Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘Koizumi S.’

Quick hits on yesterday’s lower house vote

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, June 27, 2012

JAPAN’S lower house voted yesterday to pass the consumption tax increase and social welfare-related legislation. The implications of that move are as I described in a post last weekend. The basic facts are available everywhere, but other aspects are worth noting.

*57 members of the ruling Democratic Party voted against their government’s bill, and 16 abstained. That’s serious business; 54 is the margin at which the DPJ loses its lower house majority. The Sankei said the total jolted Prime Minister Noda, because he had been working to limit the defections and thought there would be only about 30. The possibilities of a no-confidence vote and a DPJ split are real.

Prime Minister Noda and Deputy Prime Minister Okada are jubilant at the passage of their hallmark legislation

* Despite days of speculation that he would form a new party, rebel chieftain Ozawa Ichiro says he is staying put for now. He asked his allies to leave the handling of the situation up to him. Those with a taste for watching power struggles will appreciate his cleverness. First, he insists that his vote represents the original will of the party as expressed in the 2009 election manifesto. Second, by standing pat, he forces Mr. Noda into taking the destructive step. The prime minister said he would be “strict” with those who didn’t follow the party line, which could include suspension of party privileges or even expulsion. But that’s too many people to expel and survive. The internal opposition lives.

Complicating matters is that Liberal Democratic Party head Tanigaki Sadakazu is demanding that Mr. Noda do something with Ozawa and the rebels. In fact, he said the LDP’s condition for cooperation to pass the bill in the upper house is that he “deal firmly” with those who failed to vote the party line. Yes, he is making the internal affairs of another party his business. Was part of the three-party deal to pass the tax bill an unspoken agreement to strike down Mr. Ozawa?

In short, Mr. Noda is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. He has one potential weapon, however: Even though Mr. Ozawa was found not guilty of violating the political funds law earlier this year, that was a function of the legal process. It was not necessarily in accord with the actual facts of the matter. The LDP has demanded that he be questioned in the Diet about the circumstances of all that money. The prime minister might now allow that to happen.

* After the vote, DPJ Secretary-General Koshi’ishi Azuma said, “The DPJ will absolutely not fall apart.” The man’s wishin’ and hopin’. Maintaining the DPJ as a semi-functional unit has been his priority throughout the whole sequence of events. He represents the nether left of the party, and a viable DPJ is their only means to so much as sniff a position of power or influence in government. That disappears with a DPJ breakup, and many of the rank file would then have a hard time getting reelected, much less listened to.

* Former Prime Minister and DPJ Supreme Advisor Hatoyama Yukio voted against the bill and resigned his position of Supreme Advisor. Still among the party’s Supreme Advisor ranks is Watanabe Kozo. Recall that Mr. Watanabe cordially asked both Mr. Ozawa and Mr. Hatoyama to vote against the bill and leave the party for good.

Yesterday the Sankei Shimbun published one of those “all you have to do is look” photographs. It showed a smiling Ozawa Ichiro walking back to his seat in the chamber after casting his vote. He was enjoying a pleasant chat with another smiling Diet member. The other man was Watanabe Kozo.

That tells you all you need to know about the National Political Establishment (NPE).

* Prof. Ikeda Nobuo recalled an interview he conducted with Ozawa Ichiro about the heavy financial burden placed on the younger generations of those actively working to financially support the growing population of the retired elderly. He quoted the Ozawa answer:

“National pensions are for (the people) to help each other, so that’s part of the system.”

Prof. Ikeda concluded that Mr. Ozawa was not so interested in the votes of the younger demographic.

* Meanwhile, during his 6:00 p.m. news conference, Mr. Noda stressed the importance of the bill for maintaining the social security system. He does not seem to have considered the idea of overhauling the system to add serious reforms to keep it both viable and affordable, nor has he given much thought to serious reforms of government to reduce expenditures. In other words, he is ignoring the global collapse of the social welfare system as we know it.

