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Japan votes on December 16.

The System

To understand Japanese politics, you need to understand the Japanese political system. Japan’s parliament, the Diet, has two houses; the lower house, the House of Representatives, is the one up for election. It has 480 members; 300 elected FPTP, 180 elected by party list proportional representation. One of the most relevant features of Japan’s electoral system however, is the expensive monetary deposit required to run for office.

In the heavily gerrymandered FPTP districts, where it’s virtually inconceivable some sort of outsider could win, the deposit is small enough. But, to run proportional candidates is very expensive. Of course, these deposits are returned -- provided you win. FPTP seats, where representatives are rarely in jeopardy, are frequently passed down parent-to-child (or possibly another relative, if representatives don’t have children.) This system is one of the many reasons that corruption (nepotism and graft) is rampant in government.

Elections for the upper house, the House of Councilors, will be held in July 2013.

A Very Brief Political History

Japan was governed 1946-1993 and 1996-2009 by its perennial party of power, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its predecessors (since the LDP’s name wasn’t officially adopted until 1955.) The party was elected, in basically legitimate elections, with no major opposition from 1955 onwards, always taking 45+% of the vote, a large majority of seats, with the opposition fractured between many parties (the 1993-1996 government was an 8-party alliance, where no one party actually held over 70 seats.)

The opposition during that period, such as it was, was usually primarily composed of the Socialist Party (JSP) and Communist Party (JCP) -- although this should not be taken to suggest the ideologically all-inclusive LDP was “right-wing.”

This unchanging political landscape changed drastically in 1998, when Japan obtained its first, real opposition party in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ.) The DPJ was founded by a former LDP politician named Ichiro Ozawa, who was also behind the 8-party coalition from ‘93 to ‘96. As a political schemer, Ozawa is nothing short of machiavellian. After falling out of favor in the LDP in the early 90s, he broke away and formed the Japan Renewal Party. Ozawa quickly demonstrated his prowess to the larger public, rapidly luring a large number of LDP representatives from a variety of non-dominent factions to join him, and then united the disparate opposition forces into a coalition government.

After the LDP returned to power in the ‘96 election, Ozawa united a large number of the opposition parties (including almost all of the JSP) -- many, but not all of which, were center-left -- into the broad anti-LDP coalition party that was the DPJ. Subsequently, the remnant of the JSP (now known as the Social Democratic Party ((SDP))) and the JCP would slowly lose seats to the benefit of the DPJ, seemingly putting Japan on a gradual path toward a two-party system.

However, because of the party’s nature (and Ozawa’s nature) the DPJ served not only as an opposition party but also as a revolving door, that would serve as a temporary landing place for LDP MPs who fell out of favor within their party. Despite widespread dissatisfaction with LDP governance already being present for much of 1998-2009 period, because of the indiscriminate welcoming of ethically and ideologically dubious LDP MPs (and popular distrust of Ozawa -- someone who has quite a few ethical issues himself -- who was seen as pulling all the strings) the DPJ’s ascent was not rapid. Nevertheless, in the midst of an unprecedented economic downturn, the DJP would come to power in 2009.

But first, to understand the context of that election, you must understand the man who led the LDP for most of its waning years, Junichiro Koizumi. Koizumi was LDP leader 2001-2006, and was a remarkable politician, who, unlike most PMs, was decidedly popular for most of his tenure. He inherited the LDP when it was unpopular, and there was a time it looked like the DPJ would win the 2005 election (an election where the LDP actually ended up expanding its majority!) Of course, he was fortunate enough to govern during favorable economic weathers; but many unpopular PMs also were.

Koizumi was a decidedly right-wing prime minister, both in foreign policy, where he’s remembered for his outspoken support of President Bush and the Iraq war (a rarity in non-interventionist and pacifist Japan) as well as domestically, where he privatized the postal service. He reinvented the LDP, consolidating it as a vaguely center-right party, exorcising LDP MPs who wouldn’t play along with his agenda. Because of his ‘mysterious’ popularity, in a country where public officials are rarely popular, many politicians seek to emulate his style, and his shadow hangs over Japanese politics to this day.

(Although much ink has been spilled on the subject, I don’t think his popularity is hard to understand. It was his ideological nature that made him popular; he took stances and stood by them. Rare enough in most countries, but a near extinction in Japan.)

Unfortunately for the LDP, the man who succeeded him proved not so impressive.

He was succeeded by a man named Abe Shinzo (a man who many people believe to be literally mentally unstable because of his erratic behavior.) Shinzo welcomed back the “rebels” from the postal system reform with open arms (most of whom were duplicitous and corrupt opportunists, who simply obstructed Koizumi when it was unpopular, and then were shocked to find themselves shut out after Koizumi gained popular support for privatization. In other words, Shinzo and the LDP learned no lessons.)

Multiple cabinet shuffles and one suicide (by one of Shinzo’s agricultural ministers) into his term, the LDP was crushed in the 2007 House of Councillors elections, and the DPJ gained control of the upper chamber. Standard practice for losing an election like that would be resigning as party leader, but Shinzo refused to, sending the LDP into temporary chaos. He then said he would resign, before backing off again. And then resigned anyways. Shinzo then claimed it was because of medical issues (it was not) and checked himself into a hospital.

He was replaced by the more level headed Taro Aso, but the LDP never recovered from Shinzo’s antics, and, weighed down by the economic crisis, also lost the ensuing 2009 House of Representatives election to the DJP.

Results Of The 2009 Election

DPJ Coalition - 50.73% districts, 49.78% proportional, 320 seats
Democratic Party (DPJ) - 47.43% districts, 42.41% proportional, 308 seats
Social Democratic Party (SDP) - 1.95% districts, 4.27% proportional, 7 seats
People’s New Party (PNP) - 1.04% districts, 1.73% proportional, 3 seats
New Party Nippon (NPN) - 0.31% districts, 0.75% proportional, 1 seat
New Party Daichi (NPD) - no district candidates, 0.62% proportional, 1 seat
LDP Coalition - 39.79% districts, 38.18% proportional, 140 seats
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) - 38.68% districts, 26.73% proportional, 119 seats
New Komeito Party (NKP) - 1.11% districts, 11.45% proportional, 21 seats
Communist Party (JCP) - 4.22% districts, 7.03% proportional, 9 seats
Your Party (YP) - 0.87% districts, 4.27% proportional, 5 seats
Others - 1.53% districts, 0.66% proportional, 0 seats
Independents - 2.81% districts, no proportional candidates, 6 seats
Notes:

● The SDP and NPN have since left the DJP coalition, and NPD has been disbanded.

Since 2009

The DPJ was swept into office with high hopes, but quickly would become unpopular. The first DPJ Prime Minister would be Yukio Hatoyama, one of the old LDP members Ozawa had brought with him in the very beginning. Hatoyama was soon ensnared in a series of scandals around the party’s financing (the kind that have plagued the LDP for decades) and was forced to resign.

He was succeeded early in 2010 by Naoto Kan, an Ozawa foe (who defeated Ozawa himself in the leadership election.) Kan is a good man, but a bad politician. Despite coming into power popular, he lost the DPJ the 2010 House of Councillors election (which happened soon after he became PM) by inelegantly proposing a hike in the consumption tax. His handling of Fukushima was subsequently derided as incompetent and he was forced out as well.

