Japan from the inside out

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Ichigen koji (264)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 19, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

I’ve never watched a political discussion program on television. In the past, I had to put together so many those programs I grew to hate it. That’s because nowhere else will you hear conversations with so little content and so much insincerity.

– Ikeda Nobuo, former NHK producer

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Ichigen koji (260)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, December 15, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

The closer it gets to election time, the more overtly the candidates criticize their opponents. They also beautify and justify their past behavior. What Japan needs for the future is not honeyed words or a litany of personal grudges. Rather it is to present and implement sound policies.

– Nishino Shuhei

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Ichigen koji (259)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 14, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

(Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru’s) Japan Restoration Party doesn’t hesitate to offer policies that are not politically correct. Therefore, their policies are the most upright and honest. Rather than saying that the politically correct policies offered by the Japan Future Party and the Social Democrats are incapable of being realized, it would be more accurate to say that if they were realized, their impact on Japan would be destructive.

– Baba Masahiro

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Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 14, 2012


Foreigners are making a big commotion about how Japan is moving to the right, but that’s all those people have been saying for the past 60 years. We’re not on some clock, and even if we are moving rightward, militarism is not going to return. So, just how far to the right is Japan moving then?

– The Tweeter known as Aceface

JAPAN will go to the polls on Sunday to select 480 members of the lower house of the Diet, and, as a consequence, a new government. This will be an important election for several reasons. One is that it will be the first election after the Democratic Party of Japan betrayed the public’s trust in the same way the Liberal-Democratic Party did post-Koizumi, while demonstrating unspeakable incompetence in the bargain. Thus, the politicians are facing an electorate who does not want to get fooled again.

Another is that it will be the expression of the political will of a younger generation of Japanese for whom debate of events several decades ago in a world long dead and gone has no meaning. Why should they? Their parents were born after the war. It is as of little interest to them as America’s victory in that war is for the Millennials in the United States, many of whom don’t know the difference between Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt.

Regardless of who wins — and it looks now as if a negotiated coalition could result — there will be more people in the Diet representing ideas that make some people outside the country uncomfortable. There is growing interest in amending the Japanese Constitution to remove the indignity of Article 9, the peace clause. Everyone has the right to defend themselves, including the Japanese. Americans once thought, and many still do, that self-defense is a natural and inalienable right. Events over the years have shown the Japanese are no more likely to become involved in malevolent adventures abroad than any other country. Events in recent years have shown they are a lot less likely to become involved in those adventures than some of their neighbors.

Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru isn’t running for the Diet, but he —- and Chinese behavior — has made constitutional reform a legitimate issue for public discussion. Some detractors label him a dictator and use the word Hashism as a code word for his movement. That reaction to what he represents shares much in common with those in America who tar with the racist brush those who criticize Barack Obama for spending too much time on the golf course or employing the poison ball brand of Chicago politics he was schooled in.

Dictatorial? Mr. Hashimoto wants a national referendum on the question. What could be more democratic?

The Osaka mayor also said:

We must create the defensive capabilities and policies for Japan to defend its sovereignty and land by itself.

He and many like him would draw the line with China which needs to be drawn and continue cooperation with the United States. He’s written:

China has become a great power with responsibility, so it also has to behave responsibly. Demonstrations are one thing, but they have to stop the violence. It would also be a good idea to end the childish threats to cut off all relations whenever disputes occur. The international community jeers at them behind their back….

…Japan should be proud of the path it has taken in the postwar period. It should be proud of the more than JPY 3 trillion in ODA they’ve given to China. It should say what needs to be said to China. But we should also be aware that it won’t be so easy to wash away our past behavior.

As for other territorial disputes:

We cannot change South Korea’s effective control of Takeshima with military force.

He therefore proposed joint management of the islets while taking the case to the International Court of Justice. (Prime Minister Noda’s government is backing off their threat to do so. They’re waiting to see who wins the South Korean presidential election and thought sub-ministerial discussions with the Koreans have gone well lately. All of that is pointless considering the hard-wired Korean intransigence.)

He’s also in favor of downsizing government, rethinking the government’s social welfare responsibilities, decentralizing government authority, and controlling the out-of-control public sector unions.

Another result of the election is that Abe Shinzo, who also wants to amend the Constitution, and who passed the legislation enabling national referendums during his term as prime minister, might be serving a second term.

