Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘Komiyama Y.’

Point and counterpoint

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 8, 2011

OE Kenzaburo, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, has launched a petition drive to end the use of nuclear power in Japan.

During a news conference to publicize the petition, he said:

Restoring economic life is indeed an urgent issue, but we are extremely apprehensive at the expression of opinion that holds it is necessary to resume the operation of the nuclear power plants. Is it the case that we should give priority to economic activity (and ignore) the danger to life?

In response, Prof. Ikeda Nobuo wrote:

If he is giving priority to life rather than economic activity, why doesn’t Mr. Oe call for the prohibition of automobiles? Not a single person has died from the radiation emitted from the Fukushima accident, but automobiles will kill 5,000 people a year (in Japan). I would like to see him start a movement to ban all automobiles based on the prestige from his Nobel Prize and the principle that we should not be in thrall to economic rationality and productivity.

Further, more than 110,000 people die every year from smoking. Health and Welfare Minister Komiyama Yoko has called for a target price of JPY 700 for a pack of cigarettes, but the Finance Ministry is opposed. How about supporting the Health Minister rather than create a commotion about nuclear energy, which has caused little real damage?

This is probably beyond the capability of Mr. Oe to understand, but the world operates on the tradeoff between the economy and life. Eliminating all risk would mean prohibiting automobiles and airplanes and alcohol and cigarettes. We would also have to stop all power generation using coal and oil….

…The people who hobbled postwar Japan were the perennial opposition that championed an emotionalized sense of justice. They presented no plan for securing energy to replace the nuclear power they want to abandon. That is a mistake, and Mr. Kan Naoto gave us a very good idea of how frightening that should be if they were to take power.

Oe Kenzaburo

The figure of annual automobile fatalities he provides, by the way, is the minimum. Some years the number approaches twice that amount. Prof. Ikeda also points out that support for Mr. Oe’s position in Japan is concentrated among the elderly, which is an underlying point in the last paragraph.

It is not by coincidence that the generation of people such as Mr. Noda, at age 54, and Abe Shinzo, about to turn 57, are more comfortable with both nuclear power and the responsibility for handling national defense. The generation whose growth was stunted by postwar attitudes is passing from the scene. That should lead to “the end of the postwar regime” that Mr. Abe called for.

Finally, the Oe initiative will be given significant coverage by the media (for a day, anyway) because he is a Nobel laureate, but that will cut very little ice in Japan itself. The Japanese are already familiar with his political and social ideas.

The title of Prof. Ikeda’s blog post was “Sayonara, Oe Kenzaburo”.


Here are some additional facts worth noting about cigarettes and taxes.

* The tax was raised by JPY 3.5 per cigarette just last October.

* The idea of this tax is to earmark the revenue for recovery expenditures.

* Ms. Komiyama is an officer of a multi-party group of Diet members that aims to sharply limit smoking.

* Japan Tobacco Inc. is the company that sells cigarettes in Japan.

* By law, 50% of JT stock must be held by the government.

* The Finance Ministry has jurisdiction over JT and the stock owned by the government.

* Three former Finance Ministry bureaucrats are now officers of JT. That is exactly what people mean when they talk about amakudari.

* Also criticizing the cigarette tax proposal were Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu and — wait for it — Reform Minister Ren Ho. The Finance Ministry seconds bureaucrats as senior aides to both of those ministries.

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