In 2011, the DPJ elected their third PM (in as many years), Yoshihiko Noda. Noda, also an opponent of Ozawa, narrowly defeated Ozawa proxy candidate Banri Kaieda in the leadership election, on a platform of ending factional infighting. Politically, Noda is a moderate technocrat, who proposed sharp cuts in public spending to compliment the DPJ’s tax hikes.

Things did not improve for the DPJ.

As part of his platform of appeasing the disparate DPJ factions, he appointed his first cabinet by appointing various ideologically divergent, septuagenarian, faction leaders to important positions. Unsurprisingly, this cabinet proved rife with corruption and incompetence, and the DJP continued slipping in the polls, falling below 20% in the polls early this year.

In July of this year Ozawa packed his bags. He and 52 MPs resigned en masse (leaving the DJP perilously close to losing their once massive majority -- already weakened by a slow trickle of resignations since ‘09 -- in the House of Representatives) and formed a new party, People’s Lives First (“People’s Lives First” was also the DPJ’s ‘09 slogan.)

Then, in September, the LDP made what might have been a fatal blunder. They actually (re)elected Abe Shinzo as their leader. This was after another candidate, the much better liked and moderate Ishiba Shigeru, won a large majority when the rank and file voted. The anachronistic LDP leadership ignored the local chapter vote, and selected the unpopular and erratic Abe Shinzo. Just in case you might be wondering if the LDP might have learned anything in their three years in the wilderness, the answer is a resounding no.

And yet the DPJ did not recover. Despite wide majorities saying they did not want Shinzo as PM, the LDP’s numbers remained flat, and the DPJ began to average closer to 13-15% in the polls.

Finally, in October, Noda snapped, and reshuffled the cabinet. His new cabinet was very different; a merit-based line up of young (not one cabinet member is over the age of 50) technocrats like himself (derided by the opposition as the “Kiddie Korps.”) Not a single person who had ran against him in the leadership election received a post, despite the fact this presented a very real possibility of falling into the minority in the House of Representatives as their supporters ditched. Noda was already resigned to a snap election at this point, and was preparing, from his prospective, to salvage what could be salvaged from the DPJ.

Noda quickly struck a deal with the LDP (who agreed to raise the consumption tax in return for a snap election) while a slow, but increasing, number of DPJ MPs handed in their resignations and began to look for other parties to join, with several starting their own.

Then Noda dropped the bomb on his remaining caucus; he intended to alter the party platform to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial free trade agreement, despite many DPJ Representatives coming from rural, agricultural districts (Japan’s expensive agriculture business is dependent on the tariffs Noda intended to eliminate) -- and run in the next election as a mono-liberal (in the european sense) party, ready to join a (ironically enough) LDP-led government as a rump centrist party. Any MP who refused to put, in writing, their support of his platform was expelled.

The demand for these “loyalty oaths” to Noda naturally led to many resignations within the ideologically fractured DPJ, including from several rising stars in the party, as well as former PM Yukio Hatoyama. Noda clearly does not care. He has given up hope for the DPJ in its current incarnation.

The Parties

The DPJ and LDP have both seen a significant decline in support since the 2009 election, with both now polling less than 20% (although they still remain on top overall, with “undecided” leading in all polls by a significant margin, with nearly half (40-45%) of voters undecided.) The Japanese  political scene has seen major upheaval, with the rise of many new parties seeking to take advantage this.

Within The DPJ-LDP Paradigm

Of the DPJ’s ‘09 allies, only one remains in coalition with the DPJ. The People’s New Party (PNP) is a small party formed by LDP dissidents forced out by Kouzumi, unlike the DPJ’s other minor partners from ‘09 (most of them also formed by LDP dissidents) who fled when the DPJ became unpopular, the seemingly oblivious PNP has been happy to let the DPJ speak for them, and set their agenda. It is unclear if they will reenter parliament.

As it happens, the LDP also has an electoral partner, their eternal sidekick, New Komeito (NKP.) NKP has traditionally been the third largest party in parliament. NKP tends to be a submissive partner to the LDP, with the only point of contention between the two being Japan’s pacifist status (which NKP supports, but many LDP bigwigs take issue with.) As you can see from its ‘09 result, the party shares much of the electoral base of the LDP (NKP’s proportional result + LDP’s proportional result almost exactly = LDP’s district result.) Although the election of the hawkish Abe as LDP party leader can be expected to strain relations some, the LDP and NKP remain bound at the hip. NKP is expected to reenter parliament with a similar number of seats as it currently holds.

New Parties And Minor Parties

The most prominent of the new parties breaking onto the political scene is the Japan Restoration Party (JRP.) The JRP was officially formed in mid-September, but has unofficially existed since early May (and for several months the party led both the DPJ and LDP by a large margin in polling.) JRP was formed by the popular conservative mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, who is well known for his clashes with the teachers unions (over his proposal to require teachers to daily recite “Kimigayo” -- the national anthem.) Hashimoto wisely refused to be co-opted by the political establishment, and allowed only a few select MPs from the DPJ and LDP to defect to his party as it gained popularity.

JRP adopted many conservative and nationalistic positions, being the first to support the TPP free trade agreement (long before Noda “saw the light” when an election was imminent) while also wanting to change Article 9 of the constitution (which is the article that forbids “acts of war” by the state.) The party is also socially and culturally conservative, supporting policies such as forbidding government workers to have tattoos, and requiring a daily recitation of the national anthem by government workers. The JRP has also co-opted other popular positions, such as opposition to nuclear power.

Nevertheless, the party’s popularity was hampered by revelations Hashimoto had an extramarital affair, and Hashimoto’s own refusal to run for the Diet, preferring to stay on as mayor. Once Hashimoto ruled out running, the party suffered from a lack of exciting candidates, and slowly declined to the 5-7% range in polling. Looking for a way to revive his party, in October Hashimoto merged with another new party (The Sunrise Party, formed by the far-right, nationalist, outgoing Governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara) only days after its founding, and subsequently handed over the leadership of the party to Ishihara.

This is a great showcasing of how empty most campaign season rhetoric is in Japan, since Ishihara both opposed the TPP, and supported nuclear power. However, he was willing to throw his principles to the wind to get in bed with Hashimoto.

Policies aside, the 80-year-old Ishihara is well known for his controversial and nationalistic rhetoric, and is known as “Japan’s Le Pen” for his racist rhetoric against immigrants and his whitewashed view of Japanese history. Ishihara has said Japan should forbid immigration from Africa (because Ishihara believes Africans are genetically inferior), denies the Rape of Nanking (the regional equivalent of denying the Holocaust), that “old women who live after they have lost their reproductive function are useless and are committing a sin,” and said that political opponents who died in the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami earlier this year deserved to die.

Under Ishihara the JRP’s poll numbers have recovered somewhat, and the party now runs about even with, or slightly behind, the DPJ in most polls. The party will enter parliament, but likely with noticeably fewer seats than the DPJ, due to the DPJ’s structural advantage in the FPTP districts.

