Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Often said to prefer to rule from the shadows, ruling party Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa dominated the front pages of most of Japan’s major newspapers on Thursday, after giving Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama what reports said was a dressing down over government spending the previous day.
Ozawa and other party officials had presented Hatoyama and several cabinet ministers with a list of suggestions that included scaling back a key election promise to provide universal child allowances and abandoning a pledge to abolish an unpopular levy on gasoline.
When the mild-mannered Hatoyama took over the Democratic Party leadership in May, critics said he would amount to nothing more than a puppet of his brusque predecessor, Ozawa, seen by many as the architect of the party’s sweeping August election victory.
A poll in the conservative Sankei newspaper last month showed nearly 42 percent of respondents saw Ozawa as the most powerful man in the government, compared with just over 18 percent who picked Hatoyama. Ozawa also grabbed the spotlight when he led a recent delegation of more than 140 Democratic Party lawmakers on a trip to China to help improve ties.
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.
When Japan’s new opposition leader compared ruling party lawmakers cheering the prime minister’s policy speech to “Hitler Youth”, the comment grabbed headlines, though it was perhaps just a sign of the depth of opposition frustration.
“I got the impression that the atmosphere in parliament was similar to the Hitler Youth agreeing to Hitler’s speech,” Liberal Democratic Party leader Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters after Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s first policy speech since his Democratic Party ousted the LDP in a historic August election.
On the last day of Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s campaign for last week’s lower house election, I went to cover Aso’s speech in Kamakura to get pictures out as early as possible.
A large crowd of people waited for him to speak, but only a handful of cameraman were at the scene, perhaps reflecting the view that the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was on its way to defeat.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
When you pack scores of journalists into a room and they’re all trying to listen to, photograph, and film one person – like the head of a political party – it’s easy to get blocked by the people and things in front of you.
For a photographer, this is the kiss of death. It means not getting a picture. Next, your phone rings with an angry editor on the other end - a brief conversation is followed by a lengthy period of woe and despair. For this and other reasons, photographers go to great lengths to get a good photo position.
Japanese voters debated change as they participated in an election on Sunday that looks set to give the opposition Democratic Party of Japan a historic victory over the Liberal Democratic Party that has ruled for most of the past 50 years.
Reuters reporters fanned out across Tokyo to talk to voters, and here’s what some of those at polling stations had to say: