Japan from the inside out

People who should know better

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, June 5, 2012

ONCE Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru admitted both defeat in his effort to prevent the restart of the Oi nuclear power plant and his acquiesence in the restart, it was essential he break his Twitter ceasefire to spin the outcome, rally the troops, and regain the initiative.

The fusillade began bright and early Monday morning, and the initial volley was a mild complaint about the Hitler comparisons. Mr. Hashimoto chose to aim at Watanabe Tsuneo, the chairman of Yomiuri Shimbun Holdings, which operates the country’s largest newspaper, a television network, a baseball team, and a publishing house. Mr. Watanabe’s position and political influence made his use of the H-word in reference to Mr. Hashimoto a news story in Japan. The story itself faded quickly, and few outside the media are interested in what he has to say, but one appearance is enough for them to assume they have carte blanche to trot it out whenever they feel like it. A peculiar aspect of this story is that the Yomiuri Shimbun does not sail in the NYT/WaPo/Guardian orbit. In the words of The Economist, their editorial position is “conservative”.

Mr. Hashimoto exposed the absurdity of the analogy by noting that Hitler was a mass murderer, and said that he thought it was in violation of “international etiquette”.

Now there’s a man who doesn’t follow political discourse in the English-speaking world.

Once he was warmed up, he moved on to the issue of nuclear power. He tried to justify the decision to give in on Oi by explaining the difficulty of his (and the city of Osaka’s) position:

We have no authority. We cannot collect data, issue regulation orders, plan rolling blackouts, or do anything else.

It took only a few minutes for one blogger to respond:

Mr. Hashimoto originally claimed, “There will be sufficient power even without nuclear energy. All we have to do is turn off our air conditioners for a few days.” In other words, he just admitted that no data collection backed up his claim.

She added:

It should be possible for the city of Osaka to formulate energy-saving plans and conduct trials, but no trace of any concrete efforts on their part can be seen.

The Osaka mayor insisted that the primary issue was local safety and a crisis management system:

The people promoting atomic energy bring up the national economy, but Osaka’s problem is different. The national economy should be discussed in the context of creating a new energy policy and a power supply system.

Notice that the mayor used the adjective “national” instead of “local” for the issue of the economy. The latter would have negated his argument. Meanwhile, Monday’s Japanese edition of the Asian Wall Street Journal reported that the Chinese government has decided to resume nuclear power plant construction, which they suspended after the Fukushima accident. Chinese authorities said they made their decision after weighing safety concerns and the benefit the plants would have on the national economy. One of the safety concerns might have been that coal is the fuel used to generate 77% of China’s energy, and they just spent the last half-decade opening coal-fired plants at an annual rate that exceeds the entire power generating capacity of England.

Finally, Mr. Hashimoto said the anti-nuclear power forces should move on to the “second stage”. Stage Two is preventing the other idled 48 reactors in Japan from resuming production until a new regulatory agency is created and new safety standards are devised.

So to sum up, he expects other regions to share their power with his Kansai region to offset their shortfall, while (a) the Oi nuclear plants that supply his region are the only ones in the country operating, (b) he rallies his forces to prevent the restart of plants in other regions, which (c) are dealing with power shortages of their own with the plants shut down.

Yeah, that’ll work.

Some sort of malware seems to have infected the political programming of the devolutionary reformers. Nagoya Mayor Kawamura Takashi caught the virus too:

“I support the denuclearization of power, so I want them to stop the restart. The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry said they would release a hazard map by the end of the summer. (Restarting before that release) is disrespectful. Whatever else can be said, they’re screwing around with us.”

Hori Yoshito, an entrepreneur who founded a venture capital funding company, read that and blogged that a politician’s views on nuclear energy should constitute a litmus test: Opposition = failure. Mr. Hori also remembered that one serious energy shortage in Japan resulted in the country going to war.

Love! Love! Hairo

War wasn’t on the minds of the 450 or so people who showed up for a demonstration against the restart of the plants in Fukui City on Sunday that featured the latest in protest music. What is it about the combination of music and activism? The Jamaicans thought they could Chant Down Babylon, and the Love Generation believed they could chant the rain away at Woodstock.

