Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘Tsujimoto K.’

Handling Japan

Posted by ampontan on Monday, August 1, 2011

A GLANCE at the article that ran in the English-language edition of the Mainichi Shimbun suggested it was the sort of filler that often appears in such publications in this country. It was a brief account of a talk by Columbia University Prof. Gerald Curtis at a lunch held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. When viewed through the prism of a Japanese-language blog post that appeared a few days later, however, one sentence in the article hints at greater, unexplored depths.

The Mainichi’s report of Prof. Curtis’s appearance focused on his comments about political conditions in Japan today:

“This is totally a dysfunctional government … and the party (DPJ) is in disarray.”

It’s reassuring to know that at least one of the Western academia grovers is paying attention instead of bloviating on a cloud of wishful thinking.

For the first time in his 45-year career as a scholar of Japanese politics, Curtis said he recognizes that “the public is uniform in its view that politics is just awful.” He said, “This cannot go on forever this way. Something is going to blow because the extent of public disgust is quite extreme.”

The extent of public distrust was also quite extreme in the early 90s, which led to the birth of the Hosokawa government in 1994-95. The difference between then and now is that people have realized the Democratic Party of Japan, formed in the late 90s with the intention of creating a credible two-party system, is a far worse option than most ever imagined.

Prof. Curtis’s observations make for entertaining reading. He mentioned Mr. Kan’s taste for government by coup de theatre and presenting ideas seized on the spur of the moment as policy. He cited the Trans-Pacific Partnership and renewable energy scheme, but the Mainichi didn’t tell us whether he said anything about the stress tests for nuclear power plants. He also said the political vacuum in Tokyo has led to the emergence of interesting and effective local political leaders, and that private sector activism is on the rise due to a loss of confidence in the government.

It’s entertaining because the entire content of his address as reported should have been old news for the FCCJ clubsters had any of them bothered to read Japanese-language newspapers and periodicals, not to mention this website. Instead, they were clued in by an American professor stopping by for lunch after coming all the way from New York to visit Iwate on his fourth trip to the Tohoku region since the earthquake/tsunami.

Well, that’s what the Mainichi said. But is that really what he’s doing in Japan? Consider this:

“Kan will be gone by the end of August but he may not go quietly,” said Gerald Curtis, professor of political science at Columbia University in New York, at a luncheon meeting of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ).

He seems sure of himself, doesn’t he? Very few people in Japan are willing to predict when — or if — Kan Naoto will relinquish his position, but Prof. Curtis is speaking as though it were a done deal.

There might be a reason for that. The following is a quick translation of a Japanese-language blog post by author and former diplomat Amaki Naoto.

Here’s what I saw when I read a newspaper summary for Prime Minister Kan’s activities on 25 July.

1:49 p.m to 3:20 p.m.: Gerald Curtis, Columbia University professor; Aide Tsujimoto Kiyomi also attended.

It would be a good idea for people to picture this scene in their minds. Gerald Curtis is known to the cognoscenti as one of the Japan Handlers.

He has advised Japanese prime ministers since the days of the LDP governments, starting with Prime Minister Nakasone. He approached the DPJ government when they took power and began giving advice to them.

He is the typical “crony capitalist” scholar. (政商学者)

Japanese politicians, both in government and in the opposition, and media members with no connections in the United States, praise him worshipfully.

What did Prime Minister Kan hear when he summoned this man to the Kantei?

Also present was Tsujimoto Kiyomi, ever alert to power in the same way.

What did these three people huddle together and talk about?

Of course we don’t know. But it’s not necessary that we know.

What is clear is that their discussion involved nothing that would benefit the people of this country.

They were using the prime minister’s office to hold discussions for their own benefit.

(end translation)
Japan Handlers is the title of a book published by Nakata Yasuhiko in May 2005, who also wrote a book called Reoccupied Japan. The term gets more than 22,000 hits on Google Japan.

The author identifies 197 people from universities, think tanks, and government agencies whom he claims manipulate Japanese politicians and businessmen in pursuit of the ends of the “American empire”.

Busy man, this Gerald Curtis — an American college professor delivering a quick lunchtime seminar (or briefing) for the FCCJ, visiting the Kantei in mid-afternoon on a weekday and getting 90 minutes with the prime minister. Prime ministers are busy people too, especially ones trying to put together and pass legislation to deal with the effects of an immense natural disaster.

Did you ever wonder why former Prime Minister Hatoyama and the DPJ, at such great speed and public humiliation, dropped their initiative to move the Marine air base at Futenma in Okinawa after making the pledge a prominent part of their election campaign? I did. The Americans are supposed to be in Japan to defend the country from foreign attack. It is not the mission of American Marines to defend anything. They’re the offense, not the defense.

And what the deuce was Tsujimoto Kiyomi doing there? It’s bad enough that she’s part of the government to begin with. Here’s a reprise of what I wrote about Ms. Tsujimoto in 2009:

Tsujimoto Kiyomi came up with the idea for taking cruises on a Peace Boat to the countries that Japan invaded during the war when she was a Waseda undergraduate in 1983. It’s not easy for a spunky coed to organize a project on that scale, regardless of her commitment or idealism, so she needed some help.

She received that help from Kitakawa Akira, who later became what is described as her common-law husband, and Oda Makoto.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and intelligence service archives became available, it was discovered that Mr. Oda had been a KGB agent. Mr. Kitakawa was a member of the Japanese Red Army, a revolutionary terrorist group formed in 1971 that was responsible for bombings, airplane hijackings, and armed attacks throughout the world. One member was caught with explosives on the New Jersey Turnpike in the 1980s and spent time in an American jail. Several members were granted asylum in North Korea, and the Japanese government is trying to extradite them. It remains an obstacle to the normalization of relations.

Though vicious, the group’s membership was always small, and they immediately had problems finding the money to survive. It was provided by Palestinians starting in 1972.

The Peace Boat, meanwhile, expanded the range of its voyages and visited the Middle East. Cruise members met several times with Yasser Arafat, perhaps to thank him for his money and ask for more.

Mr. Kitakawa was responsible for JRA activities in Europe, and he was eventually deported from Sweden. Back in Japan, he founded the Daisansha publishing company, which has released six of Ms. Tsujimoto’s books.

She was recruited by former Socialist Party leader Doi Takako to run for the Diet, and she won her first election in 1996. A few years later, Shigenobu Fusako, the founder of the Japanese Red Army, was arrested in Takatsuki, Osaka, Ms. Tsujimoto’s home district. She was in the company of Yoshida Mamoru, a member of Tsujimoto’s staff in Takatsuki.

As an MP, she started receiving national exposure in the early years of the Koizumi Administration with her semi-hysterical challenges of the prime minister during Question Time. She does have spunk, however, and it was great television, so a star was quickly born.

It just as quickly faded after her success went to her head and she accused MP Suzuki Muneo during his questioning in the Diet of being a “trading house for suspicion”. Mr. Suzuki, semi-hysterical himself, blew up in a memorable rant.

Those of you who enjoy interesting coincidences will be delighted to know that not long afterwards, investigators just happened to discover that she had been raking off funds from the money that was supposed to be paid to her political aides. It was suspected that she gave some of the money to Mr. Kitakawa. She was sentenced to two years in jail with a five-year stay of execution.

Ms. Tsujimoto resigned her Diet seat, but Japanese voters can be a forgiving lot, and she’s back.

One of the reasons she’s back is that the DPJ chose not to run a candidate in her electoral district in 2009, despite the likelihood of a DPJ victory. It was, in part, a favor to their soon-to-be coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party of Japan, from which Tsujimoto Kiyomi has since resigned.

Here’s a Wikilist of Tsujimoto quotes:

* “I don’t want to be a Japanese. I want to be an international person.”

* “It’s not possible that the peace-loving North Koreans would abduct anyone.”

* “Immediately and unconditionally normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea.”

That’s from one of her books. The text helpfully includes the parenthetical information that North Korea is the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”.

* “At present, the Self-Defense Forces are unconstitutional, both from the perspective of their equipment and the regulations.”

Long-time friends will remember that this one is my favorite:

* “They say a Diet member should protect the lives and property of the citizens, but that is not my intention. My role is as a ‘national destroyer’ MP who will try somehow to destroy the framework of the state.”

(The word for Diet member is 国会議員 (kokkai gi-in). She replaced the first two characters with the homonym 国壊 (kokkai), which means “national destruction”.

In the aftermath of the Hyogo earthquake in 1995, when everyone else rushed to the area to provide assistance, Ms. Tsujimoto rushed to the area to pass out leaflets attacking the government and calling for its ouster.

The Hatoyama administration appointed the national destroyer to the post of Deputy Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport.

Based on this stellar career of public service, Prime Minister Kan tapped Ms. Tsujimoto to be his special advisor to coordinate post-disaster volunteer efforts in the Tohoku region. The twisted sense of humor of Democrats the world over is entertaining in its own right, is it not?

Mr. Kan even quotes her in his “e-mail blog”:

As Ms. Kiyomi Tsujimoto, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, often says, it is not simply the reconstruction of society’s “hardware” buildings and so on that requires budget allocations and policy measures. We will also be engaged in “reconstruction of the heart” for each individual affected by the disaster and “reconstruction of kizuna (bonds among people)” that have been disrupted in society.

If they don’t know by now how intellectually vapid that is (and impossible for government to achieve), they ain’t never gonna get it.

Doesn’t this appointment remind you of Barack Obama’s appointments of Van Jones, Anita Dunn, and Ron Bloom? Birds of a feather, don’t you know. (Even better is the Japanese equivalent of that proverb: Mix with crimson and you turn red.)

Be that as it may, why is Prof. Curtis meeting with these people at all, unless he’s telling them that everything they know is wrong? That wouldn’t take 90 seconds, much less 90 minutes.

It’s curious. For the past two months, Kan Naoto has insisted that he never made a deal with Hatoyama Yukio to step down. He’s dropped scores of broad hints that he either intends to stay in office for as long as possible, or call a lower house election.

Last week, however, a few days following his meeting with Prof. Curtis, he allowed as how he might resign sooner rather than later after all. And remember, the professor is certain that Kan Naoto will be gone at the end of the month.

Further, there’s a report today that four senior members of the Democratic Party have created a firm schedule to topple Mr. Kan in an intra-party coup. The group supposedly includes acting party president Sengoku Yoshito, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio, Secretary-General Okada Katsuya, and Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Azumi Jun. The report states they will have the prime minister removed as party president in mid-August, and hold an election to replace him on 27 August. The principal justification is that the “out-of-control prime minister is sacrificing the beleaguered Tohoku region and the national economy to extend his term in office.”

Where’s Wikileaks now that we really need them?

The secret Asian men and their groupies get it on!

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Koga Shigeaki interview

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, June 18, 2011

LAST OCTOBER, Your Party invited Koga Shigeaki of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry to testify in the upper house of the Diet. Mr. Koga has become known as a bureaucrat championing radical reform of Japan’s civil service system.

Koga Shigeaki testifying in the Diet

One of the primary pledges of the Democratic Party in Japan during its days in the opposition was the promise to enact bureaucratic reform of the sort Mr. Koga favors. It was one of the reasons the Japanese public voted for a change of government and put the DPJ in office. Once in government, however, the DPJ backtracked immediately on its pledges, as has often been explained here.

During his testimony, Mr. Koga said, “The government tried to debone the provisions against amakudari (post-retirement jobs for bureaucrats in semi-public bodies in the industries they once regulated).” The chief cabinet secretary at the time was Sengoku Yoshito, former Socialist Party member, attorney for gangsters, sokaiya, and Korean nationals born in Japan associated with Chongryun, the new backroom puppeteer in the DPJ, and the man at the forefront of the Dump Kan movement in his own party.

Some of his former clients’ habits seem to have rubbed off on him — when Mr. Koga pointed out the emperor was buck naked, Mr. Sengoku shouted out on the Diet floor that his testimony would “harm his future”. It was one of the several reasons Mr. Sengoku was later censured by the upper house, forcing Prime Minister Kan to replace him.

Koga Shigeaki released his first book last month, and he was interviewed recently by the Sankei Shimbun. Here it is in English

How did it come about that you were yelled at in the Diet?

When testifying about civil service reform, I said, “The government tried to debone the provisions against amakudari. Mr. Sengoku then stood up and shouted at the questioner, “That will harm his future.” I thought he was rather angry, and it was frightening. It still is frightening. That’s because, rather than Mr. Sengoku, I criticized the DPJ government.

