He won election to the lower house of the Diet two years later. His previous Cabinet experience consists of positions created to pander to passing fancies rather than do any real work — three months in the first Kan Cabinet with the responsibility for sexual equality in the workplace, the population decline, and the creation of a new public commons. The latter was a Kan inspiration for building a bottom-up leftist government from the top down. He then was given responsibility for science and technology policy this January.

Mr. Azumi was an NHK announcer for eight years before he was elected to the Diet. He was the host of the network’s Sunday morning political discussion program for a few of those years. He was deputy defense minister for four months in the first Kan Cabinet, and then became the party’s Diet affairs chairman in January. And there you have his resume.

But this doesn’t require a detailed explanation. All you have to do is look.

Here’s a photo of Mr. Gemba and Mr. Noda in the Diet.

And here’s Mr. Azumi meeting World Bank President Robert Zoellick this week:

Now you know the reason for the Chibikko Gang nickname. You also know the reason it’s generally assumed that foreign and fiscal policy are being formulated and executed by the bureaucrats, and enunciated by the ventriloquist’s dummies seated on their laps. Everyone’s long forgotten the DPJ’s pledge to wrest political control from Kasumigaseki.

It is to sigh. The DPJ was finally able to give the country an adult as prime minister on the third try in Mr. Noda. Unfortunately, he was unable to do the same for two of the only four essential Cabinet positions in any government.

What could possibly go wrong when children are given adult roles?

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One Response to “The little rascals”

  1. Marellus said


    Can the Emperor of Japan affect Japanese politics by relocating back to Kyoto ?
    M: I don’t think so. There was once talk of it as a way to decentralize Tokyo, and the Emperor supposedly said it was OK with him. Some of the diehard old guard types didn’t like it, but there aren’t that many of them, so I don’t know whether that stopped it or not.

    I recently bought a book describing the subtle effects the previous Emperor had on politics (after the war), but I haven’t read it yet.

    – M.

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