Unlike those two groups, narcotization wasn’t a factor for the Fukuians. It might have been a sugar high instead, because they grooved to Fujinami Kokoro performing her anti-nuclear power hit, Love! Love! Hairo. (Hairo means “eliminating reactors”.) Kokoro is a 15-year-old singer/actress/celebrity who broke into the biz as a clothing model when she was in the first grade. Now she’s becoming known as a “datsugenpatsu idol”, datsugenpatsu meaning the denuclearization of power generation. She told the crowd at Fukui City:

“Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko said he would make a decision on restarting the Oi plant on his responsibility. What sort of responsibility will he take? The accident at Fukushima #1 isn’t over yet.”

Of course there’s a YouTube! The official release of Love! Love! Hairo features her in a duet with Kanaru, who is even younger.

The lyrics are unremarkable, with one curious exception. That’s the inclusion of the word giman, which means fraud or trickery. It is unlikely to be part of the vocabulary stock of the average junior high school student.

At least the Hollywood establishment uses adults at the age of consent when they peddle their papers. It would seem Kokoro is the tool that emerged at the end of someone else’s process to indoctrinate the youth, not the youth whose bright idea started the process.

Kokoro also has a Twitter account that she uses for Tweeting anti-nuke lines that some people think she writes herself. Those messages have been retweeted and praised by the likes of Sakamoto Ryuichi and Son Masayoshi. Fancy that — two very famous and very busy people with enough time to read teen-tweets!

The former is the well-known world-class musician-composer and third-rate thinker. The latter is a billionaire who founded SoftBank, the leading Internet company in Asia. Mr. Son also keeps his eyes peeled for lucrative crony capitalist business opportunities when they aren’t glued to the Twitter site. After he conferred with then-Prime Minister Kan Naoto last year, everybody got solar all of a sudden. Mr. Kan’s last act as prime minister was to shepherd a bill through the Diet that will require utilities to buy electricity generated by renewable sources at rates well above market prices. Nuclear energy costs about JPY 10 per kWh, but the rate for alternative energy that goes into effect on 1 July will be about double that. It will be higher still for solar energy — the juice generated by businesses, schools and homes is already sold at four times the nuclear power rate.

Now guess which Japanese billionaire plans to build 10 solar power plants.

Indeed, the use of Kokoro as a propaganda vehicle is an international phenomenon. Here’s Ralph T. Niemeyer, the director of the film Hibakusha, keeping his eyes peeled for a different kind of business opportunity. The complete English title of the movie is Hibakusha – from Hiroshima to Fukushima, Nuclear Capitalism Tries to Rebound. To ensure a better audience in Japan, the word “capitalism” was replaced with “business” in the local title. Watch his eyes light up at the end when he hears that she has a high show business profile, and is a really intelligent girl with her own ideas.

The Good Book quotes The Nazz as asking his old man to go easy on the unhip because they haven’t got a clue. All the people in this story know not what they do either, but that doesn’t make what they’re doing any more forgivable. Only Fujinami Kokoro gets a pass, and that expires on 22 November this year.

That’s her 16th birthday.


Wrote Japanese blogger Ikushima Kantoku:

Many people have expectations for Mr. Hashimoto, and I am one of them. It’s a feeling of half-love, half-hate, and I don’t understand it myself.

One Response to “People who should know better”

  1. I enjoyed reading this, though I never know in your posts exactly which way you’re leaning, for or against the nuclear plant restarts or for or against Hashimoto. Either way, it’s a better insight into Japanese politics than I usually find in translated English articles.
    V: Thanks for the note and the kind words.

    I have no problem with nuclear energy. Most of the posts usually have links to English-language articles that try to cool the hysteria. I probably should have created a special tag for these so people could read them in one place.

    There is a tag for the Hashimoto articles, which probably run to more than 40,000 words by now.

    Simply put: He is the primary manifestation of Japanese voter discontent that has been expressed at the polls for quite a while now, both locally and nationally. He is also an imperfect vessel with several other problems. I’m somewhat like the guy I quoted who is both hot and cold. I’m trying to be accurate here, which is not usually to be expected from the English-language mass media. Most of the journalists writing about Japan know very little about the country, and the ones who do often have warped agendas, think spitballing = reporting, and are negligent in their research.

    Then again, Hashimoto’s not easy to describe, because he combines an approach that is almost libertarian small government with Krugman economics, and no one else around fits that description.

    I suspect they will try to lump him into the same group as the movements of the disaffected in Europe, ranging from the radical left of Syriza in Greece, and the guys with the almost-swastika symbols such as Golden Dawn in Greece and Ataka in Bulgaria.

    That would miss the point entirely.



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