Why do you think Mr. Sengoku shouted without debating you directly?

I was telling the truth, so he probably calculated that if he criticized me directly, he would be branded as a member of the old guard.

And that was frightening?

As long as Mr. Sengoku was in that position and the DPJ was in power, I would be abused and not given any real work to do.

What is your perception of Mr. Sengoku?

He’s a theoretician. He understood the need for reform. He has more guile than the number of his election victories (six) would suggest, and he has refined that guile since becoming a member of government. He has the ability to use deception to change the minds of those around him.

It’s also said that he leans toward the Finance Ministry view and favors a tax increase.

The Finance Ministry wasn’t able to easily force him out (of the sumo ring), and he tried to rally at the edge of the ring. But he was unable to do so, and moved to the tax hike path. How will a tax increase bring about growth in the Japanese economy? I have no idea.

What do you think of the political leadership (concept) espoused by the Democratic Party?

They made the mistake of trying to respond to the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami without the assistance of the bureaucracy. Mr. Sengoku is well aware that neither the party nor anyone in it has the ability for that sort of political leadership. That’s why he created a liaison council with people of the deputy minister class as an alternative after the disaster.

The Kan administration seems to have come to a dead end.

What happened is what was bound to happen. The initial response to the disaster by the prime minister and those around him was panic. There was a serious breach between them and government officials. The DPJ government does not have the capability to govern, and there is arrogance throughout their administration.

On the 14th, Maruyama Kazuya of the LDP asked to call Mr. Koga to the Diet as a witness to question him about the latter’s proposed plan for Tokyo Electric’s payment of compensation for the Fukushima nuclear accident.

When the directors of the Diet committee in question discussed Mr. Maruyama’s idea to invite Mr. Koga, Okazaki Tomiko of the DPJ was adamantly opposed. She said:

“While he has been called to testify as a government expert in the past for the upper house Budget Committee, he did nothing but express his individual opinions.”

The representatives of all the other parties were in favor of having Mr. Koga appear, but it is the long-standing practice to call witnesses based on unanimous agreement. Therefore, he was not invited.

In fact, his name was not even placed on the list of those submitted to the directors of the committee for deliberation. The upper house secretariat apologized and said it was a simple error, but Mr. Maruyama charged there was “pressure from Mr. Sengoku and others to use every means to stifle debate”.

It’s curious, by the way, that Okazaki Tomiko would be the one to complain that Mr. Koga offered nothing but opinions. After all, she’s so full of them herself. Here’s a reprise of what I wrote about her in January this year.

Okazaki Tomiko is another rodent who fled the sinking ship of the Socialist Party and scampered up the gangway to the Democratic Party vessel. She is opposed to Japan’s national flag and anthem. In July 2001, her political group illegally received funds from foreigners, including the director of the North Korean-affiliated schools in the country—a North Korean citizen–and a South Korean citizen who operates a pachinko parlor. The most controversial aspect of her career, however, was this:

That’s Ms. Okazaki participating in one of the weekly Wednesday comfort women demos at the Japanese embassy in Seoul in March 2005. She called for a Japanese embassy car to take her there.

They didn’t find some token make-work position for her in the Cabinet, either. She was named the chair of the National Public Safety Commission, which administers the National Police Agency. In other words, she was the head of the government agency in charge of maintaining public safety.

Politicians have the same right to free speech as anyone else, but they’re expected to exercise it with common sense and an awareness of their position. When a member of the Japanese Diet participates in a demonstration with Xs over the Japanese flag, it suggests an absence of common sense and self-awareness. Consider also what it suggests about Kan Naoto, who appointed her knowing about her background.

Ms. Okazaki’s immediate problem was that despite the ease with which she showed up for an anti-Japanese demonstration in Seoul, she couldn’t manage to drag herself to her office in Tokyo after North Korea shelled the South in November. Also, documents related to international terror investigations put together by the NPA somehow wound up on the Internet, and she made no effort to find a way to prevent the problem from recurring in the future.

She lasted just four and a half months in office.

There must be the strain of a perverse sense of humor running through what passes for the minds of the Democratic Party. Why else would they appoint this woman to be the head of the National Public Safety Commission when they could have found some job for her in a more innocuous branch of the bureaucracy? They did it before when they appointed Tsujimoto Kiyomi to be the vice-minister of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport in the Hatoyama Cabinet. Several years ago, in an unguarded moment, she used a Japanese pun to tell a journalist it was her job as a Diet member to “destroy the nation”. Mr. Kan also appointed her to direct the volunteer efforts nationwide to help those who survived the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami. After the Hanshin earthquake in 1995, she volunteered her own assistance by going to the area and passing out anti-government leaflets.

This character disability is shared by people of the same political warp throughout the world. Some will remember that staffers in the Clinton administration in the U.S. thought it would be snicker city to hang sex toys as ornaments from the White House Christmas tree. Others had the last laugh. During his second term, Mr. Clinton was, so to speak, hoist by his own petard.

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No surprise

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, March 13, 2011

HERE’S a quick quiz for those familiar with the people in Japanese politics: If you had to guess which politician would be the first to break ranks and try to turn recent events to their party’s advantage, who do you think it would be?

Did you say Fukushima Mizuho of the Social Democrats? Got it in one!

She chaired a meeting of her party–in an office, though they could have used an airport limousine bus–and took the opportunity to complain about the government’s information management. Her party is the standard-bearer for Japan’s loony left, so of course they detest nuclear power. She complained about that, too, even as people were putting their lives on the line in Fukushima Prefecture (no relation) to bring the problems with the nuclear plants there under control. Her complaint amounted to: We told you so! She plans to make an issue of it.

There was one benefit to watching the brief film clip on TV. One couldn’t help laughing to see her dressed in work coveralls. If she’s going to zip them up to her neck, she probably shouldn’t have worn that designer outfit underneath. It looked awfully lumpy.

To give you an idea of the tilt of her gyroscope, she complained last week that the Kan Cabinet idea to raise taxes was evidence that it was “neo-liberal” and Koizumian.

Meanwhile, LDP head Tanigaki Sadakazu said that while there’s a lot they don’t like about the DPJ budget, his party is willing to be flexible on their demands to facilitate the recovery. Some in the party want the government to divert the funds for the child stipend to relief efforts and infrastructure repair. The government will convene a special committee tonight to hammer out a policy to handle fund allocation.

In other news, Prime Minister Kan appointed reform minister Ren Ho to be in charge of the effort to save energy, with rolling blackouts to start tomorrow. That’s reasonable, considering she’s a TV announcer/model turned politician. Her job will be to appear before the public and urge them to cut consumption to a minimum.

Mr. Kan also appointed unaffiliated MP Tsujimoto Kiyomi to be his aide in charge of coordinating volunteer efforts. That makes sense from one perspective, considering her work to create Peace Boat (who are anti-nuclear power too). She’s also probably well-connected to the NGO types.

On the other hand, the It Girl of the hard left once told a reporter in an unguarded moment that she thought her job as a Diet member was to destroy the country. One has to wonder once again what possessed Mr. Kan to make such a personnel choice.

Quick update: Mr. Kan just finished a pep talk to the nation live on television, and he came very close to losing it. Fortunately, he didn’t (as he was praising the people for maintaining their composure), and just as fortunately, he was followed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio, who quickly restored the equilibrium. The prime minister needs a pep talk more than most of the people in the country. From what I’ve seen the rest of his Cabinet have presented themselves very well.

On another note: There’s a report that more than 300 important cultural treasures (i.e., Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, etc.) were damaged (to an undefined extent) in the earthquake and tsunami.

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Actions speak louder than words

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, July 28, 2010

KONO TARO, the Acting Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party, is one of the leaders of the party’s reform wing. One of the few initiatives by the ruling Democratic Party that has found favor with the public is their televised “policy reviews”. These reviews have made a star of Ren Ho, but Mr. Kono was the first to conduct them, during the Aso administration. His panel was largely ignored by the media, and some of his recommendations were ignored by his party.

The latest post on his blog has some interesting observations on media manipulation. Here it is in English:

I’ve had some inquiries from the media asking whether I would participate in the DPJ’s policy reviews. (N.B.: Some members of the DPJ have suggested that he could join the panel.)

There’s been absolutely no contact from the government, so I can’t answer one way or the other, can I? Before the government tries to give the mass media the idea that cooperation with opposition parties is possible, they should contact people directly–if that’s what they really think. Because they haven’t made such contact, it’s clear they have no intention of doing so. It’s just a performance.

The inquiries have changed over the past few days. Now the mass media is asking whether there has been any contact from MP Tsujimoto (Kiyomi, who just left the Social Democratic Party of Japan). Apparently she said that she wants to create a network that transcends party lines. They asked if I would be a part of it.

I haven’t heard a word from her.

Actions still speak louder than words.

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Two short; too sweet

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, July 27, 2010

HERE ARE two news items about Japanese politics whose sweetness is derived from their shortness; what they reveal about the people involved doesn’t require a lengthy explanation.

Hatoyama Yukio

The former prime minister is nettled at his successor, Kan Naoto. He recently said:

If I had known what the (election) results would be, I probably should have stayed in office. I can’t accept (Prime Minister Kan) placing the blame for the election defeat on the previous administration.

They say hindsight is 20-20, but for the former prime minister, it might be 20-200 in both directions. The DPJ won 44 seats in the election; their target was 54, and they really wanted 60. Had Mr. Hatoyama remained in office through the election, they would have been lucky to win 30. Mr. Kan’s ill-advised remarks about a tax increase served to focus the mind of the electorate on the many reasons they were disinclined to vote for the party to begin with, and his predecessor was responsible for most of those.

Be that as it may, Mr. Hatoyama’s group will probably vote to keep Mr. Kan in office during the party presidential selection in September. Replacing a prime minister after only two months looks bad for everyone.

Tsujimoto Kiyomi

Former terrorist pal and former deputy minister of land, infrastructure, and transport Tsujimoto Kiyomi is now a former member of the Social Democratic Party of Japan. We passed along speculation from the Shukan Gendai in April (see Afterwords) that she would leave the SDPJ and join the DPJ. She announced yesterday that she was leaving the party, so now it’s one down and one to go.

Her decision has little to do with political philosophy and a lot to do with political survival. Ms. Tsujimoto is one of the two SDPJ Diet members to have won a seat outright rather than through proportional representation, but that’s only because the DPJ cleared a path for her last September. She needed PR to slip on in before, but the DPJ decided to give a bouquet to what would be its new coalition partner by choosing not to field a candidate in her district. Ms. Tsujimoto defeated her LDP opponent, who was weighed down by affiliation with an unpopular brand.

But the SDPJ left the coalition over the Hatoyama administration’s handling of the Futenma base issue, and the DPJ won’t be so sweet in the next election campaign. She says that she’ll serve as an independent, but we’ll see if that lasts until the filing date for candidates. Her best chance of survival in the Diet is to join the DPJ and run under their nameplate. If that’s what she winds up doing, she’ll have plenty of company within the party; she wouldn’t be the only member who chose an expedient means to a Diet seat over philosophical purity.

Judging from her public bawling when she resigned her minor Cabinet post after the SDPJ left the coalition, she might also have acquired a taste for positions of authority. She’d be unlikely to sniff another Cabinet position if she stayed with the SDPJ, but moving to the DPJ would allow her to keep hope alive.

This isn’t a Japanese phenomenon, either. A contemporary example among Democrats in the United States is Barack Obama, but other examples in that party go back many years, to people like Bella Abzug and Ron Dellums in the 70s, or even Henry Wallace in the 40s.

Ms. Tsujimoto was arrested and found guilty in 2002 for diverting public funds. Despite her rap sheet, the DPJ appointed her to a minor position in the Cabinet. Not even the bad old LDP tried to foist an ex-con on the public when they were in power.

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Are Japan’s DPJ really democrats?

Posted by ampontan on Friday, July 2, 2010

Ni droite ni gauche
– The French fascist slogan

WHEN THE Democratic Party of Japan displaced the longtime ruling Liberal Democratic Party and formed its first government, people were naturally curious about the core beliefs of the party and its leaders, as well as those who inspired their beliefs. That’s understandable, considering that the party didn’t win on its core beliefs, tried to keep them out of sight during the campaign by literally hiding them in the back of the booklet in small print, and then claimed it had a mandate for them after taking office.

