My, doesn’t time fly in the world of Japanese politics? It seems like only yesterday that Yukio Hatoyama and the DPJ finally managed to chuck the pork-barrellers of the LDP out of power, and yet here we are, just months later, with yet another unelected Japanese leader on our hands.
Putting questions of legitimacy to one side for the time being, it’s good to see that Naoto Kan, the new prime minister, isn’t from one of the grotesque political dynasties that dominate the Diet. The grandfathers of the last four prime ministers – Hatoyama, Aso, Fukuda and Abe – were also prime ministers themselves. Tellingly, none of these political darlings lasted longer than a year in office. It comes as no surprise that their ‘superior’ breeding and first-rate education failed to prepare them for the real world, and for the demands that come with governing the world’s second largest economy.
While Hatoyama doggedly dug his own grave over the US military base on Okinawa, Naoto Kan kept mum. By neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the idea of moving the base off the island he may very well be able to dodge the issue entirely, or at least kick it into the long grass for the time being. Hatoyama’s dithering seriously damaged the US administration’s trust in Japan. Kan needs to repair that trust, and also begin to enact the policies that the LDP fought last year’s election on, most notably reform of the institutionally corrupt bureaucracy.
The political elite have been in a malaise for so long that, like the chained prisoners in Plato’s allegory of the cave, they have little or no understanding of how the real world functions. Hopefully, Kan will be able to drag some of them towards the blinding reality of the outside world. Unfortunately, content with their world of shadows, most of them will probably try to get rid of him as swiftly as possible.
A roundup of some of the best Japan-related links from this week.
Asahi Shimbun Co. said Monday that it incurred its first ever group operating loss last year due to falls in advertising revenue.
Asahi Shimbun suffers operating loss
The Japan Times (Kyodo News)
The [Japanese] government released a study on fish consumption on May 21 in which salmon emerged as the most popular to eat at home, followed by squid and tuna, all of which are straightforward to turn into a meal.
Salmon takes over as top table treat in Japan
The Independent (Relaxnews)
[Tokyo] is an unexpected city, not a homogenised J G Ballard city of the future but a series of small and distinct neighbourhoods. It can be startlingly beautiful.
Tokyo, Japan: My kind of town (an interview with author Edmund de Waal)
The Daily Telegraph
After being mauled in the media for sartorial crimes … Hatoyama will be buoyed by the news that a Shanghai-based shirt-maker is selling copies of his most infamous garment as a tribute to his “individuality”.
Shirt-maker cashes in on Japanese PM’s unique dress sense
The Guardian (Justin McCurry)
Twenty years ago, there was one retiree for every six working-age Japanese. By 2025, the government projects that the ratio will decrease to one retiree for every two people employed.
Does Japan’s decline foretell our future?
CTV News (Alexandra Seno)
Posted 07 May 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
A run down of some of the best Japan-related stories from this week:
Japanese visitors will be invited by tour operators to contribute £5, a charge already nicknamed the “Peter Rabbit tax”.
The tale of Peter Rabbit and a £5 ‘tax’ on his Japanese friends
The Times (Robert Jenkins)
Okinawa’s status as home to one of the highest life expectancies in the world has been tied to a combination of healthy diets, exercise and self-sufficiency.
World’s oldest woman dies in Japan aged 114
The Daily Telegraph (Danielle Demetriou)
Japan has the lowest percentage of children among 27 countries with populations of more than 40 million, trailing Germany at 13.6 percent and Italy’s 14 percent.
Japan’s children population at new record low
BusinessWeek (Mari Yamaguchi)
Along with a flair for airy-fairy waffle, Mr Hatoyama has exhibited breathtaking indecision.
Things fall apart in Japan
The Economist (Banyan’s column)
If you get groped on a train, please tell the nearest police officer.
Crackdown nets 77 gropers on Tokyo trains
The Daily Yomiuri
Posted 31 Mar 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category News, Tokyo
Korean newspapers are up in arms (again) following the Japanese government’s endorsement of several elementary school textbooks that label the islets of Dokdo – or Takeshima in Japanese – as Japanese territory.
The islets, which are located slap bang between Japan and South Korea, have been claimed by both countries for several hundred years. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign affairs remains adamant that they are “an inherent part of the territory of Japan”, though South Korea has maintained a continuous police and military presence there since 1952.
In 2008, South Korea briefly recalled its ambassador to Japan after guidelines for Japanese junior high school teachers mentioned the dispute. In 2005, Korean protesters decapitated pheasants and chopped off their own fingers outside the Japanese embassy following Shimane prefecture’s decision to label the 100th anniversary of Japan’s annexation of the islets “Takeshima Day”.
The Liancourt Rocks are inhabited by two permanent Korean residents (both fishermen), 37 Korean police officers, a small number of lighthouse keepers, and an enormous amount of birds. It is believed that reserves of natural gas lie under the surrounding sea-floor.
The ongoing sovereignty saga is likely to be a thorn in the side for any Japanese government that wishes to improve relations with Korea. While the current DPJ-led government is far less hawkish than its predecessor, it remains wary of antagonising right-wing nationalists.
Article from the Chosun Ilbo: “Korea Must Do More to Counter Japan’s Claim to Dokdo” (31st March, 2010)