Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘Matsuda K.’

Ichigen koji (182)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, September 26, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Environmental Minister Hosono Goshi was appointed as chairman of the Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council (i.e. the body in charge of party policy), and Finance Minister Azumi Jun was appointed as acting party Secretary-General. Just what does the DPJ think a Cabinet Minister is? I understand they probably have difficulty finding suitable people for those positions, but I can only view this as disrespecting the post of Cabinet Minister. I want them to serve in their jobs in government until this administration is over.

– Matsuda Kota, upper house member from Your Party

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Posted by ampontan on Friday, September 21, 2012

THE Japanese are more aware than anyone else of the deficiencies of their national political establishment. It’s often said that the bureaucrats are the real politicians, and the politicians are really just lobbyists for the interests of the ministries they’re associated with or other private sector interests.

Here’s a demonstration of the severity of the problem. The following is a Tweet today from Matsuda Kota, an upper house representative from Your Party:

“The South Korean pop star PSY is very popular in the U.S. and Europe. They say he’s also going to collaborate with Justin Bieber. PSY talks to the international media in fluent English. We must learn from South Korean artists in this regard. South Korean female groups popular in Japan also mastered English first to establish a global presence.”

There were Chinese naval frigates in Japanese territorial waters this morning in a deliberate provocation, people throughout the world are wondering if war will break out between China and Japan, relations with South Korea are in a deep freeze, the economy is in the doldrums, the government just passed a bill to double the consumption tax in the teeth of deflation, the devolution of authority to regional governments is stalled, and Matsuda Kota is Tweeting about disposable chewing gum culture.

This would be understandable if he were a chinless wonder along the lines of Hatoyama Yukio, whose political position derives entirely from the fact that his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were prominent national politicians, and his mother illegally bankrolled his fledgling party with money from the Bridgestone family fortune (for which the back taxes and penalties alone totaled $US six million).

But Mr. Matsuda was an entrepreneur who founded Tully’s (coffee) Japan, cashed out, and turned his attention to politics. He’s handsome enough to have been in show business. He’s also a member of Your Party, which is the only party now in the Diet that takes reform seriously.

Why is he even talking about this?

To be fair, he probably wants to encourage young people to learn English so they can be more active internationally. There’s nothing wrong with that, but most of the people who are fans of Korean girl groups are not reading his Tweets. I know Japanese high school and college students. They’re not going to get excited about English just because PSY is fluent enough to appear on the Today show. Do you want to speculate on how many people are thinking about PSY this time next year?

Now you know why the Japanese electorate is so frustrated — every election, they keep kicking the bums out, only to be disillusioned by their replacements. There’ll be two national elections by next summer at the latest, and that trend will continue until the electorate gets what it wants.

Gangnam Style

Speaking of PSY, if you haven’t seen his video, consider yourself to be in cultural hibernation. It has more than 200 million views on Youtube alone. While it’s a massive international sensation, it’s really just the combination of a danceable novelty tune with an entertaining, eye-catching video. Like other novelty acts, PSY is unlikely to come anywhere near that success again, particularly outside of South Korea. He’s probably set for life there, however. (He’s already establishment himself; he’s released six albums in South Korea already.)

But unbeknownst to the ravers and teenyboppers outside the country, there’s a lot going on in that tune lyrically. The blind squirrels at AP found an acorn with this article explaining the back story:

The district of Gangnam, which literally means “south of the river,” is about half the size of Manhattan. About 1 percent of Seoul’s population lives there, but many of its residents are very rich. The average Gangnam apartment costs about $716,000, a sum that would take an average South Korean household 18 years to earn.

Gangnam…is new money, the beneficiary of a development boom that began in the 1970s.

As the price of high-rise apartments skyrocketed during a real estate investment frenzy in the early 2000s, landowners and speculators became wealthy practically overnight. The district’s rich families got even richer.

The new wealth drew the trendiest boutiques and clubs and a proliferation of plastic surgery clinics, but it also provided access to something considered vital in modern South Korea: top-notch education in the form of prestigious private tutoring and prep schools. Gangnam households spend nearly four times more on education than the national average.

The notion that Gangnam residents have risen not by following the traditional South Korean virtues of hard work and sacrifice, but simply by living on a coveted piece of geography, irks many. The neighborhood’s residents are seen by some as monopolizing the country’s best education opportunities, the best cultural offerings and the best infrastructure, while spending big on foreign luxury goods to highlight their wealth.

“Gangnam inspires both envy and distaste,” said Kim Zakka, a Seoul-based pop music critic. “Gangnam residents are South Korea’s upper class, but South Koreans consider them self-interested, with no sense of noblesse oblige.”…

…PSY does something in his video that few other artists, Korean or otherwise, do: He parodies the wealthiest, most powerful neighborhood in South Korea,” writes Sukjong Hong, creative nonfiction fellow at Open City, an online magazine.