Matsushita Keiichi

People initially focused on Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio’s idea of an East Asian entity modeled on the EU, as well as his philosophy of yuai, or fraternalism. Interest in those subjects waned when it soon became apparent that Mr. Hatoyama was in over his head at the Kantei.

Now attention has shifted to his successor, Kan Naoto. The media have chosen to highlight statements that would seem unremarkable from a European social democrat, while some are hopeful that he is a pragmatist who is “less left-wing” than the rest of his party. That perhaps says more about the DPJ than it does about him.

The cooling of interest in Mr. Hatoyama’s philosophy and the reluctance to examine Mr. Kan’s ideas more closely are unfortunate, because there’s plenty of there there. Despite the wildly divergent views within the party itself, there are also common threads that would be familiar to those with an interest in Western political history. Weaving together those individual strands, however, creates a tapestry that might be more suited for wiping one’s feet than decorating a wall.

Hatoyama Yukio

Though people joked about Mr. Hatoyama as being the Man from Outer Space (which he encouraged), it would be a mistake to consider his beliefs as something concocted by a life form from a different solar system. Both his yuai philosophy and the idea for an East Asian entity were derived from Count Richard Nikolaus Eijiro von Coudenhove-Kalergi, a political thinker and activist who founded the Pan-Europa movement in 1923. That’s widely recognized as the forerunner of the EU.

Kalergi was an elitist, though not in the aristocratic sense. In Practical Idealism, he wrote: “The chaos of modern politics will only…find its end when a spiritual aristocracy seizes the means of power of society: (gun)powder, gold, ink, and uses them for the blessing of the general public.”

He described his philosophy as a Third Way, an expression that was quite popular in certain quarters at the time. Mr. Hatoyama used the same expression to describe yuai, and gave it the same definition—an approach that avoids the problems of capitalism and communism by adhering solely to neither.

In his book Theories of European Integration, Ben Rosamond wrote that Kalergi wanted to create a conservative society that superseded democracy with “the social aristocracy of the spirit”. Others have described him as a social democrat with aristocratic tendencies. The Count himself said that he favored government by “the best and the brightest”. He sought to reconcile the conflict between capitalism and communism through cross-fertilization rather than the victory of one over the other. He was also an advocate of large-scale governance, and thought the world should be divided into five blocs.

Last month, the DPJ government began paying a monthly stipend to families based on the number of children in the household after passing legislation based on one of the planks in their campaign platform. Mr. Hatoyama justified the family allowance by explaining that it takes all of society to raise children. The party intends that the funding source for this stipend will not only be the central government and local governments, but also private sector corporations.

All the leading members of the DPJ, including Mr. Hatoyama, support giving non-Japanese citizens with permanent resident status the right to vote in local elections. This is controversial even within the party, and a large bloc of rank-and-file MPs prevented it from becoming an official part of the party platform. Nevertheless, party leaders still wanted to push the idea through, but they were stymied, in part because of the opposition of one of their coalition partners, the People’s New Party. Party leaders still remain behind the plan, however, and the PNP won’t remain in the coalition for too much longer.

It’s commonly assumed that the idea is to provide suffrage to the small number of people born in Japan who choose to retain Korean citizenship. In addition to the understandable objections that only citizens (kokumin: koku, nation + min, people) should be allowed the vote–it’s in the Constitution, after all–and that those who chose to retain Korean citizenship could easily be naturalized if they wanted to, opponents also fear this would lead to non-citizens being elected to public office, as the Japanese-language term describing the idea is not limited to voting. And since everyone knows that once the political class and activist groups are given an inch, they’ll run with it fifty miles into the next county, those rights would eventually be extended to national elections.

Mr. Hatoyama made two statements that upset more than a few people, and to which the media chose not to apply its concentrated attention. First, he said, “I don’t understand very well what this thing called a nation is.” Second, and better known: “The Japanese archipelago is not something owned exclusively by the Japanese.”

The playwright Hirata Oriza was one of his advisors, and he was sometimes referred to as his “brain”. (That’s a common expression in Japanese and not an insult.) He was appointed to the Cabinet Secretariat and served as his speechwriter.

Here’s Mr. Hirata speaking during a February symposium:

I’ve also talked about this with Mr. Hatoyama, and it is extremely difficult for a politician to say, but the 21st century will be a one hundred-year period in which the issue will be how to dissolve the modern nation-state…My position is how to express that (in such a way that) we don’t lose elections.

In the September 2003 issue of the monthly Voice, six members of the DPJ co-signed an article that called for the acceptance of 10 million immigrants, or about 8% of the current population. One of those six is no longer in the party, but two of them now have minor Cabinet posts. Presumably those immigrants would be given the right to vote.

Kan Naoto

If Mr. Hatoyama was the intergalactic idealist, Mr. Kan is the citizen activist who likes to drink, argue politics, and “get things done”, probably in that order. One of his observations on democratic government is already attracting attention:

Democracy is a dictatorship in which the change of governments is possible.

The following exchange occurred on 16 March at a meeting at a Committee of the Cabinet in the upper house between Mr. Kan, who was then still the deputy prime minister and finance minister, and Furukawa Toshiharu of the LDP:

Furukawa: I would ask you to think about the limits of majority rule (in the legislature), and proceeding (here) to a certain extent by incorporating the opinions of many MPs, or conducting multiparty activities. I think this will provide dynamism to the deliberations of the Diet, so that’s what I think we should do. I suspect this sort of democracy might have been the original approach for the Diet and the Cabinet. What do you think?

Kan: I have to be careful so that I don’t overstate the case, but I think parliamentary democracy recognizes a certain level of time-limited dictatorship. That time limit is established (externally), however. That’s why, if a term is for four years, affairs are entrusted (to a party) for four years. If there are extraordinary circumstances, they might be forced to quit before that, but they are entrusted with affairs for four years. Then, after that, the voters decide in an election whether they want them to continue.

Those are interesting sentiments for a man who complained for years whenever the LDP “rammed a bill” through the Diet on the strength of its majority. Here’s a case in point: the Abe administration won plaudits throughout the Japanese political spectrum when it passed legislation defining the terms under which national referendums would be held to amend to the Constitution. Those ground rules had not been established, even though the Constitution had been in force for 60 years.

The LDP-led government allowed input from the DPJ for the legislation and lowered the voting age to 18 at their request. When the DPJ wanted to hijack the proposal and pack it with more items from its own wish list, the LDP ended negotiations and used its numerical strength to pass the bill.

Mr. Kan did not shrug off the vote at that time by chalking it up to the prerogative of a time-limited dictatorship.

He served for a five months as finance minister, if only to allow the ministry bureaucrats to give him a crash course in economic matters. Since becoming prime minister, he’s been promoting the idea that the economy will improve if the government raises taxes and spends the money in the right places. Even some of those favorably disposed to the DPJ government find this exasperating and immature.

He also calls this The Third Way.

Two economists who serve as his home tutors in money matters, Ono Yoshiyasu and Jinno Naohiko, openly declare that the public sector should have a leading role in directing the economy.

Sengoku Yoshito

Before the modern DPJ was created, Mr. Kan formed a policy study group in 1992 with Diet members from the Socialist Party, the Socialist Democratic Federation (Kan’s party) and associated MPs. They had a high opinion of themselves; they called the group Sirius, which is the brightest star in the night sky. One member was Sengoku Yoshito, then with the Socialists, but now in the DPJ and serving as the Chief Cabinet Secretary.

Another member, Kobayashi Tadashi, a Socialist member of the upper house, remembers those days:

At that time, Mr. Sengoku frequently used the word “postmodern”. What he meant was that the pre-modern period of monarchies had given way to the modern period of sovereign states. In the future, the nation-state would collapse, and we would then be in the postmodern period. Mr. Sengoku thought that the nation-state would be integrated internationally with international groupings, and that sovereignty within the country would shift to the regional areas. Therefore, his belief was the dissolution of the nation-state. The nation-state as the core unit of responsibility would disappear, but leaders were still necessary. I argued against that, saying that in the end it would result in a dictatorship.

Matsushita Keiichi

Now a professor emeritus at Hosei University, Matsushita Keiichi was an advisor to the Sirius group and delivered lectures to the members.

During his first speech to the Diet as prime minister on 11 June, Mr. Kan said:

My fundamental political conviction is to achieve true popular sovereignty in which the people participate in the political process. The source of this conviction is the concept of “civic autonomy” that I learnt from Professor Keiichi Matsushita, the political scientist.

He added:

My basic stance as an unworthy student of Prof. Matsushita is implementing the Matsushita Theory in the real world of politics.

From the Asahi Shimbun on 8 June:

Kan’s commitment to returning authority to the people’s representatives was partly shaped by a book by the political scientist Keiichi Matsushita, titled Shimin Jichi no Kenpo Riron (Constitutional theory of citizen self-governance), which he read as a university student.

From the same newspaper on 26 June:

Kan expressed his commitment to the reform by referring to Keiichi Matsushita, a political scientist who was an early champion of decentralization.

Sengoku Yoshito also liked the book. As quoted in The Politicians’ Bookshelf:

“I placed it by my pillow and read it throughout the year.”

The book argues for the switch from a Constitutional theory of nation-state sovereignty to a Constitutional theory of citizen self-rule. (「国家統治」の憲法理論から「市民自治」の憲法理論への転換である。)

“What is necessary when establishing the meaning of government…is the departure from the specific political problems of the shimin (citizen) and replacing the state as the core unit with the shimin.”

As we’ve seen, the word ordinarily used for citizen in Japanese is kokumin (koku, nation + min, people). The DPJ prefers to use the word shimin (shi, city + min, people). The reason should now be apparent.

Prof. Matsushita thinks there are three levels of government: the local, the national, and the international. He also thinks international trends are working concurrently in the direction of decentralization and internationalization, and that the nation-state will/should be obsolete.

“Since the Meiji period and into the postwar period, we have continued to be excessively bound by the spell of the nation-state concept. In the midst of today’s mighty wave of decentralization and internationalization, this Meiji nation-state must be dismantled and reorganized.”

Here’s an excerpt from an academic paper by Yamada Ryusaku of Nihon University (who should have shown it to a native speaker before publishing it):

“There are several reasons why Matsushita’s theory of mass society is worth being known to English-speaking world today. First, his theory was of highly Marxian kind. While he himself was not a Marxist and was very critical of Stalinist Marxism, he regarded theories by Marx and Lenin as social theories of industrial society and repeatedly identified their significance in theorizing about “contemporary society” in the twentieth century. While many Western theorists of mass society tended to describe mass society as an amorphous “classless society”, Matsushita did not deny the capitalistic class relationship but built Marxian class theory in his mass society theory.”

Another Japanese commentator approvingly noted that the theory contains “structural Marxism”.

More from Prof. Yamada’s paper:

“Second, Matsushita’s theoretical insight into the relation between socialism and democracy in his mass society theory seems significant. He advocated a kind of socialism that could cope with the reality of mass society, neither a form of communism that totally denied democracy, nor a social democracy that compromised with capitalism. For him, contemporary society faced a “double alienation”: “capitalistic alienation” and “alienation of mass society”; and the role of both political theorists and socialists was to find a way to overcome this double alienation.”

Read that second sentence carefully and see if the subtext of a “Third Way” doesn’t emerge. This particular version presents a thinner option, however, because it slices from just the left side of the loaf. The choice avoided is not between communism and capitalism, but between undemocratic communism and a social democracy that “compromised with capitalism”.

Here’s an excerpt from Nihon no Jichi – Bunken (Self-Government and Decentralization in Japan) that Prof. Matsushita wrote in 1996:

“Citizen self-government differs from the god-like context of vertical politics in the nation-state by having the context of a commonwealth with horizontal solidarity and symbiosis to create the ‘public’. This is the idea of creating a commonwealth type of politics through the mutual self-rule of the citizens; in other words, self-help and cooperative assistance.”

He notes that “commonwealth” is to be taken literally; i.e., common wealth.

Prof. Matsushita is also known for developing the concept of the “civil minimum”, described here by Laura Elizabeth Hein of Northwestern University in Reasonable Men, Powerful Words:

“All citizens have the right to a specified set of conditions to ensure healthy, comfortable lives….It also incorporated the idea that citizens should work in cooperation with experts to develop their own recommendations for improving their quality of life…the civil minimum vision took the form of an intricately graded, intensely detailed map of urban life…the concept involved setting a floor in every area of social welfare, including education, day care, health care, housing, and pensions, below which citizens could not fall. It also involved an elaborate set of rules…”

This concept was adopted by Minobe Ryokichi, the Socialist governor of the Tokyo Metro District from 1967 to 1979. He was supported in his first election campaign by both the Communists and the Socialists, and subsequently by Komeito, a party that’s always had a strong social welfare element.