* The Sankei was struck by the contrast between a subdued Prime Minister Noda and a jaunty Tanigaki Sadakazu. Mr. Noda got what he wanted, but was unhappy. Meanwhile, the Sankei thought Mr. Tanigaki was behaving as if he were the head of government who had just pushed a bill through the Diet. Said the LDP boss:

“The (three-party) agreement that reflected the LPD position in its entirety, and the passage of the bill in the lower house, represent a major advance that has achieved “the politics of decisiveness”.

This is also a classic case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too. Consider:

“It is clear that (the DPJ) has lost the ability to lead a government, from the perspective of both policy and the basis of government. The necessity for taking their case to the people (i.e., a general election) grows stronger.”

Give him credit: That combines self-congratulation for getting the DPJ to swallow the LDP requests, congratulating the DPJ for passing the bill, criticizing the DPJ for having problems passing the bill, and calling for the prime minister to dissolve the lower house and call for a general election. Not everyone can concentrate the universe of power politics brutality into a few short sentences.

And despite their deal with the DPJ, the LDP could still introduce a no-confidence motion.

* Ozawa Ichiro said yesterday that he thought it wouldn’t be long now before a lower house election was held. Commentator Takahashi Yoichi suspects that the two major parties will replace both Mr. Noda and Mr. Tanigaki as their leaders for an election in the early fall.

* Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru was pertinent, as usual:

“Before the change of government, the Democratic Party clearly said it would not raise taxes for four years. If this tax increase is allowed to stand, we will no longer need pre-election policy debate or manifestoes. That sort of situation would allow politics in which anything goes.”

Finally, as Shakespeare said, “The daintiest last, to make the end most sweet,” so here’s the observation of lower house LDP MP Koizumi Shinjiro, who inherited both his father’s Diet seat and his verbal skills:

“Isn’t the political muscle causing the revolt of 57 people (of his own party) that of Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko? That’s because the Democratic Party did what it said it wouldn’t do. These numbers aren’t the result of Ozawa Ichiro’s influence. Aren’t they due to the strength of Prime Minister Noda?”

And hasn’t all that led to this?

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The end of the LDP

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When your ideology has become rigid, you have checked your brains at the door. If you want proof of that, just look at today’s liberals. Their ideology has been extinct for years and they are walking around like the living dead, trying to preserve the welfare state and the vision of Lord Keynes while the whole world crumbles around them.
– Former leftist/liberal Roger L. Simon

SOME people are born with numb skulls, while other people have to shovel away at the irrigation ditches for years to get all that water onto the brain. No one works longer or more assiduously to obtain a black belt in cretinhood than the world’s political class, as a glance at any newspaper on any day in any country will demonstrate. Japanese politicos share the same defective DNA, but only their parents know whether the members of the established political parties here are congenital lackwits or shed all those IQ points after years of keeping their foreheads to the whetstone.

During his 5.5 years in office, Koizumi Jun’ichiro led the politicos by their nose on The Shining Path to landslide elections and real structural reform of government. A lower house election called specifically as a referendum on privatizing Japan Post rewarded his government with a historical mandate and solidified the prime minister’s poll ratings at 70%. It was one of those happy but rare occasions when the popular will intersected with sensible reform to exclude the entrenched parasitic interests. It should all be as obvious as a wet mackerel in the face.

There is never a reason for a government to own a bank or an insurance company, and there is no longer a reason for them to own post offices in the age of e-mail and private sector express delivery companies, and everyone knows it. To be sure, it’s possible that the victory was due in part to a gratitude vote: Sheer delight by the electorate because a politician actually asked for their opinion and staked his career on it. From the time he stepped down in 2006 until he left politics in 2009, Mr. Koizumi consistently topped the list of polls asking the public who they thought would make the most suitable prime minister. That’s too long to be called an afterglow.

