Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

A storm brewing

August 31, 2009

I watched Japan’s election returns from the rocky Pacific, with the satellite TV reception suprisingly crisp on a ferry heading south.


A typhoon is headed towards mainland Japan and travel and other ways of life have been caught up in its headwinds, while the impact of the apparently changing political climate has only just begun.

Northern Hokkaido, once a stronghold of the Liberal Democratic Party with never-ending highway, tunnel and bridge projects as testament, deserted the long-ruling party with all but three seats going to the Democratic Party, including prime minister-elect Yukio Hatoyama.

LDP losers in Hokkaido included former foreign minister Nobutaka Machimura, head of the party’s largest faction, Tsutomu Takebe, a Koizumi Cabinet loyalist, and former finance Shoichi Nakagawa, whose family had represented the middle of the vast prefecture for almost half a century and whose struggles were chronicled last week in this blog.

In Tohoku, the northern part of Japan’s biggest island, Honshu, and the home of Democrat founder and former leader Ichiro Ozawa, the beating was also fierce, if not quite as emphatic, as the LDP took 9 seats and the Democrats 26. JAPAN-ELECTION/

“Tohoku is generally conservative, with farmers supporting the LDP’s policies. But before the election their attitude had changed,” said Masaki Hara, a retired Sendai resident, who joined me watching results, along with many other captive ferry passengers, some of whom had lost interest in the Yomiuri Giants game on a competing TV screen.

Hara said citizens were questioning the value of big infrastructure projects, such as a subway line in Tohoku’s largest city of Sendai that had seen cost overruns, while doubting the Liberal Democratic Party’s vision.

“I don’t like Ozawa, but I support his taking on the LDP.”

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