Prof. Hein continues:

“As Minobe enthusiastically noted, the civil minimum ‘won’t be met just by getting enough daycare centers. We must try to figure out the best scale of operation, their ideal distribution, the best method of building them, and plan that all out.'”

One of his plans for this concept:

“It calculated the minimum water requirements for the Tokyo population (e.g., it estimated the number of baths per capita per week) and promised to supply the amount needed.”

It also included an element of “progressive taxation” for income redistribution, in which those who used the most water, such as hotels, had to pay more for its supply and for the sewer hookups. Leave it to the Left to congratulate themselves for charging higher prices for cleaning, bathing, and drinking just because the services are provided by the private sector to people in transit.

As this brief reference to him in a biographical sketch of his successor, Suzuki Shun’ichi, suggests, Minobe was perhaps not the ideal steward of the public trust:

“After repairing the financial damage to the municipal coffers left by his popular predecessor, Ryokichi Minobe of the former Japan Socialist Party…”

Back to the present

Thus, Japan today is ruled by a party whose leaders are enamored with several “Third Way” schemes, and in which affairs are directed by an elite (a spiritual aristocracy). The Third Way promises both the benefits of individualism and Marxian socialism. The party’s charter when founded included references to decentralization, a “society of symbiosis”, and international relations based on the yuai spirit of independence and symbiosis.

They want to overcome “the chaos of modern politics” to get things done. They believe—and act—as if winning an election is a mandate to behave as dictators. The center of political activity is the community, and each individual is cared for by a government that guarantees a civil minimum. It takes a community to raise a child, which is to be done through an extensive network of meticulously planned daycare centers, with families paid through a public/private arrangement that smacks of corporatism, in which the government makes the companies cough up their share of the funds.

The party’s leaders think the nation-state is an anachronism, and are actively working to find ways to eliminate it. One of them is by admitting 10 million immigrants and allowing them to vote—all to prevent the extinction of “Japan”.

This has more than a passing similarity with some the concepts of fascisto-progressivism so popular in the West in the early 20th century. (One of them was a family subsidy from the government in Mussolini’s Italy, which only succeeded in reducing the birthrate.)

One key difference is that the older philosophy was centered on the nation-state, while the DPJ anticipates its extinction in the postmodern age. Their principal theorist predicts it, and holds that contemporary trends are moving both toward decentralization and internationalism.

Rather than the nation-state, Prof. Matsushita and his DPJ acolytes intend to make what seems to be a city-state the primary political entity. Therefore, their postmodern fascismo would be centered on the polis rather than the nation. Mussolini claimed his objective was to have everything inside the state and nothing outside the state. That objective could just as easily be applied to a city-state; indeed that was the case centuries ago, even during the early colonial period in the United States.

The problems, however, are obvious. As Jonah Goldberg has noted:

“Communism was reactionary because it tried to make a tribe of the working class, Italian Fascism tried to make a tribe of the nation, and Nazism tried to make a tribe of the German race. Multicultural identity politics is reactionary because it sees life as a contest between different racial or sexual tribes.”

It is not an unreasonable concern that the basic unit of government as envisioned by Prof. Matsushita and the DPJ would make a postmodern tribe of the Metropolis. That sounds oddly like Italy and Germany before national unification, or like much of Europe in the pre-modern age, with elected officials comprising a “spiritual” rather than a heredity aristocracy exercising dictatorial powers, albeit time-limited.

The shining city on a hill would shortly devolve into tribalism, with all that entails. For example, Gov. Minobe’s project supplied Tokyo with water from the Tone River. Here’s Prof. Hein again:

“Less appealing, the plan also incorporated their urban bias in its blithe disregard for potential or actual water users in Gunma.”

Does anything conjure up the image of tribalism more than a dispute between competing groups over water rights?

This arrangement also has the potential to degenerate into a second Warring States period:

(F)or all practical purposes, Japan by 1467 was in fact 260 separate countries, for each daimyo was independent and maintained separate armies. The political and territorial picture in Japan, then, was highly volatile. With no powerful central administration to adjudicate disputes, individual daimyo were frequently in armed conflict with other daimyo all through the Ashikaga period. With the Onin War (1467-1477), this volatile situation exploded, and within a few years after the start of this war, practically every province in Japan was wracked by warfare, thus beginning what the Japanese call sengoku jidai, meaning “the age of the country at war,” or Warring States Japan. This period was a long protracted struggle for domination by individual daimyo and would result in a powerful struggle between various houses to dominate the whole of Japan.

Note also that the governor wanted the citizens of his polis to work with “experts” to create an “intricately graded, intensely detailed map of urban life”. That would provide plenty of employment opportunities for the Albert Speers of the postmodern age.

While those who favor small, non-intrusive government, such as American federalists, also encourage localism and decentralization, the envisioned ideals of the DPJ are quite different. Here’s another passage from their charter:

Converting to an adaptable, citizen (shimin)-centered society
“The most important task for our party is to promote the vitality of citizen activism, recognize the freedom of citizen enterprises, and work to establish a non-profit organization law ensuring those activities…we support such NGO activities as people-to-people diplomacy through citizen activities, and grassroots ODA activities. We will further (the concept of) ‘citizens that transcend national borders’ and a global citizen politics that contributes to the world. We will work to establish the right of permanent residents to participate in politics.”

If you like the idea of political rule by the type of people who would form horizontal associations of NPOs/NGOs, then the DPJ seems to be just the ticket for you.

Matsui Koji, the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary in the Hatoyama Cabinet and another of the former prime minister’s speechwriters, defined “the people” (min) as “NPOs, the community, corporations, individuals, and government” in that order.

Prof. Matsushita says the nation-state will dissolve into international bodies and these local and regional groupings will be the primary governmental unit of responsibility. Is the reason for Mr. Hatoyama’s advocacy of an East Asian entity making more sense now?

If not uno mundo, perhaps what they have in mind would be a globe governed by five blocs, as Kalergi suggested. Kalergi’s brainchild was the EU, whose new president, Herman Van Rompuy, proclaimed 2009 as the “first year of global governance”. Going back to the beginning and rewinding the count of years from Year Zero was another trait shared by the fascisto-progressives a century ago. Welcome to Year Two.

The EU already rules by fiat. While they do allow for national referendums, they keep staging elections until the spiritual aristocats get the result they want (such as in Ireland). Prof. Matsushita holds that elections are the means to systematize protest and revolution, but we’ve seen how the EU governs its swatch of the globe when it comes to election results the dictators don’t care for. Now combine that superstructure with tens of thousands of mini-Obama administrations in principalities worldwide steamrolling programs disliked by the public through the Citizens’ Councils–to provide a civic minimum for the good of all shimin, of course–each one suspicious of all the rest.

There might even be a World Council, modeled after the United Nations, where all the world’s tribes have a vote. How will the wisdom of the tribes become manifest? At a gathering of the tribes two months ago, Libya, Angola, Malaysia, Qatar, and Uganda were elected to the UN Human Rights Council, with Libya winning the votes of 155 countries, or 80% of the UN members. At the same time, the Islamic fundamentalist state of Iran won a seat on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women.

I should also point out that the DPJ aren’t the only ones susceptible to these ideas, as the exchange between Mr. Kan and Furukawa Toshiharu of the LDP above demonstrates. Mr. Furukawa’s talk of transcending political parties to overcome the limitations of parliamentary democracy has more than a whiff of the fascistos in Europe and of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association during wartime Japan. (Mr. Kan seems to prefer temporary one-party rule.) Also, Nakagawa Hidenao of the LDP has argued for mass immigration.

Of course Mr. Kan and the DPJ will not achieve a global order of international organizations linking city-states worldwide during their time-limited dictatorship. But because these ideas are their political lodestar, which they think is the brightest in the night sky—because they have passionately believed in this since their university days—it will color everything they do. Mr. Kan has vowed to “implement the Matsushita Theory in the real world of politics”, after all.

Whatever he winds up accomplishing, we will also get the baggage that goes along with it. That should freeze the blood of everyone who prefers to live in a liberal democracy led by people who do not believe in accelerating the destruction of the nation-state. Winning elections does not confer a political 007 License to Kill Opposition, Mr. Kan’s warped conception of democracy notwithstanding. The leaders of a state of any size who consider themselves to have a mandate that extreme will always find some justification for going to extremes.

Even the Socialist Kobayashi Tadashi told them all that in Sirius nearly 20 years ago. But then Friedrich Hayek made the same point very clearly in 1944.

Japan is now in the hands of a leader and a party who have a perverse view of the democratic process, who have no sense of how an economic society should function, and who apparently envision a day when Japan disappears.

Any good that comes from their time in office will to be incidental to the damage they cause.


Tsujimoto Kiyomi, the poster girl of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, who once palled around with the Japanese Red Army, and had a minor position in the Cabinet until her party left the ruling coalition, spoke informally at a party some years ago to a person she didn’t realize was a reporter:

They say a Diet member should protect the lives and property of the citizens, but that is not my intention. My role is as a ‘national destroyer’ MP who will try somehow to destroy the framework of the state.

Ms. Tsujimoto was making a pun in Japanese. The word for Diet member is 国会議員 (kokkai gi-in). She replaced the first two characters with the homonym 国壊 (kokkai), which means “national destruction”.

Her offhand comment takes on a new dimension now that the influence of Prof. Matsushita has come to light.

Incidentally, her position in the Cabinet was Deputy Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transportation, the ministry responsible for creating and maintaining the physical backbone of the nation.

Somebody, somewhere, has a rather childish sense of humor.

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Posted in Foreigners in Japan, Government, History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Peace and love

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 20, 2009

IT WOULD BE EASY to understand if people outside Japan were to swallow the media-created image of the country as being populated by dorky otaku, airhead gyaru enthralled by designer brands and octopus tentacles, sexless married couples, whale-murdering xenophobes, and loners so socially inept they have to rent friends. What else are they given a chance to see? Even some self-isolated foreigners living in the country carrying their excess baggage of preconceived notions fall for it.

But there’s more to Japan than meets the media eye. As old American television program had it, “There are a million stories in The Naked City. This is one of them.”

Here’s one of the 127 million stories in Japan, translated from the 1 October issue of the weekly Shukan Bunshun.

The new Democratic Party candidate Kushibuchi Mari (41) defeated Liberal Democratic Party incumbent Ito Kosuke in Tokyo’s District 23 in the recent election. A former official of the NGO Peace Boat, Kushibuchi was all smiles when she and her husband were photographed in front the Diet building on her first visit. Her husband seems to be receiving more attention than she is, however.

Li Song

Li Song

Her husband is Li Song, one of the directors of the Japanese branch of the Federation for a Democratic China, an activist group working for Chinese democracy. According to a Chinese journalist, “He is quite well known among the democracy activists in Japan. At the torch relay ceremony last year in Nagano (for the Beijing Olympics), he was involved in activities related to the Tibet issue.”

Born in Harbin in 1967, Li came to Japan in 1989 after the Tiananmen massacre. A Chinese activist describes how he met Kushibuchi: “The two of them met in 1994 while working on Peace Boat activities. Li also worked with Peace Boat the next year on relief efforts after the Hanshin Earthquake. When Tsujimoto Kiyomi ran for office the first time as a Social Democratic Party candidate in 1996, Kushibuchi managed her election office and Li drove her campaign car.”

Li earned a reputation as an extremist during a June 1997 demonstration eight years after Tiananmen. The activist explains:

“When Wu’er Kai-shi, a student leader during the Tiananmen demonstrations, visited Japan, he was refused entry to the Chinese embassy at Motoazabu. Li was following Wu’er as his driver. He got upset and crashed the car into the barrier at the checkpoint set up by the Japanese police.”

Li was arrested for obstructing police officers in their official duties. Newspapers at the time ran photos of the car and its windshield, which the police had smashed with their riot sticks. This directly led to his marriage with Kushibuchi.

“After Li’s arrest, it was found that he had overstayed his visa. For some reason he had not applied for a special activities visa. To prevent his deportation to China, Ms. Kushibuchi came forward and said she was his fiancé.”

He was provisionally released from custody, and the two were later married.

