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No.51
Politics, Discussions, No.51  Mar. 31, 2019

Thirty years of clambering up and slipping back down— A comprehensive look back at the Heisei period

What kind of period was Heisei (1989–2019)? Kitaoka Shinichi: My image of the Heisei period is of a crab at the bottom of a washbowl trying to climb up but then slipping and falling right back down. Heisei began with the bubble bursting in 1991 (Heisei 3) and Japan tried to respond to it in various ways. Although there was political reform and administrative reform, the Asian currency crisis came in ’97, before these trials showed any effect, and it looked like it was all over for Japan. But in 2001, Koizumi Junichiro appeared as Prime Minister, promised to “destroy the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP),” and became hugely popular. Yet the LDP wasn’t particularly destroyed, and it’s hard to say that anything has moved forward. Then in 2008 there was the global financial crisis, and in 2011 the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima ... ... [Read more]

No.51
Politics, No.51  Feb. 6, 2019

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo Heads into Third Consecutive Term as President of the Liberal Democratic Party (Part 2) – Placing Importance on a Strong Base of Support, and Obstacles to Creating a Legacy

Key Points Koizumi’s priority was to escape from factionalism, while Abe’s is intraparty appeasement Even in implementing reforms, there is awareness of avoiding impact to the existing LDP organization Constitutional amendment is a barrier to national referendum for creating a lasting legacy President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Prime Minister of Japan Abe Shinzo has successfully won his third leadership election. Although LDP Secretary General Ishiba Shigeru received attention for putting up a good fight, looking at things in perspective it was a major victory for Prime Minister Abe, who gained almost 70% of the votes. The important point is that this victory has increased the possibility of Prime Minister Abe achieving the longest period in office as Prime Minister in the history of Japanese constitutional politics. The background to Prime Minister Abe’s strength—as demonstrated by the determination of policies led by ... ... [Read more]

No.51
Politics, No.51  Feb. 4, 2019

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo Heads into Third Consecutive Term as President of the Liberal Democratic Party (Part 1) – The Two Faces of the Abe Administration: Can the Divergence Be Stopped?

Key Points There are noticeable differences in the administration’s “two faces” in handling domestic and foreign affairs The administration has lost its unity/cohesion since the second half of his second term They must show us a way to a sustainable economic structure and social security system Prime Minister Abe Shinzo defeated LDP Secretary General Ishiba Shigeru in a recent leadership election to achieve his third victory and secure his position as Party President for a third term. The only others to have won three or more leadership elections in the past (even including uncontested reelections and extensions of term) are Ikeda Hayato, Sato Eisaku, Nakasone Yasuhiro and Koizumi Junichiro; all prime ministers who built and defined their generations. If things continue smoothly as they are, Prime Minister Abe’s current tenure as Prime Minister will continue until September 2021, having lasted a total of just ... ... [Read more]

No.50
Politics, No.50  Nov. 5, 2018

A Look Back at the Summing Up on the Special Abdication Law

Speaker of the House of Representatives Oshima Tadamori (72) was first elected in 1983, and has been elected a total eleven consecutive times. He has served as both Minister of Education and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. He also spent a record 1,430 days as Chairman of the LDP Diet Affairs Committee. More recently, Oshima, with Vice Speaker, President and Vice President of House of Councillors, led a cross-party discussion group of party Diet Affairs Committee Heads set up to devise a bill to address the abdication of his majesty the Emperor. Making ample use of the skills he had honed during his time heading the Diet Affairs Committee, Oshima succeeded in building agreement between ruling and opposition parties. In this article, Oshima looks back at the days leading up to the creation of the bill. In August 2016, his majesty the Emperor ... ... [Read more]

No.50
Politics, No.50  Oct. 21, 2018

Meiji 150: From Steam to MagLev

Underpinning the modernization of Japanese industry were its railways. Work started on Japan’s railways during the Meiji period (1868–1912), with the help of the British. While playing a supporting role in industrial development, the railways developed chiefly around passenger transport. These days, Japan has started to export railway technology, and is contributing to the development of railways in other countries, including the UK, the birthplace of rail travel. 24.598 billion. That’s the number of people who used railways across Japan in fiscal 2016, accounting for roughly 40% of all rail travel worldwide. With 214 operators covering a total distance of approximately 28,120 kilometers, the Japanese rail network provides support for passengers traveling around metropolitan areas, from major cities out to the suburbs, and between cities. With most of the country’s population concentrated in its cities, that is where there are most rail services, providing ... ... [Read more]