The other important new party in Japan is on the left end of the political spectrum, the Japan Future Party (JFP.) JFP is a new party formed just 9 days ago by the SDP Governor of the small Shigawa Prefecture, Yukiko Kada. Kada quickly merged her party with Ozawa’s People’s Lives First, and a variety of other small DPJ splinter parties. JFP is an environmentalist party, that wants to phase out nuclear power by 2022. JFP also opposes the TPP and the DPJ’s consumption tax hike. Despite the party being the only serious leftist party contesting the election, it has been held back by its association with Ozawa and friends (Ozawa, again, is very personally unpopular, and his faction is viewed with suspicion.) JFP tends to poll in the 5-7% range, to break out, Kada will need to prove she’s not Ozawa’s puppet -- a daunting task in such a short time frame. If it ends up taking off seriously, the DPJ will face a real collapse in support. Either way, the party will definitely enter parliament, although likely with significantly less than the 61 incumbent representatives who have defected to the party.

Your Party (YP), a small neoliberal party formed by breakaway LDP MPs shortly before the ‘09 election, flirted with forming a coalition with the JRP for the election, but ultimately didn’t take the plunge when it felt it couldn’t be guaranteed a good deal in terms of which districts the parties would run candidates in. It should reenter parliament with similar support as it currently has.

The Social Democratic Party (SDP), the tiny remnants of the old Socialist Party, tends to be a mostly moderate center-left party that runs far to the left on environmental issues and foreign affairs (indeed, foreign policy disagreements were behind the original MPs refusal to join the then-new DPJ) should reenter parliament by the skin of their teeth, but its days at the national level remain numbered.

The Japanese Communist Party (JCP), a neocommunist party that was stringently opposed to the Soviet Union, should reenter parliament, despite the party’s perennial refusal to cooperate with other parties. The JCP (and SDP for that matter) -- unlike most major parties (DPJ, LDP, JFP) which are simply Diet member clubs -- has a strong base in local politics. For example, the JCP has more members elected to local municipal assemblies than either the DPJ or LDP (a lot more.) This gives the party a small, but resilient, base at the national level.

Polling

To give a better sense of the current political landscape, I’m including the two most recent polls from Japan’s two largest newspapers, Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun.

Asahi Shimbun, 1-2 December:

LDP - 20%
DPJ - 15%
JRP - 9%
JFP - 6%
NKP - 4%
JCP - 3%
YP - 3%
SDP - 1%
Undecided - 39%
Yomiuri Shimbun, 30 Nov.-2 Dec.:
LDP - 19%
DPJ - 13%
JRP - 13%
JFP - 5%
NKP - not included
JCP - not included
YP - 5%
SDP - not included
Undecided - 45%
The high number of undecideds reflects the widespread despair with a political spectrum with a political system where not only do parties lack a cogent ideology, but so do individual politicians. As Jochen Legewie writes in the Japan Times:
Japan's no-decision, no follow-through politics is feeding off the basic lack of policy direction pervading each party. The DPJ is well aware of this and has asked each member to sign and submit an application to run on the party's ticket. This "written oath" requires that each member support the DPJ manifesto. As internal differences over the TPP came to the fore, however, the party again managed at the last minute to avoid clarifying its stance on this crucial topic.

There is no real revival in the cards for Japan unless the major parties can determine what they stand for. Without this, any statesmanship or public debate will represent nothing more than shadow boxing for Diet seats. The political and economic implications are obvious: Japan's ability to conduct fundamental long-term policymaking will decline further and its muddle-through ways will continue to be the norm.

Regardless of who emerges on top, nothing will be able to be accomplished until the upper house elections in July.

Originally posted to Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 02:24 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Poll

Based on what you've heard, if you lived in Japan which party would you vote for?

10%12 votes
16%19 votes
2%3 votes
1%2 votes
40%47 votes
5%6 votes
21%25 votes
1%2 votes

| 116 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  FPTP: First Past the Post (9+ / 0-)

    the person with the highest number of votes wins.

    ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

    by James Allen on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 02:38:20 PM PST

  •  If I lived in Japan ... (6+ / 0-)

    I'm not sure I would even bother to register to vote. What a mess and what a worthless political class...

    Awesome summary, nonetheless.

    I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

    by Farugia on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 02:48:17 PM PST

    •  Thanks... (10+ / 0-)

      ... although as Greece showcased earlier this year, when a political system is at its most dysfunctional, that often just means change is more likely than ever. With nearly half of the electorate undecided days before election day, we could potentially be looking at a similar situation here.

      (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

      by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 03:20:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  re "change is more likely than ever" (6+ / 0-)

        That's what worries me, as change for the sake of change is probably more likely to go right than left.  Given the popularity of Hashimoto and Ishihara, the RW of the RW is getting ever nearer a position to have some real fun and change the Constitution, get an army all dolled up for war, and then have at it with China, or if that fails they can always try to mess with North Korea.  Do you think Hashimoto and Ishihara have people behind them who can charm people while giving inflammatory speeches at the same time?  Or is the field limited to those two?  

        •  Well, that's true. (9+ / 0-)

          Ishihara himself can charm people while giving inflammatory speeches, he's considered very telegenic, and was a novelist before becoming Governor.

          From another point of view though, people like Ishihara and Hashimoto have always existed in Japanese politics, even if they've traditionally hid themselves in the LDP. The only difference is that Ishihara and Hashimoto have given them their own party.

          I personally don't thin a fascist dictatorship followed by nuclear war is very likely however, since the 'pacifist vote' is too big. My point was with the large number of undecideds, voters could decide to 'vote with their middle fingers' and a minor party that wasn't previously being looked at (say, the communists, who might be well poised to do so with a strong local presence around Japan) could emerge with an unexpectedly strong result and shake things up (which is what happened in Greece earlier this year.)

          (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

          by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:05:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I guess I'll have to get used to this (6+ / 0-)

          For all the saber rattling that Ishihara and Hashimoto engage in, I find it somewhat hard to believe that they are actually stupid enough, deluded enough, or suicidal enough to actually try and start shit with China. That would not fly with anybody; China would react, and react violently. The people there remember (a bit too vividly) what the Japanese did to them the last time they came over to the continent to play.

          A military strike against North Korea would be a bit easier to pass off, but would still probably cause problems. I don't think anyone, not even the Chinese, would be sorry to see the DPRK toppled. The question is what happens afterwards? The South Koreans would expect to rejoin the North to the South. The Chinese would be worried about the presence of Japanese troops in the Korean peninsula, just like they were over a hundred years ago, and just like they were when it was the Americans approaching the Yalu River. If the Japanese refused to hand over the North to the South, the South would not take that sitting down. Nowadays people in the South like Japanese music and Japanese fashion and Japanese TV shows, but I think they'd draw the line when it comes to Japanese conquering their neighbors to the north. As much as people in the South hate the North, the people there are still Koreans. Ironically, a Japanese invasion of the North would go a long way towards building solidarity between the North and South.

          Anyway, I'd like to think that the people in the Restoration Party aren't stupid or delusional enough to do something like this. But then again, I'm sure that's what a lot of people thought of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin.

          More importantly, I hope that this time the people of Japan refuse to go along with this nonsense.

          •  I agree it would be unbelievably stupid, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY, koNko

            but I'm not sure the right wing types ever really think that far in advance.  The Senkaku Islands (or Hoppô, or wherever there is a dispute) are always "a matter of principle," meaning that a confrontation starts with a boat, and then a push or a shove, and it can quickly escalate out of hand.  Even they, though, aren't dumb enough to try to pull a George Bush and pretend that "this is a war we can win."  

          •  What would be the effect if they got in power (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY, Eikyu Saha

            and Japan ended up actually building and testing a nuclear weapon, something which would normally be unthinkable?  After all, if they are willing to renounce Article 9 then why not?