Li instantly become a hero to some for his bold action, but not all of his compatriots were pleased. Said one, “We’ve been working peacefully for democratization, but that one incident tarred us as a violent organization. After that, the police shadowed us whenever we had a meeting.”

Kushibuchi Mari

Kushibuchi Mari

Before this month’s 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese embassy’s public safety division was concerned that “the anti-government activist who is the husband of a new Diet member might stage a political disruption when Prime Minister Hatoyama was visiting from Japan.”

This reporter tried to contact Li by telephone to ask him about it, but he replied, “I am not accepting any interview requests. If you want to know about the Diet member, ask the person herself.”

Ms. Kushibuchi’s office replied, “We consider the activities of Li Song and the political activities of Kushibuchi to be separate. We will not respond to a request for an interview.”

We hope this does not become a headache for the Hatoyama Administration when a new feeling of friendship is emerging between Japan and China.


I translated this article for the reasons I stated above.

But as a personal opinion, I hold no truck for either of these two. Working for the democratization of China and earthquake relief is indeed commendable. One has to wonder, though, about Li Song, a political refugee who couldn’t be bothered to get his visa straight after eight years in the country, and who thought he was going to accomplish something by pointlessly ramming a car into a police roadblock at a foreign embassy in that country. All he accomplished was discrediting his organization in the eyes of the authorities.

As for Ms. Kushibuchi, all she’s ever done in her adult life is work for Peace Boat. That organization was founded by Tsujimoto Kiyomi with the help of her Significant Other, a Japanese Red Army member expelled from Sweden for terrorist activities, and a man later identified as a KGB agent. They admired the peaceful Yasser Arafat so much they sailed to visit him several times. As for Ms. Tsujimoto, now part of the new Government, she inadvertently told a reporter her aim was to destroy the Japanese state.

It is not unreasonable to assume that Ms. Kushibuchi chose to run as a DPJ member because she realized she would be unlikely to win as an SDPJ member. So few of them do, after all. It is also not unreasonable to assume that she shares some, if not most, of Ms. Tsujimoto’s political philosophy.

Nor does it speak well to her view of openness as a servant of the people in a democracy by stiffing a request from a reporter to ask reasonable questions about her husband. That’s a basic requirement for people in political life.

Then again, there are probably many things she’d rather not talk about publicly.

Posted in China, Foreigners in Japan, Government | Tagged: , | 11 Comments »

Japan’s political kaleidoscope (4): Too many cooks, too many crooks, and too many kooks

Posted by ampontan on Monday, September 21, 2009

The devil’s greatest achievement was to have persuaded so many people that he doesn’t exist.
– Baudelaire

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity–but don’t rule out malice.
– attributed to Albert Einstein

The essence of the Democratic Party of Japan now is a three-tiered structure of the Finance Ministry, Party Secretary-General Ozawa’s troops, and public sector labor unions. It will be impossible to maintain this structure without tax increases.
– Nakagawa Hidenao

THE NEW JAPANESE COALITION GOVERNMENT led by the Democratic Party of Japan—with the People’s New Party and the Socialists Democratic Party of Japan invited to hop in the jalopy to buy their upper house votes and relieve the DPJ of the chore of conducting serious negotiations with more responsible legislators—faces a minefield of potential problems as they embark on their magnificent adventure.

Their most serious obstacle is a lack of internal unity. Many in Japan are calling this a “mosaic government” in reference to the incongruent philosophies of the DPJ’s constituent groups, and that doesn’t begin to account for the polar opposite philosophies of their coalition partners. The glue that held the DPJ together this long was the dream of taking control of the government. Now that they’ve reached their version of the promised land, they’re behaving like the crew that tore down the house but still has to figure out how the plumbing and electricity works. And rather than hit the ground running, they’ve hit the ground after running into each other.

The government was in power for just two days before squabbles broke out among Cabinet ministers, and the junior coalition partners began complaining that the DPJ is blowing them off.

Referring to their disagreements with the DPJ, SDPJ Secretary-General Shigeno Yasumasa told a group of reporters gathered in the Diet building, “We’re not on the same page.” PNP head and Cabinet member Kamei Shizuka complained directly to DPJ bigwig Kan Naoto on an NHK TV broadcast yesterday that the minor parties were being shut out of policy decisions.

Meanwhile, the Government must also overcome the skepticism of both the public and the news media that they are competent enough to be trusted with the nation’s car keys, and that they are committed enough to do what they’ve promised to do. That promise is to take the first steps on what the public thinks as their most important mission—wresting control of policy from the nation’s bureaucracy and strengthening local government.

That the public is skeptical is not in doubt. Skepticism might seem odd considering the party’s lopsided lower house majority and their receipt of about 56% of the popular vote nationwide. But an Asahi Shimbun survey published on 2 September shows otherwise. When asked whether they thought the DPJ victory was the result of voter support for their policies, here’s how the respondents answered:

No: 52%
Yes: 38%

Moving on to specific policies….

Wait! Enough! Screw that for a lark. I refuse to go along with the conspiracy of silence from those who primly cop a responsible commentator pose while ignoring that the launch of the new government has combined the slapstick of third-rate provincial vaudeville, leftover LDP hackery refried to hide the odor and slapped with a different label, and enough hypocrisy to choke a televangelist.

Yes, the Liberal Democratic Party had it coming, but it’s not what the Japanese people had coming. I wrote recently that based on past performance, a DPJ-led government had the potential to have more rings than the Ringling Bros., but no one could have predicted that Nagata-cho would turn into the world’s biggest Big Top.

Here’s the short version: Japan’s new government has too many cooks, too many crooks, and too many kooks—and some of them are the same people!

The Cooks…

The Chef de Cuisine

Sometimes called the executive chef, the chef de cuisine is the man whose name is on the menu. But he’s just as likely to spend his time visiting other restaurants or writing cookbooks.

Japan’s new executive chef is Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio, who says he intends to reorient the government to make it Cabinet-directed, and who doesn’t say he is continuing a process begun by Koizumi Jun’ichiro and interrupted by his successors.

His position alone makes him a center of power both in the government and his party. One of the DPJ’s founding members and the head of his own faction/group, he used his substantial family fortune to keep the party afloat for several years. What could be more natural than assuming that he is the primary actor in the Government?

Well, there’s this: During the party’s six-day election campaign in the spring to select a new leader when Ozawa Ichiro resigned after his chief aide was arrested for accepting illegal contributions, one Japanese weekly reported that a secret document was circulated to the party’s MPs, who had the exclusive right to vote in the election. The document was said to have been a full frontal attack on Mr. Hatoyama’s opponent, Okada Katsuya, for his weakness during his previous tenure and his responsibility for the party’s rout in the 2005 lower house elections. The debacle, it asserted, was partly due to Mr. Okada’s lack of a spine. It claimed that the party would be much stronger with the “soft” Mr. Hatoyama as the front man and the “hard” Mr. Ozawa wielding a billy club behind the scenes.

So who’s the boss?

The Sous Chef

Nominally the second in command to the Chef de Cuisine, the sous chef often runs the kitchen and creates and cooks the food to be served, and you already know who I’m talking about before I type his name. So does the rest of Japan. Typical of recent reporting was this headline in the Shukan Post:

Ozawa Ichiro Controls the New Government—and Japan!

The new DPJ secretary-general (i.e., party head) will be the Shadow Shogun himself, Ozawa Ichiro, the man for whom an apt comparison would be the kuroko of joruri puppet theater. The kuroko manipulate the puppets in full view of the audience, but are dressed in black and masked to create the collective fiction of invisibility.

Mr. Ozawa is the kuroko who taught the DPJ how to win elections—mostly using all the Tammany techniques and political jiu-jitsu picked up from his mentor Tanaka Kakuei during his days in the LDP. He was also the kuroko of the short-lived Hosokawa and Hata administrations, the only other non-LDP governments since 1955 and another unwieldy amalgamation of incompatible elements.

After leaving center stage, Mr. Ozawa embarked a task more suited to his abilities–non-stop nationwide campaigning and canvassing in local election districts. As a result, an estimated 130-150 of the 308 DPJ members in the lower house and nearly one-third of the full membership now owe their seats to him. In practical terms, that means he has more command over their loyalty than does the party.

Everyone knows he is capable of picking up his ball and taking his team to start a new game elsewhere, as he threatened to do so nearly two years ago when the rest of the DPJ top brass blew their collective top over his proposed coalition with the LDP under Fukuda Yasuo. The Faustian bargain between Mr. Ozawa and the veterans who predate him in the party has allowed him to create a second center of power on which the nominal head, Hatoyama Yukio, must depend. During the DPJ election campaign, it was stressed that a vote for Hatoyama was a vote for party unity. Many saw in that slogan an implied threat that a vote for Okada as party leader meant that Mr. Ozawa would walk.

Money talks, and we all know what walks

The Shukan Bunshun reported that Prime Minister Hatoyama wanted to keep Mr. Ozawa in his position as acting president and Okada Katsuya as party secretary-general.

When word reached the puppet master, he exploded: “Hatoyama and the people around him are clueless.” Another acting party president, Koshi’ishi Azuma, said to have developed close ties with Mr. Ozawa, had to intervene on his behalf with Mr. Hatoyama.

Why the insistence on the position of party secretary-general? Because money talks. In that position, he has control of JPY 17.3 billion (about $U.S. 190 million) in 2010 in government subsidies for the party, a substantial rise from this year’s total of JPY 11.8 billion. He’s just following the literally golden rule of Tanaka Kakuei: Politics is numbers, numbers are power, and power is money.

The new prime minister has no illusions about whom he’s dealing with. Here’s Mr. Hatoyama quoted in the 25 February 1999 Yukan Fuji:

“Mr. Ozawa fled the LDP five years ago only because he lost in a power struggle in his faction and in the party. He’s raised the banner of governmental reform to prevent the people from realizing that.”

And we all know what they say about politics making for strange bedfellows.

Chief Kan Opener

Long-time DPJ stalwart and former party president Kan Naoto is in the Cabinet as both Deputy Prime Minister and the head of a new group called the National Strategy Bureau. What the national strategy will be, and what the bureau will do exactly, we don’t know—and neither does he—but he’s going to be in charge of it. It’s Standard Operating Procedure for the DPJ to come up with a policy or an idea and then figure out what to do with it only when it’s time to do the work.

Kamei Shizuka of the People’s New Party made a phone call to Mr. Kan to find out more about the bureau. Here’s how one newspaper reported it:

Kamei: What will you do at this National Strategy Bureau?
Kan: I don’t really know. There are several things I’d like to do, but for now, I can only grope my way forward.

The DPJ party platform says: “The National Strategy Bureau will create a national vision for the new era, and formulate the budget framework under political direction.” It’s supposed to consist of about 20 people. As is par for the DPJ course, there’s no mention of what its specific authority will be, whether “the national vision” will have anything to do with foreign policy, and how it will be involved with budget formulation. For all we know, it might turn out to be a political salon allowing the rookies and the rank and file to do some coffeehousing while the heavyweights take care of business somewhere else.

It is nearly axiomatic that everything the DPJ says is subject to change at any time, and sure enough, Mr. Hatoyama explained this week that the NSB will handle the framework of the budget while the Ministry of Finance will handle the details.

The foundation document for the party’s platform is their Index of Policies 2009, last modified in July. It’s on the party website, but only in Japanese. Here’s what it says about the budget:

Under a DPJ administration, politicians representing the people will formulate budgets. The Cabinet ministers will meet in the Prime Minister’s office, determine the basic policies for the budget, and then politicians will direct the budget formulation for each ministry.

But, you protest, key to civil service reform is to keep the MOF at arm’s length from that process. The MOF is notorious for being the bureaucracy’s worst offender at policy meddling. Takenaka Heizo, the man who directed fiscal policy and reform in the Koizumi Administration, fought a five-year running battle with the ministry and warned in December 2007 that the zombies had returned under Yasuda Fukuo. The DPJ promised to put an end to that for good by putting the civil servants in their place.

And just like Brutus, the DPJ are honorable men and women all.

Some think that Mr. Kan has ambitions of his own. If he decides that he would make a jolly good successor to Prime Minister Hatoyama, the National Strategy Bureau would make a jolly good launching pad. Meanwhile, moves are already underway in Okayama, Fukui, and Mie to establish local strategy bureaus in the party at the prefectural and municipal level. No one knows what their strategies will be either, but roughing out the framework for the central government’s budget won’t be one of them. Their efforts, which are partly designed to create stronger local party organizations, will likely be coordinated on some level with the Cabinet-level body.

