Japan from the inside out

Justice is blind

Posted by ampontan on Friday, October 12, 2012

Tanaka Keishu

EVERYONE knows that the bureaucracy guides policy in Japanese politics, so Cabinet ministers are usually appointed for reasons other than field-specific expertise. Everyone knows that most of the Cabinet appointees of the current Democratic Party government have no field-specific expertise in much of anything, and that Prime Minister Noda’s appointments in particular have been inexcusable for anyone entrusted with the stewardship of national affairs. Everyone also knows that Noda Cabinet V.3, released on 1 October, was a barrel bottom-scraping exercise that only a party unfit to lead a national government could have conducted.

And everyone is now discovering that it’s worse than they thought.

The new Minister of Justice is Tanaka Keishu. Before entering politics, Mr. Tanaka was employed at an electrical contracting firm following his graduation from Tokai university with a degree in engineering. As with many of his DPJ comrades, he found labor union activity more rewarding than working for a living. One of the few issues he seems to have taken a clear stand on during his six Diet terms is the adoption of daylight savings time in Japan.

Mr. Tanaka was asked during his first news conference what he thought about capital punishment. No one understood his answer.

It was soon discovered that a local DPJ group headed by Mr. Tanaka received JPY 420,000 in illegal donations from a Taiwanese company in Yokohama over a four-year period. A jail term of up to three years would await the person tried and convicted for that offense. The group returned the money two days after Mr. Tanaka took office.

Now, the 18 October issue of the weekly Shukan Shincho offers eyewitness reports that the new Justice Minister delivered a short speech while attending a banquet for a gangster, and served as the go-between (nakodo) for a different mobster who died last year. (A go-between at a Japanese wedding is roughly equivalent to the best man at a Western wedding.)

When the magazine interviewed him about attending the banquet, he said:

“Well, it was only the one time, I think.”

As for serving as the go-between, he protested:

“His father asked me to do it. I didn’t know what his son was involved in.”

Part of the problem is the idea in the Westminster system that sitting legislators should be appointed as Cabinet ministers (though it isn’t required in Japan). It isn’t possible to perform both jobs competently. Compounding the problem is that the DPJ ran through their shallow bench long ago and are left with water boys and stadium janitors.

Indeed, the DPJ itself is now the best argument for bureaucratic control of policy, at least while the party is still in control of government. The bureaucrats know what they’re doing.

Mr. Noda should have appointed Festis instead.

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