Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

from Global News Journal:

Japan PM under fire — from his wife

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan faces plenty of grilling from the opposition camp but his toughest critic might be the one he calls "the opposition party within his own household" -- his wife.

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"Since I know him very well, I wonder -- is it okay that this person is prime minister?" Nobuko Kan, Naoto's wife of 40 years, writes in her new book titled "What on earth will change in Japan now you are prime minister?"

The 64-year-old Nobuko -- who calls herself "Japan's most nagging voter" -- also reveals in the book that her husband is a terrible cook and has given up on studying English, and she pooh-poohs his fashion sense, describing how he once got caught walking around in public with a price tag sticking out of his sleeve.

Ouch.

"I am too scared to read it," the prime minister, a 63-year-old former grassroots activist, admitted to reporters when asked about his wife's book about their life together.

from Global News Journal:

Japan voters seek change, may get chaos

Five years ago, Japanese voters seeking change from stale politics and a stagnant economy backed maverick leader Junichiro Koizumi's calls for reform, handing his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) a huge win in an election for parliament's powerful lower house.

Two years, several scandals and one incompetent prime minister later, they dealt the same LDP a stinging setback in a 2007  upper house election, creating a "Twisted Parliament" where the upper chamber could stall bills and delay policies.

from Global News Journal:

Japan’s not-so-hot election

Candidates on the campaign trail in Japan are sweating through the summer heat but voters have been cool towards this Sunday's upper house election.

Sure, the government won't change because the ruling Democratic Party will still control the more powerful lower house.

from Global News Journal:

Japan’s “political deflation”

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"Political deflation" - that's how one quipster described the woes besetting Japan's political sphere as support for both the new ruling party and its main conservative rival slips on concerns that neither side is capable of steering an economy plagued by falling prices, decades of lacklustre growth and a fast-ageing, shrinking population.

Six months after the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) swept to power  for the first time in a landslide election win that ended more than 50 years of almost unbroken rule by the conservative Liberal Democrats, support for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's government is only about half the exuberant 70 percent level enjoyed when he took office.

Are Japan’s rookie lawmakers being treated like kids?

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Name tags on their chairs so their “teachers” can take attendance; instructions on how to greet their elders politely; orders to turn up on time.

Rookie lawmakers in Japan’s ruling Democratic Party are, critics say, being treated like first-grade students instead of a talent pool the government can draw on to tackle tough policy problems from a bulging debt to strained ties with Washington.

It’s only been a week

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Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama stepped onto the world stage last week, just days after formally being voted into his post. After his party’s decade in the obscurity of opposition, the sometimes dour academic seemed exhilarated by the whirlwind of top-level meetings at the United Nations in New York and the Group of 20 in Pittsburgh.
 
Some other party officials along on the trip appeared a little lost. “We’ve only been doing this a week,” followed by an embarrassed chuckle, was the answer to some of the more probing questions put by the Japanese press corps flying with the prime minister.
 
Hatoyama’s Democratic Party has made much of its determination to do things differently from the long-ruling Liberal Democrats, including how they treat the media.
 
Signs of change appeared almost immediately his official plane took off from Haneda airport bound for New York, when Hatoyama made an appearance among the journalists at the rear of the plane. That’s a rarity in itself in status-conscious Japan, but he caused even more of a stir by bringing along his wife, former musical star Miyuki, who handed out boxes of cakes for reporters to share.
 
Buns aside, the biggest sign of change was the regular briefings during the trip, which were given by a politician, rather than a bureaucrat. Some sessions turned into a bizarre game of Chinese whispers, with the briefer passing on information passed on by a bureaucrat present at the meeting.
 
But Hatoyama himself seemed eager to talk to reporters in person. After a detailed run-down of his first meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama left one interviewer speechless, he caught himself in mid-flow with: “Oh, did I go on too long?”He also chatted freely with reporters off the record.
 
Less of a joker than popular former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, who initially attracted popstar-like adulation, Hatoyama could yet win fans in the press with sheer enthusiasm.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Unknown territory for bureaucrats and media

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Japan’s new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, whose Democratic Party scored a historic victory in last month’s election, wants to radically change how the country is run and in particular reduce bureaucrats’ control over formulating policy. 

And his government has taken a symbolic approach – it has decided to ban top bureaucrats from holding news conferences to explain its policy stance. The Hatoyama government has also abolished twice-weekly meetings of top bureaucrats, which have discussed, coordinated and decided policy agendas before cabinet meetings so that cabinet ministers can rubber stamp them. Naoto Kan, the new deputy prime minister, has dubbed the so-called vice ministers’ meetings “the bid-rigging meetings” of bureaucrats.

Political paparazzi

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It’s been a scramble for journalists to follow Yukio Hatoyama’s every move after his Democratic Party won the election by a landslide, making him the next prime minister

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From his opulent home to gatherings with political and government figures, reporters chase him all around Tokyo, with pit-stops at the Democrats’ headquarters in Nagatacho, the heart of the capital’s political district.

Historic win in Japan. Now what?

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Historic is usually a word that makes my skin crawl when I see it in the news. Journalists are prone to overuse it, so when I saw it in our election stories I had to stop myself deleting it — because this election truly is historic.JAPAN-ELECTION

The Liberal Democratic Party had never lost an election since its founding in 1955. Even when it lost power for a few months in 1993/94, it was because of LDP lawmakers defecting rather than an election loss.

Watching the giants fall

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Some elections count more than others, and never more than when a longstanding dominant party is sent packing. I’ve been lucky enough to witness turning points in four countries on two continents.

France, India, Italy, now Japan — all have rejected one-party dominance for the rough and tumble of alternating majorities. In each case, I was fortunate to behold history.

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