If you’re one of those who’ve been in cultural hibernation and haven’t seen the video, it’s embedded in the AP article. It really is a hoot once or twice, and even better, a lot of the women in it are hot!

Posted in Music, Politics, Popular culture, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Ichigen koji (105)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, May 26, 2012


– A person who has something to say about everything

Politics until now has been a world in which policy has been neglected in favor of “I like that guy, so I’ll ally with him,” and “I can’t stand that guy, so I’ll drive him out.” Policies and beliefs are nonchalantly changed one after the other for the sake of political crises.  Unless we deliver ourselves from that sort of politics, Japan will never improve.

– Matsuda Koji, upper house member from Your Party

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Small beer for small government in Japan

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, November 10, 2011

THIS summer, the Diet passed legislation that included special measures for power companies to purchase renewable energy. Here are some comments from Ikeda Nobuo.

(The passage) was very welcome if only because the prime minister (Kan) will now resign, but I was concerned with the self-congratulation from Kono Taro, Seko Hiroshige (both LDP), and others who declared this to be an epochal event. I’m in basic agreement with their (classical) liberal policies, but this bill is in contradiction to that philosophy.

The government’s feed-in tariff regulating the purchase price of power is a measure beloved by the European social democratic parties. Even Bill Gates has pointed out that it will cause the energy industry to degenerate into a heavily subsidized sector.

That’s fine if all you’re thinking about is getting your hands on plenty of subsidy money. It’s even clever. A lot of subsidies are being distributed, even though it isn’t economically rational. In fact, 90% of the subsidies are allocated to building facilities. The same is true for Europe and the United States. Very little is allocated to R&D.

The renewable energy bill anticipates setting the purchase price below JPY 20/kWh. For solar power, this is incompatible with profitability. In a different context, the price of JPY 40 for 20 years that Son Masayoshi dreams of isn’t possible. He’s very bright, so he’s already begun shifting his interest to natural gas. Selling the inferior electric power generated by inexpensive solar cells will also be regulated, so making a killing will be out of the question. In the end, nothing will result from the renewable energy bill.

Also, Matsuda Kota (Your Party) introduced his bill for a national referendum on nuclear power. The reason these Diet members, seen by the public at large as reformers, are so enthusiastic about the ill-defined idea of reducing reliance on nuclear energy is that it is a buzzword accepted by the public. They lack a strong electoral base, so policy is their only road to popularity. “Eco” is the perfect image strategy.

Of course, gaining popularity through policy is preferable to the LDP political style of winning elections by spreading benefits to local supporters, but in the end, these MPs have become mass media zokugiin. (N.B.: That term is usually applied to MPs who represent the vested interests of individual ministries.) Their objective is to win the acclaim of mass media, particularly television. Yamamoto Ichita (LDP), a key member of the ruling/opposition party council that worked out the legislation, is also one of the principal members of the Diet members’ group supporting special designation for newspapers — from which he receives political contributions.

The ones beyond redemption are the members of the generation following the current baby boomers. There seems to be a consensus for small government among that generation, but many of them make an exception for regulating the economy for energy and environmental policies. That will exacerbate the structurally high costs of the Japanese economy and pass the bill on to future generations. When will they realize that this is just as bad as the Democratic Party’s pork barrel social welfare schemes?

(end translation)


Ikeda Nobuo didn’t like the bill, but the Japanese branch of the World Wildlife Federation was thrilled about it.

Matsuda Kota was the man who brought Starbucks to Japan, got rich, sold his stake in the business, and got elected to the upper house last year as a Your Party PR candidate. I sometimes follow his Twitter account. He’s intelligent and energetic, but he also really needs someone to tell him to put a lid on it every once in a while.

Prof. Ikeda identifies Kono Taro as a classical liberal, and Mr. Kono identifies himself as an advocate for small government. I wonder. Among his other dicey ideas, Mr. Kono supports ending foreign aid and replacing it with an international tax on financial transactions. The revenue would be given to some undefined international organization to dispense for development purposes.

Regardless of the merits or demerits of that idea, if Mr. Kono thinks that’s classical liberalism or small government, his compass is broken. Either he’s trying to fool us, or he’s already fooled himself.

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Ichigen Koji (18)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, June 12, 2011

– A person who has something to say about everything.

“The Democratic Party and the Liberal Democratic Party can be compared to big businesses. The DPJ has grown rapidly over the past 10 years, but their Diet members who aren’t party executives are running one-man operations and everyone else bows their heads to them. Based on my experience, most of the companies with management practices of that sort go belly up. Your Party resembles a venture capital-backed company. There are many people with high aspirations, which resembles Tully’s Japan when we launched that.”

– Matsuda Kota, Your Party upper house MP and the founder of Tully’s Coffee Japan

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