No.50
Politics, No.50  Oct. 21, 2018

Meiji 150: The New Age of Inclusion and Pioneering Leadership

2018 marks 150 years since the Meiji Restoration. The Meiji period (1868–1912) was a turbulent time that became a major turning point, signaling the end of samurai rule, and the transition to a modern democracy and industrial modernization. Crucially, it was a time of inclusion and leadership. In October 1867, the Edo feudal government returned power to the imperial court. The Meiji government was established the following year, in January 1868. Pressure had been growing from the 1840s onwards, from western powers coming to Japan with the aim of opening up the country to the rest of the world, and from those looking to put in place a system centered around the imperial court. After a little over 260 years, this brought an end to the feudal government of the Edo period (1603–1867). Things were anything but easy for the Meiji government to start ... ... [Read more]

No.50
Politics, No.50  Oct. 19, 2018

Japan 150 years after the Meiji Restoration: Share its experience of development and democratization with the world—Do away with vested interests to get rid of stagnation

Key takeaways The Meiji Restoration brought a democratic revolution in tandem with a hiring revolution State-of-the-art industries, technologies and knowledge in the West were vigorously sought Post-WWII Japan has a successful track record of ODA provision to East Asian countries Fifty years ago, as Japan marked the centenary of the Meiji Restoration, there were not many in the Japanese academic community who evaluated the modernization process highly. A majority of scholars thoroughgoing as the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution. Nowadays, however, there are almost no people who admire the Russian Revolution, while the French Revolution is not evaluated as highly as it used to be. Total destruction would trigger some backlash to the extent that the new rulers would often resort to the severest form of oppression. The death toll from the Meiji Restoration stood at about 30,000. Yet, this figure was two ... ... [Read more]

No.49
Politics, No.49  Oct. 11, 2018

Institutional Foundation for the Abe Government’s Political Power—The Development of Prime Ministerial Control and Responsibility for National Policy

The Five Years of the 2nd Abe Administration “The German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who put Germany on the path to recovery after it lost World War II, became Chancellor when he was 74, continued in the job until 88, and then passed away one year later. To avoid any misunderstanding, I have absolutely no intention of continuing on in this job for that long, but what I am trying to say is that if everyone around the world is able to make full use of their abilities then the world will become a more fulfilling place and everyone will be able to lead more fulfilling lives.” (Website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet) Prime Minister Abe Shinzo made this comment when he convened the first meeting of the Council for Designing 100-Year Life Society on September 11, 2017. Prime Minister Abe ... ... [Read more]

No.49
Politics, No.49  Oct. 11, 2018

Decoding public opinion polls to understand the Japanese people’s fickle attitudes towards the constitution: A look back at the constitutional revision debate and the “Neo 1955 system”

Ideological confrontation repeats itself For postwar Japan, the constitution issue always exists as a point of dispute (either apparent, or latent), and has characterized the form of politics. The composition of the constitutional revision debate among elites, as well as the nature of attitudes towards constitutional revision among voters that provide the background to debate, appear to typify the particular nature of the political arena at any one period. Viewing the issue from this perspective, we can now describe Japan’s politics as a “Neo 1955 System” (see column below). This doesn’t simply refer to the situation of one strong party and many weak ones that we have seen in recent national elections. A more important point is that the issue of revising article nine of the Japanese constitution has once again arisen to be a key point of debate and as the determining factor ... ... [Read more]

No.48
Politics, Discussions, No.48  Jun. 27, 2018

Surviving Tumultuous Times with the Power of History The Onin War × World War I: Confronting the Chaos in Times without a Hero

Goza Yuichi vs. Hosoya Yuichi Why is the Onin War Important Today? Hosoya Yuichi: I heard that Onin no ran: Sengoku jidai wo unda tairan (The Onin War: The Civil War that Produced the Warring States Period) sold more than 200,000 copies in four months after it was published. Now that books are not selling well, this is a remarkable achievement. Why are so many people paying attention to a book about a war that began 550 years ago that is notorious, but whose cause and results are unclear? What do you think about the readers’ reaction? Goza Yuichi: I might be the most surprised. There are many history buffs in Japan, but I think they basically love tales of heroes, such as Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Sakamoto Ryoma. When you go to a bookstore, you will see books or magazines ... ... [Read more]