And mark Mr. Kan down as being a bit miffed at Hatoyama Yukio. It’s reported that when he found out decisions for Cabinet posts had been made without his input, he quickly called the prime minister, incredulous that he wasn’t asked for advice.

Short-Order Cooks

Need flapjacks, a Philly cheese steak, or legislation made to order? Last weekend, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported that the DPJ had decided to create yet another new organization, tentatively called the Party Leaders’ Council, referring to DPJ senior executives. The council will consist of five members, including Messrs. Hatoyama and Ozawa, and will determine party strategy for the Diet. While decisions about Diet business have to be made somewhere in the Government, there was no explanation why that requires another new organization, and whether it will limit its purview to the Diet. One has to wonder at this point if the party leadership is dominated by the type of people who would rather draw up attractive menus than do any actual cooking behind a stove.

Chefs de Partie

These cooks, also called line chefs, are responsible for organizing and managing a small team of workers to ensure the restaurant’s work area is under control. Who better to keep the workers in line than the many DPJ members who started out in life by organizing workers, particularly those in the Japanese Teachers’ Union and the All-Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers Union? They provide the foot soldiers and the muscle for the party’s election campaigns.

That’s no surprise for a party with more than a few ex-Socialists, both in the Diet and in executive positions at party HQ. In fact, says Tsujimoto Kiyomi of the Socialists Democratic Party of Japan, the DPJ is now more dependent on labor unions than was the Socialist Party itself. (The SDPJ added the second word in their name after the Berlin Wall fell for protective coloration.) Before the recent election, the number of DPJ Diet members with ties to the old Socialists was estimated to be just under 30, and they also brought many aides and staffers with them when they left the party in 1996.

The DPJ claims it’s committed to the devolution of governmental authority to local governments and reducing the number of civil servants. We’ll see how long that commitment lasts now that the public sector employees’ union helped put them in power.

How close is the party leadership to the unions? The first order of business for both Mr. Hatoyama and Mr. Ozawa the day after the general election was to visit union rallies in Tokyo to thank them for their help.

The Journeyman C(r)ook and the Apprentice Chef

The inherently unstable DPJ—more of a coalition itself than a party—organized a ruling coalition with two mini-parties from the opposite ends of the political spectrum, the PNP and the SPJ, supposedly because they need their votes to get bills passed in the upper house.

A Study in Body Language, or, Why a picture is worth a thousand words

A Study in Body Language, or, Why a picture is worth a thousand words

The three parties finally agreed on the terms for a coalition government last week. Here, the word “agree” means that the DPJ generally acceded to the demands of the two smaller parties after negotiations, though it’s a mystery why they wouldn’t have known what those demands would have been months ago and worked them out in advance.

What did the two microparties demand? The creation of yet another power center. The DPJ caved in to their insistence for forming—you guessed it—a new council consisting of the three party heads to function as a separate group within the Cabinet, even though both PNP head Kamei Shizuka and SDP head Fukushima Mizuho were awarded Cabinet posts.

Mr. Kamei’s accusation on NHK that the DPJ was cutting them out of the policy loop is a reference to the ruling party making policy decisions outside this council.

The Journeyman C(r)ook

The PNP is a splinter group of ex-LDP oldtimers who want to halt postal privatization, the most important governmental reform of the past 20 years. One of the reform’s objectives was to prevent the bureaucrats from diverting the funds in the postal savings and life insurance accounts to build all those bridges and roads to nowhere.

You know—putting the bureaucracy in its place.

The DPJ has always known exactly what the PNP wants to do, yet their platform clearly states that Japan Post will not return to being a state-operated enterprise. Their initial proposal in the coalition talks was to “consider” freezing the sale of government-held stock and reorganizing the enterprise. The PNP, however, demanded—and got—a firmer commitment to freeze the process without specifying what they intend the future form of it to be.

Party boss Kamei Shizuka has already served time in the Cabinet during his LDP career, most notably as Construction Minister in the days when there was enough pork on the hoof to start a new Commodities Exchange.

Mr. Kamei wanted to head the Defense Ministry, but settled for the Financial Services portfolio and Minister in Charge of Bloviating about Japan Post. The DPJ may already be regretting that decision, however. It turns out his party’s knowledge of economics seems stuck in the era when there was actually a need for postmen to hand deliver all the mail. Like most everyone else in the country, the DPJ probably didn’t read their website.

Here are some of their proposed solutions:

Solution 1: Shut down the Osaka Nikkei 225 Futures Market
Problem with Solution 1:
This Osaka market accounts for 59% of the country’s stock price index futures trading and nearly 100% of the options trading. Stock futures trading often performs its function of price discovery more rapidly than the stock market itself. Though the October 1987 stock market crash in U.S. was blamed on the fall of stock index futures, it was actually an early warning of the crash rather than the cause.

Solution 2: Eliminating mark-to-market accounting
Problem with Solution 2:
Bankers and their advocates hate this accounting method, while accountants, investor advocates, and banking analysts love it. It forces financial institutions to value their assets at true market prices, which could make them swallow huge losses during a market downturn. In other words, eliminating the practice enables them to hide those losses. The banking industry would rather value the assets based on future cash flow, and no, they have no idea what that will be either. Beth Brooke, global vice chair at Ernst & Young LLP, has said, “Suspending mark-to-market accounting, in essence, suspends reality.”

The idea was floated by some in the LDP in 2003, but Takenaka Heizo and the Koizumi Administration successfully resisted the suggestion. The man who proposed it was Aso Taro.

Solution 3: Eliminating capital adequacy requirements for banks
Problem with Solution 3:
These requirements determine how much money a bank can lend, but some think they can cause a credit crunch because banks will cut down on their loans to meet the requirements. The danger of elimination is obvious—a lending institution has to have something to back up its loans. But even Mr. Takenaka thought it was important for the requirements to be flexible.

This solution is being proposed as the discussion in the rest of the world is moving in the direction of raising capital adequacy requirements.

Solution 4: Issuing JPY 200 trillion in non-interest bearing government bonds (About $US 2.2 billion)
Problem with Solution 4:
Bonds of this type are sold at a discount to par value rather than with coupons, and the intention here is to fund the deficit. The problems involve the greater provision of central bank money, the potential for raising the fiscal premium, and damaging the credibility of the currency.

Solution 5: From Mr. Kamei himself—a three-year moratorium on debt repayments by small businesses, and the injection of public funds into banks that become financially strapped by the lack of income due to the moratorium.

Isn’t it fascinating that a man whose party’s website inveigles against the “strong eating the weak” is ready to have taxpayers bail out banks as one leg of his Rube Goldberg economics? Mr. Kamei says the SDPJ is for it too, and he wants to get it done by the end of the year.

I thought I told all you whippersnappers to sit down and shut up!

I thought I told all you whippersnappers to sit down and shut up!

The Mainichi Shimbun editorializes that these loans, combined with home mortgages, total JPY 300 trillion nationwide and account for 70% all bank loan portfolios. They worry the moratorium could cause bank failures among regional banks in particular. Mr. Kamei’s suggestion has already started a sell-off of bank stocks.

Finance Minister Fujii Hirohisa says nothing has been decided, and told reporters, “If the economy was really that bad, it would be one possibility to consider, but the Bank of Japan has not said that’s the situation we’re in.”

But Mr. Kamei insists it’s settled. He also said that he’d listen to Mr. Fujii’s opinions, but, “It won’t be discussed. It isn’t a matter that we’ll decide after discussion.”

The Finance Minister backed down.

Are Cabinet ministers in this administration to act as feudal lords, with the ministries as their personal fiefdoms? Where’s Prime Minister Hatoyama when you really need him? Where are all those newly created government policy bodies when you really need them? When it comes to that, where are all those Finance Ministry bureaucrats when you really need them?

Then again, Bloomberg quoted Prime Minister Hatoyama as saying that “he’ll avoid more bond sales, so new spending will depend on his success in shrinking the bureaucracy and public works programs”.

Richard Daughty, the COO of a financial advisory services company in the U.S., writes financial commentary under the name of The Mogambo Guru. He referred to Mr. Hatoyama’s claim as “Standard Political Crapola (SPC)”.

Though Mr. Kamei’s been in office less than a week, it was enough time for him to also cross swords with Haraguchi Kazuhiro, the new Internal Affairs and Communications minister. Mr. Haraguchi floated a plan for the reorganization of Japan Post into three independent companies rather than four companies under the aegis of a holding company. Said Mr. Kamei:

“I’m responsible for Japan Post, and I’ll take the responsibility and decide.”

The chastened Mr. Haraguchi explained, “It was just an illustrative example”.

The Apprentice Chef

Meanwhile, the other coalition partner, the SDPJ, has an agenda of its own. One of their goals is to eliminate the American military presence in Japan. Rather than support a greater Japanese defensive capability in its place, however, they also believe that people shouldn’t use weapons to defend themselves. (We’ll get to more of that later.) This is just what Mr. Hatoyama doesn’t need with the Americans wondering about his intentions after the translation of his goofy article from Voice magazine appeared in the New York Times, but hey, these are the people his party wants in government.

During the negotiations to create the coalition, the SDPJ declared:

“The proposal of amendments to the Japan-U.S. Status-of-Forces Agreement should be made from the perspective of minimizing the burden on the people of Okinawa, and the approach to the reorganization of American forces (in Japan) and their bases should be reconsidered.”

The DPJ balked, and the negotiations grew unpleasant. At one point DPJ representative and now Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya got so fed up with SDPJ head Fukushima Mizuho that he stormed out of the room. He charged that the DPJ wasn’t offering concrete proposals but delivering political lectures instead. Once a Socialist, always a Socialist.

Ms. Fukushima merely responded by going over his head and calling Hatoyama Yukio. And then going over his head by calling Ozawa Ichiro.

The DPJ finally compromised by changing the language to, “move in the direction of” reevaluating the agreements. They suggested the language be softened to create good relations with the Obama Administration in the U.S. Ms. Fukushima was delighted, and was shown crowing about it on TV to the other 11 members of her party with Diet seats.

Ms. Fukushima was angling for the Environmental Ministry portfolio, because, as she noted, they have a larger staff. Instead she settled for the new Consumer Affairs Ministry, which makes one suspect someone in the DPJ has a sense of humor. That’s just the sort of pretend-important Cabinet post the LDP once awarded to their female politicians as apprentice chefs to give them some experience in the political kitchen while using them as tokens to convince female voters they take them seriously. It’s surprising that Ms. Fukushima, who began her professional career as a radical feminist attorney, fell for it. But then a seat at the table of power is enough to trump principle for most leftists.

Who’s in charge here?

Before the recent election, the DPJ had 114 members in the lower house. They now have 308, for a net gain of 194 seats. The PNP had five; they now have three. The SDPJ stayed even at seven, but now have three directly elected MPs instead of only one. The reason for that increase was not due to greater popular support, but the DPJ’s choice to abstain from fielding a candidate in those districts.

The DPJ has far more than the 241 votes it needs for a lower house majority. Yet, in the upcoming administration, the handful of MPs from the formal coalition partners, and particularly their two party heads, will have a greater influence and say on the direction of the government than the 194 new DPJ members, who represent the popular will today.

That the DPJ created a coalition which includes the PNP and the SDP makes it difficult to avoid the accusation that their Government is a distortion of the democratic process and inimical to the expression of the popular will.

…The Crooks…

The reason I referred to Kamei Shizuka as a journeyman c(r)ook was recently explained in this Japanese-language blog post by Ikeda Nobuo. Mr. Kamei seems to have a knack for making money from shady deals with shady companies with a yakuza presence lurking in the background. One incident mentioned is described in a 1989 Yomiuri Shimbun article, which reports he made profits of JPY 400 million (about $US 4.18 million) in excess of market valuation in a 1987 stock sale that an official termed “an unnatural transaction.”

Perhaps that explains why he doesn’t like mark-to-market accounting.

It’s bad enough that a single-issue splinter party has an influence on policy far out of proportion with its numerical strength. It’s even worse that a man who might be mobbed-up is now in the Cabinet and punching far above his weight. But the DPJ put him there.