The Democratic Party ran the classic bait-and-switch scam when they promised reform pre-election to gain control of government. One of their “reforms” was to stick a finger in the electorate’s eye and roll back the changes at Japan Post. While the DPJ couldn’t be expected to catch the plot if they ran that finger over the pages and mouthed the words, some members of Mr. Koizumi’s Liberal Democratic Party should have been unwilling to step into the mudboat. It turns out there are — three.

The LDP held a general meeting on the 27th and gave their formal approval to a proposal they worked out with New Komeito to amend the Japan Post law, thus neutering their signal policy achievement of the past decade. They and the DPJ will submit that proposal to the Diet. Instead of forcing the government to divest itself of Japan Post stock by 2017, the new law requires the government to “endeavor” to sell the stock “quickly”. There you have the perfect example of how reform is deboned by the butchers in the government and bureaucracy. If the law stands, they’ll still be “endeavoring” to sell the stock when all the girls of AKB48 are grandmas.

LDP President Tanigaki Sadakazu signed the original Cabinet resolution calling for privatization in 2004, so he was for it before he was against it. Last week, however, he said:

“The DPJ continues their indecisive politics, but we will present a serious resolution.”

That’s not inbred stupidity. He had to cultivate it.

Koizumi Shinjiro, the former prime minister’s son and successor to his Kanagawa Diet seat, was one of the three people to object to the party’s decision. He objected in particular to Mr. Tanigaki’s…statement, for lack of a better term:

“To say that (the DPJ’s) indecision is unacceptable, but that this proposal is decisive, is irrational.”

Suga Yoshihide was more statesmanlike:

“(Seven years ago) we had a great debate in the party and concluded that this country will be in trouble without structural reform. We won a major election victory on the Japan Post issue. Retreating from this principle is unacceptable.”

But more to the point was the party’s former secretary-general, Nakagawa Hidenao:

“It is the beginning of the end of the party.”

LDP General Council Chairman Shionoya Ryu seems to have a hearing disability in addition to being beef-witted. After the meeting voted to accept the proposal, he declared:

“It’s unanimous.”

But it wasn’t, and the opponents threatened to vote nay when it comes to the Diet floor. In a post-conference briefing, Mr. Nakagawa blasted the party for changing a policy ratified by popular mandate without another election. “If that’s how we’ll do it,” he said, “we’re the same as the DPJ.”

Now that’s a low blow.

The interview continued:

Q: The people supporting the amendment said, “The Koizumi reform era is over,” and “Times have changed.” What do you think?

Nakagawa: I don’t know who said that, but the recent history of our party includes an extremely important administration that lasted five years. After that, we had a series of very short administrations, and then became the opposition party. In that sense, we brought about today’s circumstances because we didn’t value our first principles, so we will continue to bring about the same circumstances in the future.

On the outside looking in, Your Party Secretary-General Eda Kenji didn’t say it was the end of the party, but he did say the party’s reversion is complete. The word he used for reversion was “atavism”.

Mr. Eda’s objections were practical as well as philosophical, noting that the problems were the obligation for JP’s financial companies to provide universal service and the government’s financial stake. He said that any attempt by the companies to enter new business sectors before the stock is sold would violate most financial regulations around the world, and the governments of those countries would object. (Good luck in the TPP negotiations.) He stated the obvious when he said that government ownership means fair competition in the banking and life insurance sectors is unlikely. He also knows the shares are unlikely to be sold. Where else is the government going to come up with the domestic cash to buy those deficit financing bonds?

He concluded:

“Your Party is of course opposed to this bill, which is a change for the worse.”

More than being the beginning of the end or a textbook example of political atavism, however, it would be more accurate to say that the three parties have now congealed into a largely indistinguishable mass of foul-smelling sludge that fills the moat around the Castle of Vested Interests. When the people leading the revolution of the regions against the center blast the “existing parties”, they’re talking about those three.

It is as if they were 18th-century barbers drilling holes into their own skulls to release the vapors. Now hear this: LDP Secretary-General Ishihara Nobuteru announced the LDP would consider voting for the DPJ’s consumption tax increase if the DPJ dumped Ozawa Ichiro. In a rare display of common sense, Deputy Prime Minister Okada Katsuya told him to mind his own business.