            You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

            by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:40:39 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm not sure I understand your question, (5+ / 0-)

              but the net effect would not be positive. The Chinese would react with alarm, and they already have nuclear weapons. The South Koreans would also become nervous. The North Korean government would probably become even more violent and crazy than it already is.

              The situation in East Asia is precarious enough with the North Koreans and the Chinese holding nuclear weapons. It would become even more unstable if the Japanese got nuclear weapons, given Japan's history with its neighbors.

              Furthermore, it would probably break the deal that the United States has had with Japan since the end World War II: we protect Japan (including using our nuclear weapons as a shield, so they don't have to develop them), and Japan lets us use their country as an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

              •  Don't forget about countries like Iran. After (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY

                all, if Japan of all places abandons nuclear nonproliferation then what does that say about the concept in general?

                You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

                by Throw The Bums Out on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 12:52:39 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I had not considered that (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  It is almost too terrible to consider. But yeah, I see the point... if Japan abandons nuclear nonproliferation, then everybody is going to want a piece. If that happens and Japan does go that way, I think things will get very ugly in American-Japanese relations, to say nothing of Japan's relations with its neighbors. I don't even want to think about it at this point.

                  Why does everyone seem determined to kill themselves? All I want to do is work an honest job and make an honest living, and eventually marry a nice girl and have some kids. Why do so many people seem to be drunk on some damn fool idea that would upset the apple cart for everybody?

            •  I doubt it would happen. (3+ / 0-)

              Or at least hope not.

              Doubt, because I think this is more political rhetoric to stir up nationalistic sentiments to win votes and there is sufficient opposition to the idea the likely consequences on many levels.

              Hope, because we already have enough hot tempers in East Asia now, which Mr. Ishihara is partly responsible for inflaming with his Rightist Nutcase politics.

              What about my Daughter's future?

              by koNko on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:28:56 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  I hope you are right. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY, Eikyu Saha

            Because Ishihara stirred-up enough tempers in my little town this year that made me question the sanity of some of my neighbors.

            What about my Daughter's future?

            by koNko on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:23:48 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Wikipedia: Anti-Japanese sentiment in China (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY, Eikyu Saha

              http://en.wikipedia.org/...

              Most reasons for anti-Japanese sentiment in China can be directly traced to the Second Sino-Japanese War, which was one theatre of World War II. As a consequence of the war, China suffered 7 to 16 million civilian deaths and 3 million military casualties.[1][2] In addition, the war caused an estimated $383.3 billion USD in damage and created 95 million refugees. Manchuria came under Japanese control in 1931 as a state named Manchukuo. Many major cities thereafter, including Nanjing, Shanghai, and Beijing were occupied in 1937 by the Japanese. Notable incidents included the Nanking Massacre. In Manchuria, Unit 731, a medical unit of the Japanese army, researched biological warfare using Chinese civilians as test subjects, who were referred to as human 'logs' in the medical journals. Women from many Asian countries, including China, were made to serve as prostitutes in military brothels (and were often referred to as "comfort women") under Japanese occupation.

              The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

              by lotlizard on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 01:14:53 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  That's not even accurate (0+ / 0-)

                Calling "comfort women" "prostitutes" is pretty atrocious. The correct term is "sex slaves."

                Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                by MichaelNY on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 01:32:08 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  It's a euphemism, like "detainees" in our day. n/t (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

                  by lotlizard on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 02:04:17 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I think it's worse (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Farugia

                    Because prostitutes have sex for pay, whereas these women and girls were enslaved and repeatedly raped every day. Detainees are people who are detained, which is a euphemism for imprisoned but not quite as mendacious.

                    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                    by MichaelNY on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 02:31:14 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Well, but nowadays use of "detainees" = mainstream (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      MichaelNY

                      … whereas in the case of the historical official term "comfort women", basically no one but a few Japanese nationalist die-hards would disagree with you.

                      For me, it's not about any particular example of official-speak being worse. For me, the worse thing is everyone going along with it and refusing to see it for what it is.

                      The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

                      by lotlizard on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 02:46:46 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

              •  I don't think that really explains it. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY, lazybum, lotlizard

                Not that Japan wasn't the source of much atrocity in China. But China has many historical aspects that are filled with atrocity -- Japan; Mao; the corruption and mass starvations that preceded and justified Mao; the Opium Wars, etc.; going all the way back to the Mongol Invasions and, long before even that, the terror that is usually papered over as "Confucianism."  

                The question is always "Why this?" and "Why now?"

                Japan makes a convenient whipping boy for the nation's troubles, and more importantly, Japan gladly offers itself as a weapon of mass distraction from any number of internal scandals.  Train crash reveals corrupt industry?  Top pol's wife murders business colleague?  Pol's kid kills girl while racing Ferraris?  The answer is always easy: "Hey, look over there at those Diaoyu Islands! Oh, naughty Japan!"  The masses tend to love that sort of thing.  

                The problem is that Japan consistently acts to make things worse, not better.  Any Prime Minister could make the problem go away in a day.  Unfortunately, every prime minister is beholden to the extreme right, which (like the U.S. and everywhere else) is more concerned with issues of principle and pride -- i.e., abject shame at their own well-perceived inadequacies.  So stupid right-wing bluster always wins the day.  And, as always, the masses tend to love that sort of thing.  

                •  You're right (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  lazybum, Eikyu Saha

                  But there are ways in which atrocities by foreign occupiers feel different from atrocities by local rulers. I'll give an inexact analogy: When Napoleon had himself crowned Emperor, locals in Spain and other lands his army had taken over considered him just another occupier, and many fought to restore the local kings he had overthrown, even though they were bastards. It's no accident that there's a saying: "He's a bastard, but he's our bastard."

                  Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                  by MichaelNY on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 01:12:09 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  re: but he's OUR bastard. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    MichaelNY

                    How right you are, and the sentiment is built into global politics today.  But it is also contingent on where people draw the boundaries between 'us' and 'them.'  A weird thing I keep noticing about Japanese history is that the two-hundred-plus kuni nation-states within Japan until Meiji had (for the most part) clearly drawn borders, and prided themselves on their differing language accents and filiation/affiliation identities.  I suspect the China scholars of 18c Japan thought they could transcend that pettiness.  In the European context, had Napoleon gone to Spain a century or two earlier (especially prior to Westphalia), the whole Dos de Mayo issue might have been moot since the 'our' wasn't yet clearly defined.  Even though the abuse is the same, the boundary makes it seem different.  

                    I have no idea what this might say about Japan or China, except to point to the fact that the 'natural, traditional' identities of today's world are anything but natural or traditional: they are always invented, and mostly quite recent.  

      •  To be fair, Greek political disfunction has much (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        to do with outside meddling by other countries. Its mess is not entirely to do of its own making.

      •  I was thinking the opposite (0+ / 0-)

        All that mish mash of party loyalties it seems could diffuse any strong change in one direction or another. ??

      •  I'm inclined to agree, but ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, lazybum

        How that voter dissatisfaction manifests in political change is the question, and of late it has prompted a rightward, nationalistic shift, e.g., the growing popularity of Toru Hashimoto and the JRP, which created a bit of a buzz, at least in some regional elections. As you noted, they suffered a recent set-back, but I think how they do in the election will be a useful litmus test of voter sentiment.

        I would not exactly equate the JRP with the American Tea Party movement, but they are tapping into similar voter sentiments and dissatisfaction.

