AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Sakaiya on Hashimoto

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, February 29, 2012

THE last post contained a reference to Sakaiya Taichi as a key advisor of Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru. Mr. Sakaiya was a bureaucrat in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (now Economy, Trade, and Industry), the head of the now defunct Economic Planning Agency for two years, and a special Cabinet advisor from 2000 to 2004 (the Mori and Koizumi administrations). He’s also been a university professor and written shelves of non-fiction and fiction works.

The Sankei Shimbun interviewed Mr. Sakaiya earlier this week to ask about Mayor Hashimoto and his intentions. Here it is in English.

*****
Media coverage has been overheated since the release of the Ishin Hassaku (Political guidelines from Mr. Hashimoto’s local One Osaka party), with calls for the direct election of the prime minister and the elimination of the upper house.

ST: Ishin thought and the actual political movement are two different things. Former Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro also called for the direct election of the prime minister in the past. The elimination of the upper house is an “expectation for the future” and not a policy of immediate focus (for the political movement). One Osaka is now conducting three reforms. The first is a reform based on the logic of a shift in emphasis from the suppliers — government officials — to the consumers. This spirit is the criterion for everything. Next is structural reform. That is creating Osaka-to (a sub-national administrative district in which Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture, and the city of Sakai would be combined in a form resembling that of the Tokyo Metro District).

A book-length dialogue between Hashimoto Toru and Sakaiya Taichi

Will this be changing Japan from Osaka?

ST: From Osaka to a state/province system based on regional sovereignty. That is the extreme form, but it’s not possible to achieve right away. The third is enterprise reform. That is to make public enterprises in Osaka profitable in conjunction with the Osaka-to concept. To do that, the municipal subway will be privatized and the bus system sold and reorganized.

How do you view Mr. Hashimoto as a politician?

ST: As a reformer of a type that emerges in history. He has the character of Taira Kiyomori and Oda Nobunaga. What is most important is that he has a clear vision. Without that, he becomes just an agitator.

Is the priority to disseminate and gain the acceptance of One Osaka’s ideals?

ST: It is to declare that this is a politician with ideals. Both Nobunaga and Kiyomori had ideals; Nobunaga in the shift from feudal society to early modern society, and Kiyomori in the shift from the nobility to the samurai. Mr. Hashimoto is that type of person. Actually achieving those ideals involves the three reforms: the structural reform of Osaka-to and the profitable growth of public enterprises based on the logic of consumer supremacy. He is extremely adamant about this. This adamancy, this fidelity to the logic, is most important.

Are you concerned that the mass media will run amok and the reforms will be crushed?

ST: A political crisis is like a wave. The One Osaka reforms will not create a wave, but change that into the form of a river. Nevertheless, the mass media views Mr. Hashimoto as one wave. This talk of whether he will work with Your Party (in the next lower house election), or field 300 candidates in the election, it’s all just ripples.

Will involvement with the national government be limited?

ST: Achieving reform in Osaka leaves no alternatives to involvement with the national government. There will be involvement with the national government to change Osaka.

Do you think Mr. Hashimoto can become a (national) political leader in the future?

ST: I think so. But first he has to succeed with the Osaka-to (plan). Nobunaga would not have succeeded without conquering Owari.

Mr. Hashimoto has said that politicians have a sell-by date.

ST: If he can achieve the three reforms of the logic of consumer sovereignty, Osaka-to, and growth before his sell-by date, he can create other dishes and extend his sell-by date. A new logic in Japan can be created with an investment of 20 years. By that time, we may have moved from Oda Nobunaga to Toyotomi Hideyoshi. If that happens, we can create a new Japan.

(end translation)

Afterwords:

* It has been fashionable in the Anglosphere of late, among some journalists, academics, and the schoolgirl diary wing of Internet bloggers, to talk and write about Japan’s decline. I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Mr. Hashimoto is the most prominent of many people working in the same general territory of decentralization and reform. There’s more going on in this country than meets the eye of the English-language mass media.

* Mr. Sakaiya also addressed the Your Party National Meeting on 28 January this year. The content of that speech is worth putting into English, when I find the time.

Talk of a possible alliance between the two groups is interesting on several levels. Your Party was founded by Watanabe Yoshimi, its president, and Eda Kenji, its secretary-general. Mr. Watanabe comes from a political family and served in the Fukuda and Aso LDP Cabinets. Mr. Eda, like Mr. Sakaiya, is a MITI veteran. Mr. Watanabe is pedal-to-the-medal type of guy, and was interested in exploring an alliance with Mr. Hashimoto a couple of years ago. Mr. Eda, who is more buttoned down, viewed the then-Osaka governor as a loose cannon and advised against it. They seem to have changed their minds after Mr. Hashimoto won election as Osaka mayor.

* Consumers here is likely meant in a very broad sense, though the usual political elements will see it as an excuse to start vibrating.

******
The success of those three concepts in Osaka might cause the spontaneous eruption of excitement such as that seen in the best song-and-dance scene in cinema history.

YouTube — How did we ever live without it?

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