Taxation is a policy matter, and a politician has to look at the numbers — all the numbers, including the Finance Ministry’s secret money stash — to decide. The membership standards of a political party, no matter how lax, are unrelated to policy issues, and should not be a factor in another party’s collective position on any policy issue.

The three political stooges will eventually run the Nagata-cho Choo Choo off the rails, soon or late. The only solution is for the passengers to detach as many of the cars from the locomotive as possible before that happens. It’s a matter of life and death.


One month after the DPJ formed a government, then-Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio appointed Saito Jiro to head Japan Post. Mr. Saito is a veteran of the Finance Ministry, and was his era’s equivalent to Katsu Eijiro today.

Mr. Katsu was sent over by the Finance Ministry to serve as an aide to Prime Minister Noda. Many consider him to be the PM’s puppeteer and the man brainwashing the Cabinet into ever-escalating consumption tax increases. The size of the government doesn’t matter to the ministry as long as the size of the tax revenue is to their satisfaction. His fellows in the Finance Ministry hail him as a star bureaucrat of exceptional skill and talent.

Mr. Saito served in a similar capacity during the first non-LDP administration of Hosokawa Morihiro. He teamed with another backroom string-puller: Ozawa Ichiro, the man Mr. Ishihara wants the DPJ to dump. In those days, Mr. Ozawa and Mr. Saito came up with a scheme to introduce a 7% social welfare tax. The public didn’t like that either.

When Mr. Hatoyama appointed Mr. Saito to serve as Japan Post head several years after he had left the Finance Ministry, the prime minister tried to deflect the outrage by saying he had been out of the public sector so long his perspective had changed. With Mr. Hatoyama, there were so many eye-rolling moments the nation turned swivel-eyed.

Eighteen years later, Ozawa Ichiro is trying to bring down the Noda government for doing the same thing, with the same sort of Finance Ministry allies, that he himself tried do during the Hosokawa government.

The person who recommended Mr. Saito to Mr. Hatoyama was Kamei Shizuka, the head of the People’s New Party, then the DPJ’s junior coalition partner. The PNP is a single-issue party formed to turn back the Japan Post privatization. Mr. Kamei tapped Mr. Saito because he thought it would please Ozawa Ichiro.

Mr. Kamei used to be one of the bigger enchiladas in the LDP. He is said to have been the ringleader of the LDP machinations to bring down the Hosokawa administration, which was a coalition of eight small parties. He coaxed the Socialist Party to leave and join an LDP coalition by playing on their dislike of Mr. Ozawa’s dictatorial habits. He disliked them too, and he sometimes referred to Mr. Ozawa as a “fascist bastard”.

Kamei Shizuka last week left the governing coalition because he’s opposed to the tax increase. He’s conferring with Tokyo Metro Governor Ishihara Shintaro and others about forming a new old guy party. Earlier this week he talked about working out a cooperative arrangement between the new party and the fascist bastard himself, Ozawa Ichiro.

If Japan weren’t a civilized country, these people would wind up hanging from meathooks.

UPDATE: When China moves in the right direction, and that direction is the opposite of yours, that’s a sure sign you’re in trouble with a capital T.

China’s state banks make money “too easily” and their monopoly on financial services has to be broken if cash-starved private enterprises are to get access to capital when they need it, state media cited Premier Wen Jiabao as saying on Tuesday.

Wen’s comments, carried on China National Radio, come days after Beijing gave the go-ahead for financial reforms in Wenzhou — known as the country’s cradle of private enterprise — that will encourage private investment in local banks…

Private investors in Wenzhou will be encouraged to buy into local banks and to set up financial institutions such as loan companies and rural community banks, the State Council said in a statement posted on the government’s website last week.

Then again, Sakamoto Ryuichi composed The End of Asia more than 30 years ago, and that hasn’t happened yet. Recreations of renaissance music haven’t ended after several centuries, either.