Suzuki Muneo

Meet former LDP lower house rep from Hokkaido Suzuki Muneo, the postwar record holder for jail time for a national legislator: 437 days, for bribery. Two of his top aides were also nailed. Mr. Suzuki had carved out a minor suzerainty in the Foreign Ministry. Though he had no official position, he had enormous influence over senior bureaucrats on policy and overseas aid projects.

After his release from prison, he became an advocate for decentralizing government, albeit under centralized control and direction, and an economic demagogue in the style of Kamei Shizuka. He was reelected to the Diet as head of a vanity party.

He was also sentenced to another two-year term for bribery in 2004 and has lost every subsequent appeal. The case is now before the Japanese Supreme Court. The next loss means another jail term and a five-year ban on public office.

But Mr. Suzuki is a pal of Ozawa Ichiro, and has influence among the voters in Hokkaido, where the carnage for the LDP was particularly gruesome this past election.

So the DPJ appointed the ex-con whose name is synonymous with lying and being on the take to chair the lower house Foreign Affairs Committee.

…And The Kooks

More troubling than the number of cooks and crooks in the governmental kitchen is that many of the people involved are not part of the reality-based community. The problem is best described by British novelist, journalist, and commentator James Delingpole, who recently published a book titled, Welcome To Obamaland: I’ve Seen Your Future And It Doesn’t Work. He says:

“In it, I warned the U.S. of the ‘smorgasbord of scuzzballs, incompetents, time servers, Communists, class warriors, eco-loons, single-issue rabble-rousers, malcontents and losers who always rise to the surface during a left-liberal administration….it becomes a problem – as you’re about to discover, if you haven’t already – when your ruling administration consists of nothing but these people. No longer do they qualify as light relief. They become your daily nightmare…. Making these predictions was a no-brainer because it’s exactly the same process as we’ve witnessed in Britain these last twelve years under New Labour.'”

He might just as well have been talking about Japan. We’ve already seen that the PNP is the Government’s version of a “single-issue rabble-rouser”, but there are even worse. Much worse.

Japan Teachers’ Union

No group is more committed to putting ideological blather and self-interest before the public good.
– Jonah Goldberg, on teachers’ unions

The goals of the Japan Teachers’ Union include improving the Japanese educational system so that it more closely resembles the systems in the United States and Great Britain. The California public school teachers appreciate those improvements so much that 25% of them now send their children to private schools.

They share the same disdain for individual achievement as their overseas cousins, as they want to do away with competitive examinations. Political indoctrination of the students starts early and focuses on the supposed sins of Japan rather than its achievements and opportunities. Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura Nobutaka once said that the LDP would have been open to more detailed discussions of Japanese wartime responsibility in schools had there not been so many Marxists among the faculty.

The JTU recently cleaned up its website, most likely in anticipation of a successful election result. Once upon a time, it featured amateurishly drawn cartoons that revealed both their politics and the arrested development of their sense of humor. But tools are available to retrieve erased pages. Here’s an example of one of their eliminated cartoons featuring a likeness of what apparently is supposed to represent former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.

JTU cartoon 1

For another taste of their junior hi humor combined with their “resistance”, try this article in Great Britain’s Guardian from three years ago describing the antics of school teachers who dislike Kimi ga Yo, Japan’s national anthem, and the imperial system:

Japanese who object to being forced to sing their country’s national anthem have a secret weapon: the English language. Kiss Me, an English parody of the Kimigayo, has spread through the internet and was sung by teachers and pupils at recent school entrance and graduation ceremonies, local media reported yesterday.

“Teachers and pupils”? See what I mean about indoctrination beginning early? The 11-year-old wise guys are indoctrinating the teachers in pre-adolescent spitballery.

Leftwing teachers unions regard Kimigayo, which is based on an ancient poem wishing the emperor a “thousand years of happy reign”, as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past.

When they say ancient, they mean more than a millennium. Though Kimi ga Yo was not officially adopted until about 10 years ago, it has been the de facto anthem for much longer.

Here are the complete lyrics:

May your reign
Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,
Until the pebbles
Grow into boulders
Lush with moss

Grab yer firin’ iron! Them’s fightin’ words!

Did some Japanese manipulate national symbols for their own ends during an ugly period of the nation’s history? Yes, as has every other nation in the world. But one reason children are sent to school is to learn the national narrative. The agenda of “leftwing teachers”, other than those in Soviet bloc-type countries, is to denigrate the national narrative by poisoning the minds of the students. The full Japanese national narrative is not defined by one gruesome chapter, nor is it an unending tale of imperialism! capitalism! racism! sexism! war-mongering! These people so dislike their country one is forced to wonder if the real object of their dislike is themselves.

Then again, perhaps they’re not used to tradition in matters such as these. Sergei Mikhalkov wound up writing three sets of lyrics to the Soviet/Russian anthem from 1943 to 2000. The first version was in praise of Stalin, the second version was Stalin Who?, and the third version is in praise of the Fatherland. Keeping the same tradition for more than 1,000 years? How conservative and L7 can you get!

The Japanese in this camp loudly proclaim that they are defenders of the Constitution, i.e., Article 9, the peace clause. Very few fall for it, however, because if they were true defenders of the Constitution, they wouldn’t hold in such contempt the first sentence of Article 1:

The Emperor shall be the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people…

Those who watched the Japanese election returns on TV saw JTU alumnus and Acting DPJ President Koshi’ishi Azuma preening on stage with the other party leaders after their big victory. He’s already said more than once this year that education without a political element is not possible (despite being against Japanese law). Everyone knows what political element he has in mind. Mr. Koshi’ishi’s pre-election position in the party was equivalent to that of Ozawa Ichiro and Kan Naoto, and he retains that influence. But even the DPJ wasn’t dumb enough to put him in the Cabinet and make him a sitting duck. He’ll just roll up his sleeves and go to work out of the public view.


Here are some excerpts from the DPJ website in English:

We do not seek a panacea either in the free market or in the welfare state. Rather, we shall build a new road of the democratic center toward a society in which self-reliant individuals can mutually coexist and the government’s role is limited to building the necessary systems.

Does that not fairly scream of Third Way nonsense without writing the actual words? Saying that one is a believer in the Third Way is similar to some of those who call themselves bisexuals. The former is just a leftist who knows better than to parade on May Day carrying a red flag, while the latter have sesquicentennial encounters with the opposite sex to avoid coming all the way out of the closet and admit being gay.

And note the false equivalence between the free market and the welfare state. Pavarotti and Johnny Rotten were both singers, but that didn’t make them equals.

We shall restructure the centralized government from the perspective of devolution toward citizens, markets, and local governments.

They plan to do that by making direct government payments to parents for child rearing in lieu of tax deductions, by making direct government payments to families for high school tuition, and by making direct government payments to individual farmers.

The real DPJ political platform is the Index of Policies, on which the so-called Manifesto is based and then cleaned up for public consumption.

Unlike the Manifesto, the Index—which was last revised in July—is not in English. It’s also recently been tucked away on the party website under the Manifesto section, whereas before it was in full view. Some Japanese have said they find the language in the Index “peculiar”, and they have a point. I haven’t been through all of it—it’s long and packed with boilerplate and platitudes—but it does have some peculiar ideas for a party that claims to be devoted to citizens, markets, and local government.

Such as:

“We will proceed with consideration of an International Solidarity Tax that taxes specified economic activities across national borders, and which will be used as the funding source for international organizations to conquer poverty and support developing countries.”

What we have here is a policy with a retro-Bolshie name to levy an unjustifiable and ill-defined tax to fund an enterprise that anyone who goes through life awake knows will fail. Looks like all the highway signs on the DPJ Third Way read Merge Left.

According to the Index, they also want to maintain the inheritance tax to “Return part of (a person’s) wealth to society”. And here I thought that a person’s wealth was already a part of social wealth. Japan’s inheritance tax was 70% in 2005, which means that a lot of people spent a lot of time and trouble finding ways to get around it.

The party wants to establish a Permanent Peace Study Bureau in the Diet Library. One has to admit that does have potential as a job creation scheme. They’ll need a full janitorial staff to deal with all those cobwebs.

They also want to prevent suicide by spending a lot of money on analysis and studies for suicide prevention. They intend to make it an obligation of publishers to produce textbooks that children with weak eyesight can read. They want to levy stiffer taxes on stiffer drinks to promote health, which is sure to please those taxpayers who have one or two stiff drinks a month and are in excellent health, but will pay the same rate as the lushes.

Perhaps the most peculiar of word choices is found in the section that discusses the party’s stance against North Korea. Their approach comes across as somewhat hardline. But the section is titled, “The core development of diplomatic relations with North Korea”, or in Japanese, 北朝鮮外交の主体的展開.

This part – 主体的 – which corresponds to “core”, is seldom used in Japanese, and it has no bearing on the explanation that follows. But the word is used quite frequently in North Korea. There it’s pronounced juche, and it’s the ruling philosophy of the North Korean government.

The arrested development of their sense of humor is a more widespread malady than I thought.

The Socialists Democratic Party of Japan

In most Western countries, the socialists and the social democrats are the girly men of the left, unable to bring themselves to the truly whacked position of the remaining Communist poseurs. Perhaps that’s because they realize they would lose their opportunities for making money in the stock market and real estate investments under a true Red regime.

In Japan, those relative positions are reversed. The SDPJ are the vicious, vaporous, anti-life, and anti-reality bunch, while the JCP is better behaved and actually has some integrity.

Consider: The North Koreans attempted to assassinate then-South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan during a 1983 visit to Rangoon by detonating three bombs by remote control. The president was not killed, but 21 people were, including three South Korean Cabinet ministers and four Burmese.

The Chinese government criticized the North Korean government in the state media and broke off official contact with Pyeongyang for several months. Japan’s Communist Party also condemned it, saying that terrorism had no part in their movement. Japan’s Socialists?

North Korea was unconnected with the incident in any way because it was not beneficial to them.

For years they claimed that it was impossible for the North Korean government to have abducted Japanese citizens. When Kim Jong-il finally fessed up, their successors in the SDPJ excused the abductions by saying it didn’t compare in any way to Japanese behavior on the Korean Peninsula during the war.

The party’s website is not in English, but it does proudly proclaim that boss Fukushima Mizuho attended the Socialist International conference this year. It’s adorned with a few of the global-standard Socialist illustrations of a rose held aloft in a fist. Their environmental policies—cap’n’trade, anti-nuclear power, anti global “warming”—are the usual blast of hot air one expects from watermelons, so-called because they are green on the outside and red on the inside. Then again, the SPDJ has never bothered to hide its crimson exterior.

The DPJ voluntarily chose the SDPJ as their coalition partners and gave the party head a seat in the Cabinet. They helped boost the party’s chances in the recent election by refraining from running a candidate in districts with prominent SDPJ members. That’s how they picked up two directly elected seats in the lower house.

Fukushima Mizuho

The SDPJ boss hasn’t always been so chummy with the DPJ. She once said, “The LDP and the DPJ are only as different as curry rice and rice curry.” Now that she’s part of the government headed by the latter, it would seem that she has developed a more discriminating palate.

She and husband Kaido Yuichi are both attorneys. Ms. Fukushima has focused on radical feminist causes, and she’s written three books on sexual harassment and domestic violence. She’s also written another called Konna Otoko to ha Zettai Kekkon Suru na! (Under No Circumstances Marry a Man of This Type!). She and her husband have frequently associated with people linked to the Chukaku-ha, or Japan Revolutionary Communist League, and defended them in court trials.

They must have had plenty of work. From the late 60s to the early 90s, Chukaku-ha led or was involved in numerous open battles with police, sabotaged the railroad in 33 Tokyo and Osaka locations when it being privatized, attacked LDP headquarters with a flamethrower mounted on a truck, conducted fatal arson and bombing attacks, and fought bloody battles with two other groups on the ultra-left, resulting in an estimated 100 fatalities. Their slogan is “Workers of the world unite under the banner of anti-imperialism and anti-Stalinism!” That presumably means they were down with K. Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and Mao.

In May 1991, Chukaku-ha changed course and decided to focus its efforts within trade unions and mainstream left-wing movements. One of those efforts was a petition drive to prevent Japan’s use of military force in the event of a foreign invasion. Ms. Fukushima signed it.

Registered as an attorney in 1987, Ms. Fukushima first won election to the Diet in 1998, though it is only a proportional representation seat in the upper house. She is one of the few party leaders in Japanese postwar history who have been unable to win a Diet seat in a direct election, or unwilling to try.