That the Chinese, the South Koreans, and some in the United States throw up their hands as if they were maidens threatened with violation and exclaim “extreme right wing!” or “nationalism!” says more about them than it does about the Japanese. Ending the renunciation of warfare and enforced pacifism is not right-wing, nationalistic, hawkish, or abnormal. The abnormality lies with those who object because they might lose their favorite diplomatic weapon. Are Japanese born with some geopolitical original sin that afflicts no one else?

The real complaint is that Japan is moving to end the postwar regime. That would inconvenience too many people not only in China and South Korea, but also the United States. Who knows? If they keep going down this road, Japan might actually start to tell the Americans no. Can’t have that, can we?

William Choong in the Straits Times of Singapore understands. He discusses both Mr. Hashimoto and Mr. Abe in this article, and says:

(I)t is important to see things in perspective. Japan’s rightward shift does not mean that it will go all the way right and revert to its odious World War II-era aggression. Instead, Japan is moving right to the centre.

In the long run, Japan will become a “normal” country – it will retain the right to wage war, assemble a standing army (as opposed to self-defence forces), and contribute substantially to the provision of regional and global security.

(Forgive him the “all the way to the right” line. Pre-war Japan had fascist political tendencies, and those are always statist — and therefore of the left.)

Mr. Choong also quotes University of Macau Prof. Wang Jianwei on China’s proper response:

Japan should sign a formal statement of apology for its wartime crimes, ban visits to the Yasukuni Shrine by its prime ministers, relinquish its bid to control the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands and resolve the dispute through negotiation.

If Japan were to agree to such conditions, China could, writes Prof Wang, recognize Japan’s “normal” country status and even support Tokyo’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Why the Chinese need another apology from the Japanese government after having received more than 20 already, JPY 3 trillion in ODA as de facto reparations, and signed a treaty normalizing relations that pledged to let bygones be bygones is not explained. In any event, China would be no more likely to keep its promise about supporting a Security Council seat than the South Koreans have kept their promises in bilateral negotiations over the years.

In a larger sense that few people outside the country can understand, Sunday’s election is not about government. Japan has all the government it needs, and like everyone else, needs a lot less of what it has.

Rather, the vote on Sunday will be another step in Japan’s reclamation of its nationhood. When that reclamation is complete, then it will be normal again.

It’s been a long and winding road.

Posted in China, Government, International relations, Military affairs, Politics, Social trends, South Korea, World War II | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ichigen koji (255)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 10, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Isn’t it a problem with people, rather than with the form or the system? If we select a politician with leadership ability, the bureaucracy will obey.

– A veteran (unidentified) Democratic Party member on why it should be easy to control the Japanese bureaucracy.

If it were a question of do as I say, it would have been done a long time ago.

– Takenaka Heizo, a veteran of the Koizumi Cabinet who fought the Finance Ministry for five years

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Ichigen koji(254)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 9, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

(Hashimoto Toru) is forcing on us a philosophy of the supremacy of competition using the politics of fear that are dictatorial. I think we should raise the banner of counterattack against Japan Restoration in all sectors…This is a problem not only for Osaka, but Japanese democracy….The other parties are pathetic. They want the votes of Japan Restoration supporters, so the Democratic Party, the Liberal-Democratic Party, New Komeito, and Your Party are all casting come-hither eyes. It’s suicidal.

– Shii Kazuo, the chairman of the Communist Party of Japan, speaking in Osaka

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Ichigen koji (253)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, December 8, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Many of Abe Shinzo’s supporters are very passionate. That’s perhaps because he clearly spells out his policies. He declared he would conduct an assertive foreign policy when he was elected prime minister (in 2006). But the person who really tried to conduct assertive foreign policy was former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio. We all know what happened with that. The national leader who conducts assertive foreign policy without technique and without the skill for indirect statements is quite the fool. It will cause a lot of trouble for the people. It’s the North Koreans who say whatever suits them, and they seem to have thought it through in terms of game theory.

– Financial advisor Baba Masahiro, who supports constitutional reform, nuclear weapons for Japan, and the draft

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Ichigen koji (252)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 7, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

This is all obvious, but leadership consists of ideas, prompt decision-making, language ability that is rich in vocabulary but sparing in verbiage, and the same sense of responsibility as the head of a household. It is not a pleasant face, a silver tongue, or other externalities, nor is it the ability to distribute money.

– Inose Naoki, vice-governor of the Tokyo Metro District, now running to replace Ishihara Shintaro

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Ichigen koji (250)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 5, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

On 25 November 2002, Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro said during Question Time in the Diet, “The honorable member has just said there will be no structural reform without conquering deflation. But without structural reform, there will be no conquering deflation. There must be no mistake about this.”