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Ichigen koji (74)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, November 19, 2011

– A person who has something to say about everything

Koizumi Shinjiro, the director of the LDP’s Youth Division (and the son of the former prime minister), strongly criticized LDP President Tanigaki Sadakazu for such statements as “It is not good for Japan to excessively cooperate with the United States while omitting China and Asia.” He stressed that the Japan-U.S. relationship should be the axis for both the Japanese economy and diplomacy. This is a good point. The TPP is of no great significance economically, but it is of great diplomatic significance as a Japanese-American economic alliance promoting economic integration with Asia on a Japanese-American axis.

– Ikeda Nobuo (The emphasis was in the original)

The LDP removed the younger Koizumi from his post as chairman of the lower house Rules and Administration Committee because he did not support a motion against the TPP.

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Are you inexperienced?

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 10, 2010

BIG NUMBERS from the most recent Yomiuri Shimbun poll:

82%: Disapprove of the Kan Cabinet’s handling of the entire Senkakus affair with China
83%: Think the government should make available to the public all of the video of the Chinese fishing boat ramming the Japanese Coast Guard ships
91%: Are uneasy about the Democratic Party government’s policies for diplomacy and security.
79%: Think the Kan Cabinet is not responding appropriately to economic conditions
84%: Think the DPJ is not responding appropriately to Ozawa Ichiro’s political funding scandals.

Meanwhile, a narrative has emerged in some quarters of the Anglosphere media that the problems of Japan’s Democratic Party governments are due to their inexperience.

Consider the following items and see if you agree.

One of the few real successes of the DPJ since taking power—or perhaps the only one—has been the highly publicized budget reviews in which they scan the bureaucracy for wasteful spending. Theirs was not the first such review. Kono Taro led one during the last LDP administration, but those of the DPJ have been more visible. Because everyone knew it was critical to limit governmental expenditures, and because people had given up on the idea that the LDP would accomplish anything, the first was very well received.

Though a serious effort was welcome and long overdue, it produced more atmospherics than results. The DPJ review team couldn’t come close to shaking loose the amount of money they claimed was possible before the election. That was not conducive to enhancing the credibility of the DPJ—they promised they would be able to pay for some of their new programs with the money they discovered. They also played the old pea and shell game, in which some of the funds cut from one ministry’s budget reappeared under the heading of a different ministry’s budget a few months later. Finally, there was a tendency to turn the proceedings into a pointless public bashing of bureaucrats. If they wanted to cut the money, they could have just cut it without the hectoring.

The DPJ started its third review on 27 October under the direction of Ren Ho, a former model and television presenter now serving as the Minister of State for Government Revitalization. Here’s what she said at the opening ceremony, as quoted on the English-language side of the DPJ website:

“I would like us to make every effort to make deep inroads into the special accounts system itself. First of we will make all information open to the public. We will find out what goes on within special accounts, and whether there is any waste or wasteful use of tax monies. It may be that collusion between politicians, bureaucrats and business lies behind the special accounts system. I would like us to discuss this matter also, and to engage in debate on behalf of the people, that will return control to the hands of the people.”

She is being assisted by DPJ Diet members Edano Yukio and Nagatsuma Akira. Mr. Edano spent a few months as DPJ Secretary-General, but was replaced after the July election debacle. Mr. Nagatsuma was the Health, Labor, and Welfare Minister in the Hatoyama Cabinet, but was replaced when Kan Naoto became prime minister. (Some think he was elbowed out by Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito.) The website article says that both men “(called) on panel members to continue to work on behalf of the people and to restore public confidence in the political process.”

So, Ren Ho says they “will make all information open to the public”, they will “engage in debate on behalf of the people”, and “return control to the hands of the people”. Messrs. Edano and Nagatsuma talk about restoring public confidence in the political process.

Yet this is the same party in power who refused to “make all information open to the public” by keeping the Coast Guard videos of the events in the Senkakus away from the public eye. Their opinion of their fellow countrymen is such that they thought the videos would arouse anti-Chinese sentiment and inflame “nationalism”.