        How would I vote? Good question! You didn't list "none of the above" or "throw the bums out" so I hit the JFP.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:20:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Japan doesn't have voter registration (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      I believe all Japanese citizens can automatically vote.

      Living in Kyoto-06 (Japan), voting in RI-01, went to college in IL-01.

      by sapelcovits on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 07:19:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do they have to show ID? n/t (0+ / 0-)

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 01:12:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  haha, I'm not sure - maybe! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          early voting has actually been going on for a week already. I work in a government office and the 2nd floor of my building is an early voting location. I don't think I've actually seen someone go in though...even though I pass it to get to the staircase. unfortunately I'll be out of the office all next week so I won't get to see it...but I will be at work on the day of the vote, so maybe I'll get to observe people going into the polling place then :)

          Living in Kyoto-06 (Japan), voting in RI-01, went to college in IL-01.

          by sapelcovits on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 02:40:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  No. There is voter registration (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        You are supposed to register in your place of residence within 4 months of moving in and if you don't, you can't vote, neither at your new place of residence nor at your previous location.

        I deal in facts. My friends are few but fast.

        by Farugia on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 09:31:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  ...and I thought US politics was disfunctional (10+ / 0-)

    It seems like whatever the outcome is, everyone (especially the electorate) will lose. Your diary certainly puts Japan's economic stagnation for the past 25 years into a different perspective for me. Great diary BTW. Tipped and rec'd.

  •  Oligarchy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jmwalters, MichaelNY

    Most -- no, make that ALL- nations have it.  But the more blatantly it dominates all outcomes, the more depressing it is.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 03:38:57 PM PST

    •  ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TheKF1, koNko, gabjoh

      If you're saying that the outcomes of all elections globally do not matter, you're very misinformed.

      (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

      by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 03:48:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, that's not what I 'm saying. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jmwalters, MichaelNY

        I'm saying the greater the degree of oligarchic control (of which you seem to describe a fair amount), the less optimal the results.  Do you disagree?

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 04:08:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Of course I agree (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lgmcp, MichaelNY

          and Japan's political system is particularly depressing. But that doesn't mean some degree of oilgarchy is present in every country, that's just cynicism.

          (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

          by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 04:12:22 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Cynical, but true (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jmwalters, MichaelNY

            Show me the nation whose government is NOT dominated by moneyed interests, over the long term.   Certainly the degree and expression varies over time and place.  But really where are plutocrats LESS powerful than the common people?  

            "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

            by lgmcp on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 04:22:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  In any free democratic system (5+ / 0-)

              In any free democratic system, the common people have all the power. They don't always, or even frequently, make good decisions; but they have the power to do so.

              If you're asking about systematically anti-oilgarchic countries, Switzerland conducts much of its governance through referendums. If you're specifically talking about left-wing governments around the world, where do I even start...? Argentina, Venezuela, Iceland, Denmark, Bolivia, Cuba, arguably France... Greece and Spain soon... and that's just what I can think of now. Becoming disenchanted with democracy is just what our own American oilgarchs would like.

              (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

              by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 04:52:40 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Switzerland and Iceland are fairly persuasive (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY

                Latin America somewhat less so.  Nominally leftist governments that coexistwith dramatic and longstanding economic inequality must raise questions about the role of oligarchy.  

                "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

                by lgmcp on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 11:41:18 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  And Japan is a classic case of this. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY
  •  Quite a circus (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, lotlizard

    I lived in Japan 1995-1996 and there were elections going on (local I think). Lots of trucks driving around blaring political slogans. The right wing propaganda in particular was scary because it sounded similar to the rhetoric of the military leaders in the 1930's.

    It always seemed like Japanese politics was VERY uninspiring. Though there was a great Global Voices (I think) documentary on PBS World about a Japanese political campaign. Fascinating (as are most Global Voices episodes).

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

    by mole333 on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 03:48:02 PM PST

    •  Yes (5+ / 0-)

      Several newspapers, including Yomiuri Shimbun, which is generally regarded as a right-leaning paper, have compared Ishihara and Hashimoto's rhetoric to Hitlers'. I'm sure that Ishihara, someone with a very glorified view of the 'empire', would love to return to the 1930s. It can be a very scary society to live in.

      (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

      by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 04:21:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No doubt about Ishihara (6+ / 0-)

        I have no doubts that Ishihara wants to go back to the 1930s. It would not surprise me in the least if he had fantasies about seizing Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria, and fighting the Pacific War all over again. What a bloody mess.

        I'm glad that the Yomiuri has a lick of sense about it. There's right wing, and then there's fascist. Ishihara and Hashimoto, it seems to me, tend toward the fascist. For the life of me I don't know how Ishihara kept getting elected in a place like Tokyo. I had believed that the people there were smarter than that.

        •  Yeah, hard to believe that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          a world-class, modern city that is bigger than all of NYC would elect a homophobic, xenophobic Governor.

          Age 23. Voting in NJ-03. Lived most of life in NJ-01. Had Rush Holt represent me during my undergrad years and am now represented by Frank Pallone in my grad school.

          by KingofSpades on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:32:48 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Most large cities in Europe and Asia (0+ / 0-)

            are the political bases of conservative parties.

            (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

            by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:53:10 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Please give more examples. n/t (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gabjoh

              Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

              by MichaelNY on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 08:36:21 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  The Netherlands, for one. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                lazybum, MichaelNY

                And extreme right-wing leader Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) just got more grist for their xenophobic, Islamophobic mill this past weekend. A volunteer soccer dad, Richard Nieuwenhuizen, was thrown to the ground and kicked in the head by four or five 15- and 16-year olds from the opposing team, and died of brain injuries. The teens involved are from a part of Amsterdam populated mostly by immigrants.

                The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

                by lotlizard on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 01:24:34 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Oh my gosh, where to begin? (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY, gabjoh

                Madrid in Spain, Athens in Greece, Oslo in Norway, Stockholm in Sweden, Helsinki in Finland, Bordeaux in France, Amsterdam & Rotterdam in the Netherlands... and in the cities where the right doesn't dominate, it's certainly competitive... Antwerp in Belgium, Lisbon in Portugal, Dublin in Ireland... I could go on.

                There are many exceptions of course, but the correlation isn't usually urban/rural, it's just the high number of ethnic minorities in those cities. With whites, there isn't a correlation between rural/urban and right/left like there is here. Large, but predominately white cities usually tilt right globally, and America is the only country I know of with such a strong correlation based only on population density.

                (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

                by Setsuna Mudo on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 06:22:47 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  it's true in Japan for sure (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY, lazybum

                Tokyo of course, but then Osaka (Hashimoto) and Nagoya (Kawamura). Once when the mayor of Nanjing was visiting Nagoya for a sister city visit, Kawamura denied the Rape of Nanjing to the mayor's face. you can't make this shit up.

                Living in Kyoto-06 (Japan), voting in RI-01, went to college in IL-01.

                by sapelcovits on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 07:24:26 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I even remember once reading (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY, lazybum

                  on Wikipedia that back in the early '90s shortly after Emperor Hirohito passed away the mayor of Nagasaki was nearly assassinated for speaking out against the Emperor was fully responsible for the war's conduct: http://en.wikipedia.org/...

                  After he had spoken out his party leadership urged him to take back his statement. I never realized in a democracy like Japan openly criticizing the leaders of your country for past misdeeds would be such a sin.

