Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Japan lawmakers getting poorer?

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Japan’s prime minister may also be the country’s richest politician, but parliament is no longer the preserve of the wealthy, according to an analysis published by broadcaster NHK.

Lawmakers from the country’s lower house of parliament declared an average of 31.5 million yen (around $350,000) in assets, down more than 18 million yen on a previous declaration four years earlier.

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That’s partly because of the large  number of new lawmakers who made it to parliament in the Democratic Party of Japan’s historic election victory last year.  Seventy lawmakers, most of them newcomers, said they had no assets whatsoever, almost double the number in the previous announcement.

At the other end of the scale, the assets of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, a grandson of the founder of Bridgestone Tyres, weighed in at 1.6 billion yen, media said. 

Ozawa’s image headache

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Shadow Shogun, The Destroyer and Backroom Fixer.

Japan’s ruling party kingpin, Ichiro Ozawa, has earned several less-than-flattering nicknames for an approach to politics that has seen him shaking up government in the country for decades, culminating in his party’s historic election victory last August.

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Ozawa’s tough, combative image was reinforced when he vowed in public to fight against prosecutors after three of his current and former aides were arrested on suspicion of misreporting political funds. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said he would stay in his key position as the Democratic Party’s secretary-general.

Japan’s ‘shadow shogun’

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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. 

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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.

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.

A storm brewing

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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.

Seven election words to watch for

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Here is a quick tutorial on seven words you might find helpful to follow the Japanese election on Sunday.

どぶ板選挙 (Dobuita Senkyo) means a grassroots election campaign.  The term became popular to illustrate how veteran lawmakers from the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), struggling in the campaign and worried about losing their previously safe seats, have been running around in their constituency to meet as many voters in person as possible. ”Dobuita” means wooden boards laid across a ditch to cover and “senkyo” means election. So the term suggests that candidates visit voters door-to-door, walking on the “dobuita” to enter homes. But the Japanese election law forbids candidates to visit individual houses during the official campaign period.

Japan two-party system — long in arriving

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Observers of Japanese politics who have long thought the country was ripe for a real two-party system are watching Sunday’s election with a dual sense of incredulity — surprise that it has taken so long to oust the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and surprise that it finally looks like happening.

Media surveys show the decade-old opposition Democratic Party is set to win the poll for parliament’s powerful lower house – and probably by a landslide, ushering in party leader Yukio Hatoyama at the head of a government pledged to spend more on consumers and workers than the companies that benefited most from LDP policies.

Make mine a milk

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Japan’s far north, once home to pet projects of scions of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, looks set to become an even hotter bed of opposition Democratic Party success in this weekend’s Japanese election capped, if polls and analysts are correct, by a local son becoming the nation’s next prime minister.

But while the country decides whether opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama will become premier, voters in Hokkaido will also decide the fate of a certain disgraced former finance, trade and farms minister who is battling for his political life.

Grooming a prime minister

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What does it take to be a leader in Japan? 

Luck and charm, according to the late founder of a school near Tokyo that has tried to groom political leaders for the past 30 years.

I visited the Matsushita institute of Government and Management recently, curious to see what it was doing to fix Japan’s shortage of strong leadersJAPAN-LEADERSHIP

Ozawa wipes away tears, but not doubts

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When Ichiro Ozawa, leader of Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party, became teary-eyed as he announced his intention to stay in his post despite a funding scandal plaguing his bid to become prime minister, he may have won some sympathy.

Whether he gets to keep his job, though, is another matter.

The pugnacious political veteran has been trying to oust Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party since he bolted the long-ruling party in 1993, helping replace it briefly with a reformist coalition, only to see his former conservative colleagues return to power the next year.

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