That’s not all.

The party’s first budgetary review examined the budget formulated by the Aso Cabinet when the LDP controlled the government.

But the current budget was compiled and passed by the Democratic Party, when Kan Naoto—whom some in the Anglosphere press think is a “budget hawk”—was the Deputy Prime Minister and then Finance Minister. It is the most expensive budget in Japanese history, and nearly half of it is financed by debt.

Therefore, V.3 of the budgetary review is the DPJ getting all green eyeshade about expenditures they’re responsible for in the first place.

If there is “waste or wasteful use of tax monies” in the current budget, they’re the ones who put it there. They should have already done this inside the government last year, when the budget was being formulated.

How’s that for “restoring public confidence in the political process”?


The following is a translation of the first few sentences that appeared in an article on page 2 of the Nishinippon Shimbun.

Before the second half of the budgetary review begins on the 15th, the Government Revitalization Council cited about 200 enterprises for which the recommended reforms were watered down (literally, deboned), including those that were issued notifications calling for amelioration.

This is seen as an indication that the results of the budgetary review did not penetrate the Kasumigaseki bureaucracy. Critics noted that the Council has no legal standing, and that the government’s instability has become apparent to the bureaucrats.

One member of the review panel visited the headquarters of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on the 9th and voiced his dissatisfaction: “They still lack the awareness that they are an enterprise using the citizens’ taxes.”

The newspaper has a small chart listing four enterprises that were supposed to be eliminated or improved, but which are still operating under different names, or have not made any of the requested improvements.
(End update)

Pressure by the public and the opposition parties, as well as a well-timed election defeat, resigned the Kan administration to showing some of the Coast Guard video taken in the Senkakus during the incident in September. They had selected Diet members watch a 6-minute, 50-second DVD edited down from about 10 hours’ worth of film on 1 November.

Reports from those who saw the DVD suggest the possibility that the choice of the scenes was informed by a wish to make the government look good rather than show the legislators what really happened. That may have been one of the reasons 44 minutes of the videos were smuggled onto You Tube before the week was out.

This Monday, on 8 November, the government called in about 20 opposition members of the Budget Committees and other MPs for another viewing of video from the incident. This was one week to the day after the first showing and three days after the much longer video was posted on the Internet. Surely everyone in Japanese government has seen them by now. So, what did the government present?

The same 6 minute + video they showed the week before.

Said LDP member Koizumi Shinjiro, the son of the former prime minister:

“This is a joke that isn’t even funny. The DPJ claims they are clean and open, but it’s a cover-up that is completely the opposite of their claims.

How’s that for “restoring public confidence in the political process”?

DPJ Secretary-General Okada Katsuya was asked at a news conference on Monday about the party’s plummeting poll numbers. He answered:

“That was due to the impact of Russian President Medvedev’s visit to the Northern Territories, the problem in the Senkakus, and the relationship with China.”

That’s certainly true, and he could have left it at that. But he didn’t.

Mr. Okada then chose to reference the visits of former Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro to the Yasukuni shrine:

“It is important not to resort to (steps to gain) temporary popularity. We absolutely must not provide buoyancy for the administration by arousing nationalism among some of the people.”

Mr. Koizumi served as prime minister for five years and five months, one of the longest terms in postwar Japan. When he entered office his approval ratings were north of 80%, and when he left they were at 70%. If I remember correctly (and feel free to correct me if I don’t) at no point during his time in office did they fall lower than about 45%. (Those are still electable numbers for a political party in Japan.)

He took office in April 2001, and he paid his first Yasukuni visit in August that year while still riding that initial wave of popularity. He visited every year thereafter, regardless of his polls. Indeed, he also visited on 15 August 2007, a year after he left office, but people had stopped paying attention by then.

His crowning achievement is perhaps his push to privatize Japan’s postal system, which includes banking and insurance services. He submitted a bill to the lower house of the Diet and made the case for it. He compromised as necessary to secure its passage. After the bill was defeated in the upper house, he laid his all his political capital, his career, and his party’s control of the government on the line by dissolving the lower house and calling for an election specifically on that issue.