                •  This makes me so sad (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  I'm beginning to think that the poison wasn't bled out of Japan after all... that it's still there, and that sooner or later it's going to come around again, and when it does it's going to be just as ugly as the last time. I dearly hope that it does not.

                  Japan has got to get past this. The Chinese need to let these things go too, but in their defense the Japanese haven't been making it easy for them to do so. It's intolerable. The Showa Emperor is not a God anymore, just a man, and whether man or God, he made some pretty stupid mistakes. As the absolute ruler of Japan, he had the power to end the war at any time, if he had tried to exercise it. It's true that perhaps the military wouldn't have listened to him, but they would have discredited themselves by ignoring him. Because the Emperor was at that time still an absolute monarch, the buck stopped with him. Not Tojo, not Konoe, not anyone else, but the Showa Emperor himself.

        •  Yomiuri has to cater to the business community (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          That holds them in check. If Ishihara suddenly disappeared, it would not alarm Japan Inc.

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:37:35 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Money is a moderating influence, for once (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY, koNko

            I remember reading in my studies of Japanese militarism in Early Showa that the zaibatsu were actually opposed at first to the military's adventurism in Manchuria and China, and that it took a lot of convincing (that is to say, bribery and quid pro quo) to get big business on the military's side. The zaibatsu were opposed, I had read, because they didn't like the idea of converting their operations to a war economy. They wanted to keep on producing for a civilian domestic and export economy, instead of having to feed a war machine.

            It's nice to know that for as bad as they can be sometimes, the Japanese business community still recognizes that peace is ultimately more profitable than war.

      •  What sort of rhetoric? (0+ / 0-)

        I know what Ishihara stands for (sorta), but haven't seen anything said by him.

        Age 23. Voting in NJ-03. Lived most of life in NJ-01. Had Rush Holt represent me during my undergrad years and am now represented by Frank Pallone in my grad school.

        by KingofSpades on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:33:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  He's spoken (7+ / 0-)

          about the ethnic inferiority of Africans and other immigrant groups... basically rhetoric like this is common from him:

          "Roppongi is now virtually a foreign neighborhood. Africans — I don't mean African-Americans — who don't speak English are there doing who knows what. This is leading to new forms of crime such as car theft. We should be letting in people who are intelligent."
          Ishihara also denies Japanese war crimes, or claims they were justified, taking very hawkish positions on various territory "belonging" to Japan, and has been behind a couple international incidents. Wikipedia has a good rundown of his antics on his wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/...

          He also has campaigned against the current constitution and parliament, saying they are no good and that they have led to unpatriotic people running the country; much of his rhetoric in this sense has been compared to the way Hitler came to power.

          (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

          by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:43:21 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  And he's apparently a religious zealot (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mythatsme, MichaelNY

            because he believes the tsunami was divine punishment for Japan.  He also thinks old women are useless and their existence is a sin.  

            Age 23. Voting in NJ-03. Lived most of life in NJ-01. Had Rush Holt represent me during my undergrad years and am now represented by Frank Pallone in my grad school.

            by KingofSpades on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:51:30 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I would have thought that kind of talk (0+ / 0-)

              would outrage Japanese people, much as Americans were outraged when Falwell (or was it Robertson?) said the terrorist atrocities on 9/11/01 were a punishment from God. Setsuna, can you give me insight into why Japanese people would support someone who makes these kinds of statements? My sister-in-law is from Tokyo, and I am aware from her that lots of people in Tokyo were very frightened of nuclear fallout, for very good reason, and some are still worried about possible further damage to the remains of the reactor cores, etc.

              Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

              by MichaelNY on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 08:41:06 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Japanese society is very repressed and formal (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY, lazybum

                but it has a dark underbelly (talked about more internationally in terms of the country's online culture, but this applies.) His base is the hardworking elderly who really do see Japan as some sort of divine empire with a destiny, but a lot of younger people support him just as a quiet sort of rebellion and socially acceptable way of being outrageous. Besides, Japanese society is very prejudiced against people who don't vote, so many people end up voting to save face, even if they don't care, so there are already a lot of people just 'voting with their middle fingers.'

                Like koNko said, they don't really care, but know Ishihara is disliked by the media and establishment, and figure anything that pisses them off is good enough for them.

                (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

                by Setsuna Mudo on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 06:31:01 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I heard that he is very anti Korean (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY, lazybum

                  especially Koreans in Japan called the "Zainichi". My wife is Zainichi, yet was constanly viewed as a foriegner or "gaijin". She had been born and raised in Japan her whole life, yet she always had to worry about hiding her true identity, for fear of losing her job or not getting adequate housing. She didn't even fit the perfect image of a Japanese woman: short and petite which is what most Japanese men idolize.

                  When she told me all these things about her growing up, I was so shocked to really figure out just how Japanese society can be for people who are label as "gaijins" and it shocked me even more when I find out that alot of Japanese are so anti Zainichi or Korean in general.

      •  What would their position be on Japan developing (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        nuclear weapons?  I assume if they are willing to get rid of Article 9 then they would be willing to develop them despite what would presumably be extremely strong opposition to doing so.

        You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

        by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:49:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hashimoto's capitulation (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        Was quite reveling and (I hope) ultimately, the first nail in the JRP coffin, but as I noted in another comment, I'm quite interested in seeing how they poll as an indicator of rightist sentiments.

        Hashimoto was a better salesman, at least until he fell off his pedestal.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:33:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Ironically (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        When I was there it was the 50th anniversary of the end of WW II. So many Japanese politicians were saying things like the occupation of Korea was GOOD for Korea that it caused international crisis after crisis...the only way to pull China, North Korea and South Korea together is to get a right wing Japanese politician to open their mouths.

        Things got so bad the German ambassador to Japan wrote an open letter in a newspaper telling Japan to get the fuck (my paraphrase, of course) over WW II, pay reparations and get on with it. It was eye opening for me.

        I love Japan. One of my favorite countries. But man, there are some fucked up aspects to their society. The Burakuman, the treatment of Koreans who have lived there for generations, etc. When I talked one-on-one with friends, they would talk about these problems openly. In a group people would avoid the issues.

        FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

        by mole333 on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:32:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  There are occasional leftist demonstrations (5+ / 0-)

      in my area (near Wako [yes, don't say it] in Saitama), but the leftist demos are mainly by people in their 60s and 70s, who stand in the cold for an hour or two and then get tired and go home.  They give you copies of Akahata (Red Flag, the JCP newspaper), or little leaflets, and the issues often deal with local environment; only occasionally with national issues.  There was a mini-parade last year, timed along with the big anti-nuclear demos in central Tokyo, and it drew some younger people as well.  But I think more people came out to watch the parade than to march in it.  Unlike the downtown demos, this group wasn't surrounded by heavily armed cops.  I read the local papers, but I missed any mention of it -- reminding me of the anti-war protests in North Carolina in 2003.  

  •  I don't envy the Japanese on this count (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Miss Jones, mythatsme, koNko, lotlizard

    I said in the poll I'd vote for the Japan Future Party. Associations with Ozawa aside, it seems like the party best positioned to stop the madness that's going on over there right now, or at least slow it down. Depending on how things looked on the ground, I could easily see myself voting for either the Socialist or Communist Parties.