Let’s have Madame Chairman speak for herself. Here’s a brief transcript from her 2005 appearance on the TV show Asa Made (Until Morning), being interviewed by Tahara Soichiro.

Fukushima: I am absolutely opposed to the use of sidearms by police officers. For one thing, even perpetrators of crimes have their rights. The police must not be allowed to injure criminals at all. Even if it is a brutal criminal with a lethal weapon, the police should approach the arrest unarmed.
Tahara: And what happens if a police officer does that and is killed?
Fukushima: Well, that’s the job of police officers…(Shocked sound from the people in the studio. Showing irritation at the response, she continues)…Besides, if a criminal puts up that much resistance, there’s no need to go to all that trouble to arrest him. There’s no problem with letting him escape.
Tahara: But what if the criminal who runs away kills someone else at a different location?
Fukushima: That’s a separate problem…

Here’s an excerpt from a recent Diet debate about the possible interception of an incoming North Korean missile.

Fukushima: If the intercepting missile hits the target, debris will fall. If it misses, it will fly outside the country. Can you say there won’t be any harm caused to the citizens either in Japan or in other countries?
(Then) Foreign Minister Nakasone Hirofumi: If it presents a danger of damage to the lives and property of our people, that missile should be intercepted as a matter of course.
(Then) Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu: But there would be more damage if the missile would be allowed to fall. If it’s intercepted in space, most of the debris would burn up and not fall to earth. It’s important to destroy the missile first and minimize (its potential for harm).
Fukushima: If we miss, it will harm the national interest, and if we hit it, what happens if it turns out to have been just a satellite?

There was laughter at this remark from opposition benches for some reason, but then we’ve already found out about the sense of humor of the Japanese left.

The DPJ thought she would make a dandy Minister of State for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety, Social Affairs, and Gender Equality in the new coalition government, and so appointed her to that position.

Tsujimoto Kiyomi

Currently the SDPJ’s head of Diet strategy, Tsujimoto Kiyomi came up with the idea for taking cruises on a Peace Boat to the countries that Japan invaded during the war when she was a Waseda undergraduate in 1983. It’s not easy for a spunky coed to organize a project on that scale, regardless of her commitment or idealism, so she needed some help.

She received that help from Kitakawa Akira, who later became what is described as her common-law husband, and Oda Makoto.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and intelligence service archives became available, it was discovered that Mr. Oda had been a KGB agent. Mr. Kitakawa was a member of the Japanese Red Army, a revolutionary terrorist group formed in 1971 that was responsible for bombings, airplane hijackings, and armed attacks throughout the world. One member was caught with explosives on the New Jersey Turnpike in the 1980s and spent time in an American jail. Several members were granted asylum in North Korea, and the Japanese government is trying to extradite them. It remains an obstacle to the normalization of relations.

Though vicious, the group’s membership was always small, and they immediately had problems finding the money to survive. It was provided by Palestinians starting in 1972.

Join me in solidarity to smash the country and make the world safe for large purple vibrators

Join me in solidarity to smash the country and make the world safe for large purple vibrators

The Peace Boat, meanwhile, expanded the range of its voyages and visited the Middle East. Cruise members met several times with Yasser Arafat, perhaps to thank him for his money and ask for more. It was eventually awarded Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. That is an honor they share with Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice (he speaks in tongues on television), the Brazilian Federation of LGBT Groups (Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas e Transgêneros, ABGLT), the Advisory Commission of the Evangelical Church in Germany, The American Civil Liberties Union, The Association for the Advancement of Psychological Understanding of Human Nature, The Centre for Women the Earth the Divine, The Italian Confederation of Labour, Conscience and Peace Tax International, Fraternite Notre Dame, Inc., and the International Academy of Architecture. That would suggest the designation is as easy to obtain as a package of free tissues outside any large train station in Japan.

Mr. Kitakawa was responsible for JRA activities in Europe, and he was eventually deported from Sweden. Back in Japan, he founded the Daisansha publishing company, which has released six of Ms. Tsujimoto’s books.

She was recruited by former Socialist Party leader Doi Takako to run for the Diet, and she won her first election in 1996. A few years later, Shigenobu Fusako, the founder of the Japanese Red Army was arrested in Takatsuki, Osaka, Ms. Tsujimoto’s home district. She was in the company of Yoshida Mamoru, a member of Tsujimoto’s staff in Takatsuki.

As an MP, she started receiving national exposure in the early years of the Koizumi Administration with her semi-hysterical challenges of the prime minister during question time. She does have spunk, however, and it was great television, so a star was quickly born.

It just as quickly faded after her success went to her head and she accused the aforementioned Suzuki Muneo during his questioning in the Diet of being a “trading house for suspicion”. Mr. Suzuki, semi-hysterical himself, blew up in a memorable rant.

Those of you who enjoy interesting coincidences will be delighted to know that not long afterwards, investigators just happened to discover that she had been raking off funds from the money that was supposed to be paid to her political aides. It was suspected that she gave some of the money to Mr. Kitakawa. She was sentenced to two years in jail with a five-year stay of execution.

Ms. Tsujimoto resigned her Diet seat, but Japanese voters can be a forgiving lot, and she’s back, though keeping a much lower profile.

Again, let’s let the lady speak for herself. Here’s one:

“It’s not possible that the peace-loving North Koreans would abduct anyone.”

Golly, where have we heard that before?

She has a strange conception of loyalty for a Diet member:

“I don’t want to be a Japanese. I want to be an international person.”

Perhaps I should have spelled that “internationale”.

Indeed, she has been so internationale in general, and pro-North Korean in particular, that some Japanese have wondered if she is a naturalized Korean with family roots in the northern part of the peninsula.

Here’s how she views her duties as a national legislator. She was speaking informally to a person she didn’t realize was a reporter:

“They say a Diet member should protect the lives and property of the citizens, but that is not my intention. My role is as a ‘national destroyer’ MP who will try somehow to destroy the framework of the state.”

There’s a bit lost in the translation, as Ms. Tsujimoto is making a pun. The word for Diet member is 国会議員 (kokkai gi-in). She replaced the first two characters with the homonym 国壊 (kokkai), which means “national destruction”.

She also has a unique sense of fun. During a feminist conference sponsored by the owner of a shop for sex toys, the amusingly named Love Piece Club, she autographed a large purple vibrator for an auction.

Now nobody objects to the ways people choose to get their kicks, but one would expect a Diet member to show some discretion at a public event.


The Love Piece Club has a website. One of the pages is here, which displays the nude snapshots a photographer took of the “Buy Vibe Girls” at the Yasukuni Shinto shrine bright and early one morning. Ordinarily, it’s standard Internet practice to warn of photos that aren’t work safe, but any work supervisor who caught you looking at these is more likely to feel sorry for you than angry at you.

The title of the page, by the way, is Nobody Knows I’m Lesbian. Come on, Mina, who are you trying to kid? All anyone has to do is look at your picture.

Now, former combatants and ex-cons Tsujimoto Kiyomi and Suzuki Muneo are part of the ruling coalition, proving beyond doubt that politics makes for the strangest of bedfellows.

One wonders which one brought the large purple vibrator.

Ms. Tsujimoto, a politician convicted of skimming public funds, who pals around with terrorists, who would rather be known as the national destroyer than a Japanese, and who has vowed to wreck the framework of the state, was appointed by the ruling DPJ to serve as Vice-Minister for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport. That ministry is responsible for the national infrastructure and dealing with disasters.

Here’s the best part: No one in her party likes the idea at all. Ms. Tsujimoto’s own initial reaction was:


That’s what a four-year old throwing a tantrum might say when told to take some unpleasant medicine—No, no, no, no!

She gave in after being told that party head Fukushima Mizuho signed off on it. But then Ms. Fukushima claimed she didn’t sign off on it. But then she admitted that she did.

With Ms. Fukushima occupied by her make-work duties in the Cabinet, Ms. Tsujimoto was being counted on by the party to be the face of their campaign in next year’s upper house election. Those with a Machiavellian turn of mind might wonder if the DPJ purposely wanted to give her some make-work duties of her own in the bureaucracy. That would prevent her from being the poster girl of the SDPJ campaign, making it easier for the DPJ to take them out in the election and form a government without their help.

It’s a wrap!

I have nothing but the deepest sympathy for those Japanese who were so fed up with LDP rule that they felt compelled to vote for the DPJ and its coalition of too many cooks, too many crooks, and too many kooks in the hope they would receive clean government, real reform, and responsible political behavior.

If we’re lucky, perhaps they’ll manage to achieve some of their promised reforms during their administration, particularly shutting off the entry of bureaucrats into public sector jobs. They might yet reinsert the jackhammer into the foundation of the structure of interests that holds the country back. Maybe their conduct will spur the rejuvenation of a sharp opposition party, regardless of label, whose members will be decisive enough to ditch the mudboaters before refloating their political ship.

Credit where credit is due

Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya

Mr. Okada has opened attendance at his press conferences to all members of the Japanese news media, ending the kisha club monopoly in which only certain outlets get direct access to the politicians. Now the weekly magazines, Internet publications, and sports newspapers (some of their political reporting is better than you think) can attend. This development was not reported by the Asahi Shimbun, the Yomiuri Shimbun, or the Nikkei Shimbun, which constitute Japan’s press monopoly. Perhaps they’ve taken lessons from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and most of the American TV networks.

I’ve said before that the DPJ always carries banana peels in its back pocket for pratfall practice, and this time Prime Minister Hatoyama showed off his best Buster Keaton form. Before the election, he promised that he would open up his press conferences too. The reporters asked if he would put that in the party platform. He said no, it wasn’t necessary to go that far.

The only reporters allowed at Mr. Hatoyama’s first press conference were those in the kisha club.

Maehara Seiji

The new Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, Mr. Maehara is often criticized by the party’s left wing and DPJ hacks because he (a) is not left-wing, (b) believes in a strong national defense, (c) intensely dislikes Ozawa Ichiro and his presence in the party, and (d) is capable of apostasy by working with the Koizumian reformers of the LDP, including rebel Watanabe Yoshimi. If there’s anything the left hates more than common sense, it’s a traitor.

One of his first announcements as MLIT chief was the suspension of the Yamba Dam project in Gunma. This was immediately hailed by all those anxious to end the ties between construction industry pork and the government once and for all.

But they couldn’t even get this one right. The governments of the six prefectures that will be affected by the decision were not at all pleased. Tokyo in particular is concerned about the water supply for the exploding population in some areas of its jurisdiction. Mr. Maehara is going to visit Gunma later this week and talk to local officials. Some are so upset they say they won’t attend if the decision is not changed.

Also opposed to the decision is the Gunma governor–who is affiliated with the DPJ. The governor was miffed that the prefectural government wasn’t consulted before the MLIT announced the decision.

In other words, the party that promised to decentralize government and devolve authority to local governments made an arbitrary central government decision without any input from local government and a governor on their own team.

Finance Minister Fujii Hirohisa said no final decision had been made, but the MLIT is behaving as if they’re going to shut it down. Mr. Fujii deferred to Mr. Maehara.

Except Mr. Maehara spun around again and deferred to the locals. He’s now said the legal procedures to halt the project won’t begin until the “understanding” of the six prefectures is obtained.

Now you know why some charge the DPJ wasn’t ready to assume control of the government. All of this, including discussions with the local governments, should have been worked out long ago. Mr. Maehara says he is merely executing one of the planks in the DPJ platform. That was the same platform the party kept revising after its initial release just last month.

Kawabata Tatsuo

Mr. Kawabata was named Education Minister, much to the relief of those who were apprehensive about Koshi’ishi Azuma winding up with that job. The JTU wants to roll back the education reforms of the Abe administration, particularly the new teacher certification requirements. But at his initial press conference, Mr. Kawabata said that would be only one of several options examined over the next four years. Those experienced at reading bureaucratic tea leaves think that means the JTU might not be getting carte blanche in the new Government after all, though they warn that Mr. Koshi’ishi has yet to be heard from.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kawabata talked up a proposal for extending teacher training to six years—the same amount of classroom time as a Japanese medical doctor. But then classroom instruction is hardly brain surgery. Every extra minute seated in a classroom staring out the window while some teacher drones on about classroom teaching is a minute wasted. If the objective is to improve classroom instruction, that time would be better spent being actively involved with life as it’s actually lived.


Sorry for not keeping my promise. The last post said the next one would be “tomorrow”, but that turned into two weeks. I had some work to do, and wading through the sheer deluge of information related to today’s topic took some time.

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