Fancy that—he clearly stated his position and the reasons for it, used the political process to achieve it, and when rebuffed asked the people to decide.

How’s that for eliminating “wasteful tax monies” and “restoring public confidence in the political process”?

The LDP’s victory was the second-largest in postwar Japanese history. Who was his opponent as the president of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan?

Okada Katsuya.

Whose party has worked to undo that much-needed privatization reform, gained at such effort and risk?

The Democratic Party of Japan.

Mr. Koizumi’s popularity was independent of his Yasukuni visits, and his further visit to the shrine after leaving office suggests that a desire to juice his poll numbers was not his motive.

Beyond that, it is worth noting the contempt in which Mr. Okada holds his countrymen. What he disparages as nationalism is what would be thought of as ordinary patriotism in most countries of the world. Indeed, when compared to its neighborhood of China, Russia, North Korea, and South Korea, Japan is the least nationalistic country in northeast Asia.

Mr. Okada has the reputation of being a decent fellow despite his choice of a career in politics, and so far I’ve been inclined to agree. But that remark makes me wonder if he’s really just a petulant spitballer with a grudge and a self-righteous sense of superiority to offset his shortcomings.

The Anglosphere media is attributing the DPJ’s epic failures to inexperience in government?


The failures are a result of a trinity consisting of a political philosophy empirically demonstrated to be unworkable, a lack of common sense, and—let’s be frank–the failure to develop fully formed adult personalities. (Then again, those three could be separate aspects of a larger whole.) All adults sometimes fail at what they try to do, but these have not been the failures of adults.

It is as LDP pol Ibuki Bunmei observed of DPJ behavior after they took control of the upper house in 2007—they’re like grade school boys with a loaded pistol.

Every one of Mr. Koizumi’s steps in the entire postal privatization process is beyond the capabilities of the DPJ. Try to imagine Hatoyama Yukio, Kan Naoto, Sengoku Yoshito, or Okada Katsuya doing anything similar.

Now try to imagine them even thinking of doing anything similar.

Why would the overseas media think this is inexperience? One ever-present possibility is that they’re just drive-bys relying on second-hand information from unreliable sources. Another possibility is that they’re fellow political travelers of the DPJ and feel the urge to promote their agenda/make excuses for them.

Either way, one is as useless as the other.


When scouting around on the web for information about Mr. Koizumi’s poll numbers, I ran across an April 2002 article in the Japan Times. Here’s the headline the journos manqué chose:

“Koizumi Fever a Flash in the Pan”

Well, what else can you expect? Their go-to pundit was Morita Minoru.

“Nationalism” as a word has become as debased in modern politics and journalism as the terms “fascist” (which is finally being reclaimed as a description for a certain strain of left-wing statism) and “right wing”. Patriotism ≠ nationalism. With the the degradation of the term nationalism, it’s time to rehabilitate the more apt “chauvinism”.

Is chauvinism a problem in Japan?

One of the political parties participating in the July upper house election could be described as having a chauvinist cast—the Sunrise Party, co-led by Hiranuma Takeo and supported by Tokyo Metro Gov. Ishihara Shintaro. How many seats did they win?


For a further look at nationalism in Japan, try this previous post.

As for the Guiding Lights of the DPJ, I’ll leave that to the late Rev. Solomon Burke:

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Chip off the old block

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, April 10, 2010

ONE OF THE MOST compelling debaters in the Diet during Question Time was former Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro of the Liberal Democratic Party. He was deft, confident, had a wicked instinct for the jugular, and slipped in the knife with a gleam in his eye. He seemed to enjoy himself as equally as he frustrated and angered his opponents when they were simultaneously skewered and made sport of.