    Really, in this case, it's not so much a lesser evil, as a matter of strategically voting in a way to make sure that the worst possible thing does not happen. Probably the worst thing that could happen is if Ishihara and Hashimoto's zombie nationalist party gains power; though I have to wonder how long it would last. Ishihara, as a right wing nationalist who is drunk on nostalgia for Early Showa, would be naturally opposed to the free trade agreement. I suppose he might be the kind of person who changes his stripes easily, but I have to wonder how long his alliance with a guy like Hashimoto who supports free trade would last.

    In any case, whatever else happens, Ishihara and Hashimoto must be blocked. There is no question of that. Noda and the remnant of the DPJ must also be blocked as well; the DPJ is rapidly becoming totally useless.

    Who knows? Under the circumstances, more shenanigans and tomfoolery from Shinzo Abe might be preferable. At least in that case, nothing much of consequence is likely to happen. If I lived in his district, and he were standing for office, I'd probably vote for Naoto Kan. While he may be a lousy politician, I would feel a bit more at ease having a good man at the helm. I also thought he got a lot of blame he didn't deserve for the Fukushima disaster. He actually had the chops to chew out the president of TEPCO and demand an explanation when the company was trying to hush up and ignore the situation. While he probably could have done more, my impression is that a Japanese politician criticizing a Japanese businessman at all is a rare occurrence in this day and age.

    •  A pragmatic vote (6+ / 0-)

      would definitely go to the JFP, which, while basically the embodiment of much of the political establishment, would avert an international incident. Having the JFP emerge above the DPJ as the primary opposition party would do a lot to stabilize the political system.

      As to Hashimoto-Ishihara, I have a hard time believing it will last long after the election; their egos are just too big to share a stage.

      (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

      by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:13:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Where do you stand on this mess? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koNko

        I'm assuming you live over there? Judging by your username and this diary, you are at least passingly familiar with Japan and its history.

        •  No, not at all. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Inoljt, koNko, gabjoh

          Well, I'm happy I give such a good impression, but as my 'sig line' states, I'm a resident of Kentucky's first district, and I've never lived in Japan. I don't claim to be an expert, and know little about Japanese culture. Most of what I know simply comes from casual research online. I just wanted to have a thread to talk about the election.

          My personal politics are communist, my interest in learning about international politics stemming from my belief in proletarian internationalism. My position is that I hope that popular dissatisfaction leads to an overthrow of the existing political establishment, but I don't think things have nearly reached that tipping point.

          (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

          by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:52:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Some good points (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mythatsme

      I agree with you about Kan too.  I wish we could have him back.  I felt he was unfairly demonized because he was the only person in a position of power to stand up to TEPCO.   Also, LDP politicians were trying to hold him accountable for the meltdowns when the problems that led to them occurred squarely on their watch - the regulatory agency in bed with the same people who were supposed to be upgrading the plants and so forth.   That happened well before Kan came on the scene.

  •  Ick, what a terrible mess. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    It's like everyone's tripping over themselves in some kind of slapstick comedy.  I would probably vote DPJ, but JFP is tempting.  I hope the JRP doesn't do as well as they're polling.

    Thanks for the plethora of details.

    Age 23. Voting in NJ-03. Lived most of life in NJ-01. Had Rush Holt represent me during my undergrad years and am now represented by Frank Pallone in my grad school.

    by KingofSpades on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:28:05 PM PST

  •  Thanks for posting this. Hotlisted for future (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, koNko

    reference.

    I deal with a lot of traditional Japanese culture, so I haven't really paid much attention to modern politics, so thank you for all the effort you put into this diary.

    Great resource.

    Democrats promote the Common good. Republicans promote Corporate greed.

    by murasaki on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 05:43:57 PM PST

  •  Political problems aside: (5+ / 0-)

    I'd like to just say thank you Japan, for making my childhood awesome.

  •  A very good summary of Japanese politics! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mythatsme, MichaelNY

    In a way it's comforting to hear that other first-world nations are also dealing with political systems as dysfunctional as that here in the US.  On the other hand, my sympathies to the people who live in a political system with that level of corruption and discord.  (Of course, the US political system is no picnic either.)

    Thank you for the detailed summary -- I learned a lot from reading it.

  •  Thanks for writing this highly deatailed ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Inoljt, MichaelNY

    ... and informative diary. I hope you continue to write diaries here. This is a really messy situation in Japan.

    "This isn't America" - Zenkai Girl

    by mythatsme on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 06:34:24 PM PST

    •  Thank you for your praise. :-) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Inoljt, MichaelNY

      I'll try to post more in the upcoming year! Please continue to comment on my future diaries. ^_^

      (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

      by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 07:47:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Japanese names (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    This is a very informative diary, but your treatment of names is extremely confusing.  Sometimes you give names in the Japanese fashion, i. e. surname first--Abe Shinzo or Ishiba Shigeru.  Other times you give names in the Western fashion of surname last, such as Ichiro Ozawa or Yukiko Kada.  Why aren't you consistent?

    •  Names (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      I refer to them in the order you most often see them referred to in western media, in the hopes it would be more accessible, but I guess it ended up being confusing in its own way. :/

      (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

      by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 07:45:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think it would be most helpful to ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, sapelcovits

        ... always keep the original order, or the confusion will never end. We non-Japanese people have, in most cases, no sufficient "feel" for the Japanese language to decide what looks like a family name and what must be an individual name. We don't even know what the names mean - which would be a great help in that decision!

        "This isn't America" - Zenkai Girl

        by mythatsme on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 05:24:08 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this summary (5+ / 0-)

    of the Japanese political situation. I'm a long-term resident of Japan involved in education, but I don't follow politics much so this was very helpful to get an idea of what's going on here. That you can make such a good summation from Kentucky is amazing!

    My introduction to Japanese politics came in 1980, soon after I started living here. Prime Minister Ohira died in office and I went in to the high school I was teaching at thinking it might be closed for the day or there would be a lot of sadness and shock around like when Kennedy was killed while in office. Instead, the teachers were laughing about it, wondering if he died while "in the saddle." What that taught me was that most Japanese don't take politics and politicians seriously. They see them as a necessary evil they'd like to do without, especially on the national level.

    Most people here are wiling to get involved locally and in NGOs and such. There is no nationally elected president like in the US to get people to rally around, and the local pols are pretty crappy as well, so they just do things together with friends and neighbors to improve local conditions. Apathy reigns nationally, as the large number of "undecideds" in the polls shows. When I talk to my university students about the government, they rarely show any interest in it, preferring to think about business and economic matters. Most Japanese are conservative by nature and don't like change much, which plays to the pols' advantage. I don't think most of them know how fascist people like Ishihara are, they just see him as someone who supports Japan and that's good enough for them.

    •  Thank you for your local perspective (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, koNko

      I think their positions are understood, but people, just like you say, are just so cynical about the effect politicians can actually have on government, that people are much more willing to vote for radicals, not thinking about the actual consequences of what would happen if their policies were actually implemented. This "arm chair radical" sort of voting really only has the effect of weakening any real opposition to the establishment, because no one cares or pays attention. The problem is that we may be approaching an election where people's apathy may accidently put a radical government in power, and then I think people will find they are capable of a lot more than they assume.

      (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

      by Setsuna Mudo on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 07:53:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting and informative diary. Thanks. n/t. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY
  •  A very good summary of Japanese politics (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, lazybum, kurykh

    We've all thought that our politics in this country was as screwed up as ever, but when we compare ourselves to other countries, Japan in particular, I think we, America, are in a much better position than Japan; though by no means are we perfect. I think it has alot to do with Japanese society as a whole for their not so perfect political system.

