Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Emperor enjoys hip-hop hurrah


Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko celebrated 20 years on the throne this week with a typical formal ceremony, including a speech from the prime minister and classical music performances.

But the elderly imperial couple then escaped the palace for an outdoor celebration that included hip-hop dancers.


Friday’s newspapers showed the Imperial couple, both 75, beaming as they watched the show from a balcony, overlooking thousands of flag-waving Japanese.JAPAN-EMPEROR/

EXILE, an all-male group among Japan’s top selling artists, eschewed their usual wear for formal black suits and white ties, delivering a song and dance performance of “Flower of the Sun”.

Will Obama find time to shoot hoops in Tokyo?



U.S. President Barack Obama will have his work cut out during his 24-hour stay in Japan from Friday as he and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama try to soothe concerns that the decades-old alliance is fraying as the two countries adapt to China’s rise.

 Other U.S. presidents have also had rough agendas in Tokyo, given a relationship historically plagued by trade spats and security angst.

It’s only been a week



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

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.

Unpopular PM to voters: “No-one’s perfect”


For the crowd waiting for Prime Minister Taro Aso to show up for a campaign speech in Ome on the western edge of Tokyo, it was a bit like watching the warm-up acts before the main attraction.

Aso picked ruling party candidate Akinobu Nomura’s home district of Ome  to kick off a campaign for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, the results of which are likely to affect the unpopular 68-year-old premier’s chances of keeping his own job ahead of a nationwide poll expected next month.

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.

Fun and games keeping a finance minister awake


Do you play games on your mobile phone, as millions of Japanese do? Here’s one for you.

A software company has launched a mobile phone game that pokes fun at former Japanese finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, who resigned earlier this month after nearly dozing off at a news conference in Rome.240ss00

Japan’s next prime minister?


Japan’s finance minister, Kaoru Yosano, already has three key cabinet posts. Now some pundits say  he looks well-placed to take the top job, too.

Public support for Prime Minister Taro Aso, suffering  a slump after policy flip-flops and gaffes, took another hit when close ally Shoichi Nakagawa quit as finance minister last week after being forced to deny he was drunk at at G7 gathering in Rome.