Former Labor Minister Murakami Masanori—also of the LDP—once disparaged Mr. Koizumi’s technique as “yakuza-style kirisute gomen”. The latter expression refers to the privilege samurai once had of being allowed to stick social inferiors with a sword for the failure to speak or behave with a proper reverence to their betters.

Koizumi Shinjiro

Mr. Koizumi is now retired from active politics, and his Kanagawa seat has been assumed by his 29-year-old son Shinjiro, whose campaign was one of the few bright spots for the LDP in last year’s lower house election. Genes and upbringing are no guarantee that the next generation will inherit any political skills—witness the Hatoyama brothers—but indications so far suggest that Koizumi the Younger is his father’s son. He’s remarkably self-assured for someone his age in that position, shares his father’s political philosophy, and he also attacks with a grin. The contrast with the Hatoyama brothers is all the more stark because all three are fourth-generation Diet members.

The former prime minister’s signal achievement was the privatization of Japan Post, and securing a huge popular mandate in the Diet to accomplish that. Those who keep up with Japanese politics already know the Democratic Party government is turning back the clock to renationalize the post office, bank, and life insurance business under the direction of Financial Services Minister Kamei Shizuka. Then-Prime Minister Koizumi tossed Mr. Kamei out of the LDP for his opposition to privatization in 2005. Instead of returning to the fold when Abe Shinzo invited everyone back two years later, Mr. Kamei allied his splinter party, the People’s New Party, with the DPJ for the chance to roll back the reforms.

Thus the stage was set for an entertaining political performance when Koizumi Shinjiro formally went head-to-head for half an hour with the 73-year-old Mr. Kamei in Question Time last week in the Diet’s Financial Affairs Committee.

Mr. Koizumi started off with some pointed policy questions—with a smile on his face—and Mr. Kamei chose to play rope-a-dope. That didn’t last long.

A recent poll by the Sankei Shimbun and FNN found the public’s rate of support for Mr. Kamei’s People’s New Party nationwide to be less than 1%. Said Mr. Koizumi:

It’s odd that the DPJ would be twisted around the little finger of a party with a support rate of 0%. The people gave 300 seats in last year’s general election to the DPJ, not the PNP. More than 50% of the people are opposed to changing Japan Post. The minister is traveling backwards.

Like father, like son. He also managed to slip in this comment:

The people don’t support the People’s New Party.

Touché. The crotchety Mr. Kamei—who has all the subtlety and patience of Yosemite Sam—grew agitated and his voice became rough. One could almost see a thought balloon forming over his head containing the word “whippersnapper”.

Public opinion poll results always fluctuate. We don’t need politicians who act by following poll numbers.

He couldn’t resist a dig of his own:

Nothing good will come from going back to what your father did.

Sounds a bit like an old geezer of a farmer waving a shovel in the air after a crow gobbled up all the seeds he just planted, doesn’t he?

Mr. Kamei had calmed down by the time an après-questioning news conference was held:

He’s good at getting under a person’s skin. He got it from his father…But it was like a street corner speech. There was no content.

The Asahi Shimbun filed a brief report of the exchange on their Japanese-language website, and their approach was both fascinating and educational. They are Japan’s newspaper of the left, similar to the New York Times in the U.S. and the Guardian in Britain, and their approach is often just as transparently twisted as their English-language counterparts.

The Asahi chose to present the story by starting with Mr. Kamei’s rebuttal of the younger Koizumi’s father saying that “nothing good will come” from the privatization. It was also the longest direct quote in the article. They offered only a brief snippet of Mr. Koizumi’s comments at the end, leaving out most of the content.

That should be no surprise—people with that political philosophy will always prefer the public sector to the private sector—but it’s still odd that they chose to put Mr. Kamei in a good light. Ten years ago, when the financial services minister was still an important figure in the LDP, they would have taken every opportunity to dump on him. But he’s on their team now, and besides, Koizumi Jun’ichiro committed the mortal sin for a man of the right. He was both (a) successful and (b) popular.


Still, one can’t blame them. They’re surely not anxious to see a Koizumi administration V.2 25 years down the road.

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