    My wife is from Japan, and she's always told me just how Japanese people, especially people who've never spent a long time in other countries like America, are so closed minded to the outside world; she calls it "islander mindset". Japan's demographics are also changing rapidly, though not in a way that benefits them in the long term. On top of that, they are not in favor of welcoming new immigrants into their country. I think it's these two big fundementals (Japan's rapidly again demographics and closed immigration) that's leading the country in wrong direction for the future. Unless they have a political leader who can institute some needed structural change, Japan will continue to have mediocure politicans in office who are unable to lead the country in the right direction over the long term.

    •  Going off on "islander mindset" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, ekgrulez1, lazybum

      One thing I learned in college was that the Japanese students that study in America (as in students from Japan) are actually looked down upon in Japan. The large keiretsu (Japanese conglomerates, for lack of a better word) rarely hire such graduates, drawing only from the talent pool in Japanese universities. They're viewed as "tainted" by non-Japanese influence during their time abroad.

      To put this in a broader East Asian perspective (South Korea, mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong/Macau), unless a student is studying in an Ivy League school or Oxford/Cambridge, he/she somewhat looked down upon as someone who didn't make it into an elite university in their home country (well, it's kinda true). Even then, there's still a level of respect for the different talent and skill sets that these graduates have (namely, being able to speak at least passable English and interact to some extent with Westerners). Not the case for Japan, however.

      22, D, CA-12 (old CA-08).

      by kurykh on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 02:42:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I believe my wife told me something about this (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, lazybum, kurykh

        And she said that it has been this way in Japan since the Pre WWII period; any military officer who has studied abroad and learned other cultures were not looked at well by their other Japanese officers for the exact reason of being "tainted" away by Western influence.

        Maybe that's one of the reasons why to this day Japan's economy remains in a deep economic funk, despite the fact that alot of their other neighbors in East Asia have flourished economically.

  •  Excellent Summary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:51:20 PM PST

    •  Thank you. :-) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, lazybum, koNko

      I think the "Kamikaze" election is the perfect way to describe it. I'll never understand what Noda was thinking by calling a snap election, when he could have just stabbed the LDP in the back and not fulfilled his part of the bargain, which is what I think most observers were expecting in any case. He could have held out for months like that, but like this he may have set his party on a course for self-destruction.

      (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

      by Setsuna Mudo on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 06:37:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  what are your thoughts on the demography (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    of Japan? It is an aging population.

    In less than two years, more than one in four Japanese citizens will be over the age of 65, up from one in five in 2006 and one in 10 in 1985. The proportion of the population over 65 is expected to swell to 30 percent by 2022 and to 40 percent by 2050, according to government estimates. This will put the country as a whole in the demographic range of the prefectures that experienced the sharpest declines in growth in the decade ended 2009.
    Aging population = fewer workers = less productivity = declining economy + more dependence on imports.

    How does this affect the political situation and political trends?

    "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

    by limpidglass on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 03:58:47 AM PST

  •  Kudos (0+ / 0-)

    ... for a lucid treatment of an inherently crazy politics. Why, it's almost as bad as DC.

  •  as other people have said, thanks for this! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    I skimmed through it because it's getting late here in the Land of the...erm, Setting Sun, but I'll have to read it again in more detail when I have the time. given that I actually live here, it's kind of embarrassing how little I know about Japanese politics!

    (PS since this thread seems to be attracting users living in Japan - anyone in Kansai?)

    Living in Kyoto-06 (Japan), voting in RI-01, went to college in IL-01.

    by sapelcovits on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 07:31:06 AM PST

  •  Holy smokes, this is fantastic. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    Absolutely wonderful. Sure you don't want to help on that weekly elections digest I did once and have been considering starting up again...?

    How does homeopathy work? | SSP/DKE | -9, -7.79 | "Foreign Seamen, Servants, Negroes, and Other Persons of Mean and Vile Condition." | MO-05 | Yard signs don't vote.

    by gabjoh on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 01:49:04 PM PST

    •  I agreed to help you with that! XD (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gabjoh, MichaelNY

      You just never spoke to me about it ever again after that.

      [ahem] In any case, thank you for the compliment. ^_^ I'd be happy to partner up with you for that; it might be better to make it bi-weekly or monthly though. You can message me again if you want to discuss the details.

      (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

      by Setsuna Mudo on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 04:10:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Heck, I'm in (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        and my previous method was to go to Wikipedia's List of national elections , see what happened/is coming up, google the names and see if I could find anything that looked semi-reliable in English. Guessing that you might have better methods of looking this stuff up, though, based on your massive knowledge.

        (And I was busy for the past few months, and also constrained from commenting online, because of my job.)

        How does homeopathy work? | SSP/DKE | -9, -7.79 | "Foreign Seamen, Servants, Negroes, and Other Persons of Mean and Vile Condition." | MO-05 | Yard signs don't vote.

        by gabjoh on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 07:21:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, not at all. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, gabjoh

          I got my information from google and wikipedia. I'm not an expert, and it's probably not good for you to assume that. Japan is probably the only country I could write about like this (most of what I've learned about Japanese politics comes from this ((english language)) blog I follow: shisaku.wordpress.com)

          Most of my knowledge of politics elsewhere comes from welections.wordpress.com and wikipedia, so if you're looking to me to be some sort of expert, you'll be sorely disappointed. For a more reliable source than wikipedia for more obscure elections, I know there's psephos.adam-carr.net and digest.electionguide.org

          For maps there's www.electoralgeography.com/new/en/ ... that's the sum of what I can contribute in terms of resources however.

          If you're serious about doing this, what are your thoughts about how you want to format it, how long you want it to be, what should be covered, if it'll be partisan or objective, et cetera?  I'd be willing to contribute, but I'll let you take the lead on those things.

          ... I was suggesting we could do a monthly digest instead, because I just don't think there's going to be widespread interest in obscure elections like Ukraine or Sierra Leone, and there's already solid resources online which we can contribute nothing to for people who are interested in them. I think it's better to do it more infrequently, so we can emphasize important news and elections, otherwise there might be burnout (both for us and the readers.)

          You also mentioned your job, and I have work to do as well, so I'm not sure I would be able to contribute substantially every week. I really don't want to make a commitment I end up not being able to meet.

          If you want to do a long-term weekly digest, you might want to try to rope in other people so everyone could contribute one segment (or something of that nature.) Here at DKE, MichaelNY and gigantomecha (not his/her name, I know >_>) might be willing to contribute as well, that way everyone will have time to do an appropriate level of research into what they're writing about.

          Well, you can get your thoughts together and message me anytime.

          (-9.38, -7.49), Blood type "O", social anarchist, KY-01, "When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." — Stanisław Lem

          by Setsuna Mudo on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 08:17:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Reading the heck out of all that stuff now (0+ / 0-)

            It does seem to cover a lot of what had envisioned (I was thinking of stuff along the lines of the previous one I did). I'll shoot you over a message or something in a bit. (And unfortunately no job right now, but I am looking for one.)

            How does homeopathy work? | SSP/DKE | -9, -7.79 | "Foreign Seamen, Servants, Negroes, and Other Persons of Mean and Vile Condition." | MO-05 | Yard signs don't vote.

            by gabjoh on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 03:11:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

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