Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

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.

“It is natural for there to be healthy criticism and debate about policies, but the stance of the LDP, which is stressing partial, biased information and is not engaging in serious debate, is extremely regrettable and sad,” opposition Democratic Party Secretary-General Katsuya Okada told a news conference.JAPAN-ELECTION/

On Wednesday, the LDP ran a full-page newspaper ad with a big, bold-faced headline declaring: “The Future of Japan in ins Danger.” The party is also running an animated cartoon on its website portraying Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama as a smooth-taking suitor wooing a woman with fuzzy promises. 

Japan’s long, hot political summer


A campaign that began with apologies and tears by the prime minister may end the same way if, as surveys suggest, Japan’s conservative ruling party suffers a historic defeat in 40 days.

Prime Minister Taro Aso dissolved parliament’s powerful lower house Tuesday for an Aug. 30 election that could well see his Liberal Democratic Party ousted for only the second time since its founding more than half a century ago.  

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.

from FaithWorld:

Japan’s rare Catholic PM Taro Aso meets Pope Benedict


aso-popeJapanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, a member of Japan's tiny Roman Catholic minority, had a chance toenjoy some time away from political trouble at home when he met with Pope Benedict on Tuesday.

As his first stop during a trip to attend July 8-10 summit of G8 leaders in Italy, Aso went to the Vatican, gave the pope a Sony digital video camera and discussed the global economic crisis with him.

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.

from FaithWorld:

Catholic regular at Shinto shrines to visit pope at the Vatican


yasukuniPope Benedict has been criticised for his handling of relationships with the world's other religions. On Monday Tuesday, he is due to receive at the Vatican Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso, who has little difficulty with mixing and matching various faiths.

Though an avowed member of Japan's tiny Roman Catholic minority, Aso regularly pays respects and offers gifts at Shinto shrines. Japan's indigenous religion of Shinto is polytheistic -- its doctrine says the world is crowded with divinities, mostly in natural phenomena such as the sun, moon, wind and mountains. Combining this with Christianity's monotheism may sound like a contradiction, but it is something many Japanese Catholics take in their stride.

Nippon or Nihon?


What’s in a name? A lot, according to one Japanese lawmaker, who’s appalled by his country’s schizophrenia over how to pronounce the two ideographs rendered in English as “Japan”.

“What is the formal name of this country? Overseas, it is called ‘Japan’, but Japanese people say both ‘Nihon’ and ‘Nippon’,” opposition parliament member Tetsundo Iwakuni told me.

North Korea’s test of wills


Japan, perhaps the most nervous neighbor of unpredictable North Korea, is also the least able to overtly make its fears felt, after this week’s nuclear test.

Analysts point out the combination of Tokyo’s history of antagonism with the North and the fact that Pyongyang boasts missiles that could hit almost anywhere in Japan pose particular risks for the world’s second largest economy.

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