Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

from Global News Journal:

Japan’s “political deflation”

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JAPAN-POLITICS/

"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.

Pundits are predicting the DPJ will have trouble winning an outright majority in an election, expected to be held in July, for parliament's less powerful upper house. The Democrats need a majority to break loose of a tiny coalition partner -- outspoken banking minister Shizuka Kamei's People's New Party  -- as well as another small partner, the Social Democrats, so they can avoid policy squabbles and pass bills smoothly. An outright ruling bloc loss threatens parliamentary deadlock.

A survey published in the Nikkei business daily on Monday showed support for Hatoyama's cabinet has slid seven points to 36 percent and support for the DPJ  is down eight points at 33 percent.

I really don’t want much for Christmas

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JAPAN-POLITICS/“I want to give dreams and hopes to the Japanese people,” Hatoyama told reporters on Christmas Eve when asked what “Hatoyama Santa Claus” wants to give the public this year, Japanese media said.

Hours later, Hatoyama apologised for the indictment of his former aides, who were charged over falsifying political funding records to make cash funneled from Hatoyama’s own family fortune look like donations from individuals.

Church attacks shake Kansai

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In the minds of many people, religious rivalry could occasionally be expected to  spill over into violence in places as diverse as the occupied West Bank or Glasgow’s ‘Old Firm’ football derby.

Japan’s Kansai region, home to the world’s most renowned Zen gardens and some of the country’s finest cuisine, on the other hand, is not generally seen as a tinderbox of religious tension.

Friends with issues

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They may be on first-name terms, but Barack’s discussions with Yukio during his 24-hour stay in Tokyo have left unresolved a feud over a U.S. military base and deeper questions about the future.

They agreed to review the five decade-old U.S.-Japan alliance as both countries adapt to China’s rising regional and global clout, and they agreed to resolve as soon as possible a dispute over the U.S. Marines Futenma airbase on Japan’s southern island of Okinawa.

Japan voters debate change

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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.

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Reuters reporters fanned out across Tokyo to talk to voters, and here’s what some of those at polling stations had to say:

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.

No Obama moment in Japan

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Opinion polls show the opposition Democratic Party of Japan is set for a runaway victory in Sunday’s general election, but voters are showing none of the enthusiasm that swept Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency last year.

When I talked to more than a dozen voters in a small town near Hiroshima, western Japan,  they were interested in the election and had a lot to say about it. And most were looking for change — but not with a great deal of fervour.

Punching puppets offer election action

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Attack advertising is in its infancy and Japanese election debates are staid affairs between men in suits who take their turns to speak and don’t get angry.

finger-puppet-7The election on Sunday is a battle between the heavyweight LDP and the up-and-coming Democrats, who have a big lead in the polls, but the only big punches you’ll see thrown are among tiny finger dolls on a puppet stage.

Aso flags LDP conservativism

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To some people a national flag is little more than a piece of cloth, while to others it is a sacred symbol that embodies a country’s ideals. It was the latter that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso apparently tried to score some easy points with this week in the run-up to the Aug. 30 election that voter surveys show his Liberal Democratic Party party is likely to lose.

In a televised debate, Aso accused the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan of defacing the national flag, commonly known locally as the Hinomaru or “sun circle”,  at a gathering for one of its candidates in southern Japan this month.

The new face of Koizumi

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One in five politicians in the Japanese parliament is the child or grandchild of a politician, reinforcing a longstanding practice of influential political families handing power down to the next generation.

JAPAN-ELECTION/DYNASTY

But voter criticism has been mounting ahead of the Aug. 30 election — especially in Yokosuka, a port city southwest of Tokyo, where former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has passed his seat on to his 28-year-old second son, Shinjiro Koizumi.

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