– The Tweeter known as Hongokucho

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Ichigen koji (249)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, December 4, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Watching Mr. Hashimoto on television, I saw the limit of the Japan Restoration Party. Both the LDP and the DPJ sent representatives to argue their policies on the program, but the Japan Restoration representative gave only his personal views. This is still the Hashimoto Store.

– Hori Yoshito, entrepreneur and head of the Globis University Graduate School of Management

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Interview with Watanabe Yoshimi

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Watanabe Yoshimi

WATANABE Yoshimi, the president of Your Party, the first of the Third Force reform parties, gave an interview published in the press last week. Here it is in English.

What is your strategy for victory in the lower house election?

WY: The key to victory is whether we can segregate the candidates of the so-called Third Forces and avoid going head-to-head against each other in election districts. An inability to do that will create the worst result, which would be crushing each other.

You’re competing with the Japan Restoration Party in some districts.

WY: We took our time to select good people and meet our target of 70 candidates. In those places where we couldn’t reach a compromise, we have no choice but to go head to head.

You weren’t able to merge with the Japan Restoration Party.

WY: We reached a broad agreement with the party in policy discussions, but the gulf between us is too wide to allow a merger. As soon as they merged with (Ishihara Shintaro’s) Sun Party, the opposition to nuclear power disappeared. Civil service reform is the A of the ABCs for both Your Party and the Japan Restoration Party, but this has also disappeared. Won’t the people wonder what happened and view this suspiciously?

What are the points at issue in the lower house election?

WY: We intend to fight on the policies of growth without a consumption tax increase, small government, and regional devolution as opposed to centralization. Governance by the bureaucracy in Japan has resulted in a deflationary economy. The political class is no longer the control tower of governance. National strategy has been left entirely to the vertically divided central government bureaucracies. We will restore the Japanese economy by creating a real control tower and implementing a competitive growth strategy.

You’re calling for a suspension of the consumption tax increase and converting the tax to a revenue source for local government.

WY: Allowing an increase in the national government tax will facilitate bureaucratic governance. The dependency on central government will become chronic. That’s why we want to make that tax a local government revenue source. The starting point for this debate is a new state/province system with regional autonomy.

How will you achieve “zero nuclear energy”?

WY: Nuclear energy is the extension of the electric power supply system based on regional monopolies. If each of the utilities can achieve mutual adaptability, we can secure enough energy at peak periods without nuclear energy. We will promote the deregulation of power generation and the separation of the generation and supply systems through the entry of new companies into the industry. More consumers will choose their power sources. That way, nuclear power will gradually fall away.

What will the framework of government be after the election?

WY: That all depends on the outcome. If the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito become the largest bloc, they will probably have to create a coalition with the Democratic Party to supplement their own forces and create a stable government. That’s because gridlock would still exist in the upper house. It is very likely that the system of three-party collusion will be maintained.

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A revealing dialogue

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 3, 2012


AS Japan’s lower house election approaches, some affairs are becoming more opaque rather than more lucid. As an example, here’s an excerpt of dialogue at a news conference between Tanaka Ryusaku of the Free Press Association of Japan and Japan Restoration Party standard bearer Ishihara Shintaro.

Tanaka: The election campaign promises of Japan Restoration Party include the relaxation of prohibitions on dismissing employees and the elimination of the minimum wage. Already, more than 30% of workers are not regular employees, and more than half of them make less than JPY two million a year. If Japan Restoration’s policies are implemented, won’t they lose their bread and their homes?

Ishihara: The people in Osaka (Mayor Hashimoto and Gov. Matsui) are thinking very hard, but they are still immature in some areas…They established several categories for the framework of their promises, and then decided to debate them with everyone later.

Tanaka: There’s a limit to naïve innocence.

Ishihara: That’s right. When (Hashimoto) said he would release his political promises in a 10-page document, I told him to stop. “You’ve written a lot of them, but some parts of it are too principled, and they’ll be impossible to achieve. “ It’s just as you (Tanaka) say.

Tanaka: That’s because Takenaka (Heizo) wrote them.

Ishihara: That’s right (nods). I don’t like Takenaka. (Room explodes with laughter.) You can see that he wrote all of them (the promises). He’s just one of the seducers.

Tanaka: Isn’t that just the same as the Koizumi reforms that wrecked Japan?

Ishihara: He trusts Takenaka too much. I’ve told him to stop. He’s like a god to them. Even his advisor Sakaiya Taiichi has his doubts. Maybe they won’t let him speak out. He’s critical of Takenaka.

