Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

PM ponders “graceful defeat”


Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, his long-ruling party at risk of losing power in this month’s election,  appears to be pondering the problem of how to lose gracefully.

JAPAN-ELECTION/Speaking on the campaign trail near Tokyo this week, Aso quoted a piece of advice given to his grandfather,  Shigeru Yoshida,  by Japan’s last wartime prime minister.

“One must lose gracefully — that’s what Kantaro Suzuki told Shigeru Yoshida,” Japanese media quoted Aso as saying in a speech in front of a memorial for  Suzuki, who was premier at the time of Japan’s defeat in World War Two. 

“A carp, once it’s on the chopping board, doesn’t flinch even when the knife touches it.”

Japan’s Democrats get ready to govern


Close your eyes and it could almost be a cabinet minister speaking.

Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party is gearing up for government after the Aug. 30 election, if a talk by the party’s No.2 leader Katsuya Okada is anything to go by.

Speaking at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event in Tokyo, Okada sought to display the politician’s gravitas as he answered questions on everything from foreign policy to the environment and the economy.

Youth appeal a bonus for Japan Democrats?


In the rural prefecture of Fukushima, north of Tokyo, you can’t help but notice it: The opposition Democrats are quite simply younger than their ruling Liberal Democratic Party counterparts.

The youngest member of the Fukushima prefectural assembly, Tomo Honda, is a 34-year-old Democrat. On a visit to the local LDP headquarters, though, I failed to spot anyone whose hair was not grey.

Ruling party takes off gloves, irking opposition


Japan’s conservative ruling party,  torn  by internal feuds and facing a possible loss in an Aug. 30 poll, is making attacks on the opposition Democratic Party of a sort rare in a country where many have had an allergy to Western-style negative campaigns.

The strategy — portraying the novice Democrats as weak on security and profligate on spending –  prompted a harsh reply from the opposition,  who polls show have their best-ever chance of defeating unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the election,  ending its more than half a century of nearly unbroken rule.

Name That Dissolution – A game everyone can play


Finally, we have a date for Japan’s general election. After months of speculation, unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso said on Monday he plans to call a national election on Aug. 30 after dissolving parliament next week.

All we need now – in Japan, at least - is a cool name for the dissolution.

Dodging reporters?


When a prime minister is in trouble, especially before an important general election, it is never wise to upset reporters.

But that seems to be exactly what unpopular Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso did when he departed for a G8 summit in the central Italian city of L’Aquila this week.

Did you hear the one about the bureaucrats?


Japan’s bureaucrats may have little to laugh about these days, given opposition charges of misspent tax money, but that has not stopped one ministry offering its officials a unique form of training — as stand-up comics.

More than 100 transport ministry officials in their 20s got tips this week from professional comedians as part of training in communication skills.

Grooming a prime minister


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

Prime Minister, 68, keeps fit


Sit-ups, push-ups and back exercises — 50 a day each — are keeping Japan’s 68-year-old Prime Minister Taro Aso as fit as a fiddle. 

Aso, in his latest e-mail magazine, brushed off a comment by one reader that he was looking worn out after five months on the job. Tabloids have also been awash with stories that the premier was losing sleep and weight over a series of setbacks, including the resignation last month of his finance minister, who had been forced to deny he was drunk at a G7 news conference in Rome.

“Divine wind” blows for ruling party, but how strong?



When a close aide to Japan’s opposition leader, Ichiro Ozawa, was arrested this week in a fundraising scandal, tabloids called it a “kamikaze” divine wind for the struggling ruling party.

The image, borrowed from a famed 13th century episode in which a huge typhoon destroyed a Mongol fleet that set out to invade Japan, captured the shock impact of the scandal, which is clouding prospects of Ozawa’s Democratic Party winning an election this year.