Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Saturday, June 9, 2012

SINCE coming to this country in 1984, I have never seen a Japanese person spit in public. One man, however, provokes such a negative response you can almost hear them biting their tongues to keep from hawking an oyster. That man would be former Prime Minister Kan Naoto. One newspaper columnist covering the Kantei finds him so detestable that he stopped using his name on his blog (while Mr. Kan was still in office) and referred to him as “that” (are). It is not possible to explain in English the sense of dismissive disgust that conveys in Japanese.

A recent blog post by Mr. Kan has started another round of national throat-clearing. The former prime minister has been anti-nuclear power for many years, and he is now angry that his successor in office, Noda Yoshihiko, is anxious to restart the nation’s reactors idled after the Fukushima accident. He wrote:

It will be quite difficult for the people supplied by Kansai Electric over the short term (if the Oi reactors don’t go back on line), but sharing among the power companies and the people’s understanding and cooperation, such as a concerted effort at energy conservation, will enable us to somehow overcome those difficulties…A response is completely possible over the long term.

He does admit that the issue is primarily an economic one, but adds:

Considering all the costs required of the nation from now into the future of continuing to generate nuclear power, such as the disposition of nuclear wastes in addition to the power company balance sheets and the power tolls, the costs would be lower if we abandoned nuclear power quickly.

He again stated the belief that has already been criticized as resembling the mindset of Imperial Headquarters during the war — take a stand on policy first, no matter how emotional and unrealistic, and everything else will follow:

If we decide to eliminate nuclear power quickly and consider every policy based on that premise, Japan should easily be able to make it through.

While some people agreed with That, some also noted the absence of figures to back up his assertion. He could use a jolt of credibility; according to Ikeda Nobuo, the extra costs that arose from shutting down the nuclear plants have already exceeded the original cost of the destruction caused by the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami.

Here’s something else to consider: The Kansai-based consumer electronics giant Panasonic is served by the Oi nuclear power plants. They’ve already started shifting production overseas to reduce expenses and offset yen appreciation. Higher electricity costs are likely to accelerate that process for them and other companies as well. The diminished tax base would make it that much more difficult for the government to formulate a budget less reliant on debt.

Then again, economics and the free market have never been among Mr. Kan’s interests. His first instincts have always been a combination of semi-radical antiestablishmentarianism and the lust for power.

Others thought his claim was nothing more than intuition or wishful thinking, and still others asked, “This person was really prime minister?”

Yes, That was.


The headline writers at the Belfast Telegraph seem to be under the impression that Japan is about to restart the destroyed and unusable nuclear reactors at Fukushima. That’s what the headline says on this article as of right now:

Japan to restart tsunami-hit reactors at Fukushima – PM Noda appeals to nation

The content of the article has it right (they probably picked it up from a wire service), but the employees responsible for putting it online don’t seem to have actually read it. Or any other article in their newspaper over the past 15 months about one of the biggest news stories in modern times.


Some people pronounce it Dat.

2 Responses to “That”

  1. Ken Y-N said

    Just a quick note, but Panasonic is and has always been headquartered in Osaka.
    K: Thanks for the note.

    You know, that what I always thought too, but I checked their corporate website first to make sure. Here’s the link I hit, which says their headquarters are in Minato-ku, Tokyo. But after your note, I looked closer, and saw that was for Panasonic Telecom.

    Glad you caught that.


  2. Andrew in Ezo said

    As a kid, with consumer electronics it was always Panasonic (or rather Matsushita/National) representing Osaka vs. Sony from Tokyo. Matsushita also had a more blue collar image, maybe due the nationwide network of mom and pop run National stores, that could find in seemingly every shotengai. If you were a kid growing up in 1970’s Japan, you likely remember National Hi-top batteries, with their distinctive red and stripe color scheme.

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