Tanaka: This will tarnish your twilight years.

Ishihara: I won’t let that happen.

Serious commentary on this excerpt could run much longer than the excerpt itself, but I’ll be concise as possible.

* The rebuttal from some quarters was immediate. They said the idea that Mr. Takenaka wrote all of Japan Restoration’s policies was nonsense. They also said this brought into question the wisdom of installing Mr. Ishihara as party head if he has so little idea of what’s going on within the party.

The Hashimoto-Ishihara merger works only if the Ishihara faction gets out of the way in the next year or two after accelerating the trend to constitutional reform.

* It is true that Mr. Ishihara and his ally Hiranuma Takeo detest the Koizumi reforms, but that is to their detriment. Hashimoto Toru has spoken highly of them.

* If Japan (or any country) were serious about getting their economic house in order, they could choose no better stewards of the process than Mr. Koizumi or Mr. Takenaka. Then again, some people in Britain are still upset that Margaret Thatcher healed the Sick Man of Europe.

* So much of basic economics is counterintuitive. Here’s one example. If Mr. Tanaka were really interested in increasing employment, he would support both the elimination of the minimum wage and make it easier to dismiss employees. Both the minimum wage and restrictions on dismissal prevent people from being employed to begin with. (France is an excellent example of the latter.)

* Mr. Tanaka neglects to provide detailed information on those non-permanent employees making less than JPY two million a year. How many of them are housewives working to supplement the family income? How many are unskilled young adult women living with their parents (while working at a convenience store, for example)? How many are recently divorced unskilled young adult women with a high school education?

* The Free Press Association of Japan was formed with the admirable intent to deregulate the dissemination of information by countering the kisha club system of reporters, which is tantamount to an information cartel. Unfortunately, advocacy journalism by unlettered ideologues incapable of extended linear thought is not the way to achieve that. The behavior of Mr. Tanaka at this news conference more closely resembles a polemicist than a journalist.

The “explosive laughter” recorded after Mr. Ishihara’s comment about Takenaka Heizo tells us all we need to know about the other free pressers in attendance.

* The director of the association is freelance journalist Uesugi Takashi. He was once the go-fer/translator for the New York Times’ correspondent in Tokyo, and later became closely associated with the Democratic Party of Japan. His campaign advertising for the DPJ in 2009 masquerading as journalism for weekly and monthly magazines is still entertaining to read. All the things he said would happen never did.

I haven’t followed the story too closely, but Mr. Uesugi has been savaged on the Japanese Internet for his anti-nuclear power reporting in the wake of the Fukushima accident. Apparently, one of his favorite investigative techniques is “making stuff up”. He will win no plaudits in Japan for impartiality or credibility.


The most recent Kyodo poll has the LDP in the lead for party preference with 18%, followed by Japan Restoration at 10% and the currently ruling DPJ at 9%. The new Japan Frontier anti-everything party created by Ozawa Ichiro and Kamei Shizuka and fronted by Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko polls only 3%.

Posted in Mass media, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Ichigen koji (248)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 3, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

We can’t be waiting for a hero. The fantasy will disappear and we’ll be left with nothing but despair. The only thing we can do is to create capable people.

– Sengoku Yoshito, former chief cabinet secretary in Kan administration, on Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru

Posted in Politics, Quotations | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Ichigen koji  (247)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 2, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

I evaluate Mr. Hashimoto (Toru, Osaka mayor) very highly. There aren’t any other politicians capable of debating positions and policy late at night using Twitter, and there won’t be any in the future, either. They say Reagan was the Great Communicator. This is the most important quality of a politician.

– Ikeda Nobuo

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Ichigen koji (246)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, December 1, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Regardless of how harshly they criticize each other, it is the fate of the Democratic Party, Liberal Democratic Party, and New Komeito to be forced to work together after the election. Gridlock will prevent the operation of the government otherwise. While the people are diverted by disagreements over policy, they are being decieved by the concealment of the real points at dispute. More important than policy is the logic of numbers. Policy can be fudged, but the numbers can’t.

Even if Abe and the LDP were to score a large victory in the election, the Abe election policies will not be achieved without the cooperation of the DPJ in the upper house. That’s why the three parties share a common destiny. What those three parties really fear is the growth of the so-called Third Force. That’s why the DPJ and the LDP have to put on a strong show of opposition to each other.

-Tanaka Yoshitsugu, journalist. The emphasis was in the original.

Posted in Government, Politics, Quotations | Tagged: | 1 Comment »