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No.49
No.49, Politics  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 ... ... [Read more]

No.49
No.49, Politics  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
Discussions, Politics, 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]

No.46
Politics, No.46  May. 21, 2018

An Inside View from the Advisory Council on Easing the Burden of the Official Duties and Public Activities of His Majesty the Emperor ― Looking back at seven months that decided the Emperor’s future

In April 2017, the Advisory Council on Easing the Burden of the Official Duties and Public Activities of His Majesty the Emperor (hereafter, Advisory Council) put together its final report and concluded its work. In my role as acting chairman of the Advisory Council I was also its spokesman, so some readers may have seen me at post-meeting press conferences and other events. There was absolutely no precedent for these discussions on Imperial abdication, so it was inevitable that there would be some trial and error involved in seven months of deliberation. Nevertheless, right now I feel that we produced the best report we could. But just what was this Advisory Council that captured the interest of the Japanese people? As our deliberations have now achieved their initial aim, I’d like to explain as much as I can. On 21 April 2017 the Advisory ... ... [Read more]

No.44
Politics, No.44  Mar. 7, 2018

Politicians Need to Present Hard-hitting Reforms―We have had enough of unjustifiable, policy-free elections

At the beginning of the extraordinary session of the Diet at the end of September, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo decided on a dissolution of the lower house, saying that it was a “dissolution to break through national difficulties”; giving as his reasons a change in the use of tax income, and the worsening North Korea situation. Mainly due to the Moritomo/Kake Gakuen issue, Abe’s support rate has been in the doldrums since last spring, and in July the LDP suffered a heavy loss in the Tokyo Assembly elections. So, from the perspective of the opposition, this dissolution was a surprise attack. The previous dissolution in 2014 was also a surprise attack, and the opposition lost heavily, being unable to react effectively. But this time was different. Interestingly, the opposition fought back with their own surprise attack. The Tokyo governor Koike Yuriko set up a ... ... [Read more]

No.43
Politics, No.43  Feb. 25, 2018

Restoration, Revolution or Reform?― The Unexpected Fortune of Winners and Tenacious Efforts of Losers

Influential politicians in modern Japan such as Hara Takashi, Goto Shinpei and Hirata Tosuke rose to prominence as individuals from “rebel” parts of Japan that had opposed the new Meiji government established in 1868. The key to the Meiji government’s success was a flexible, forward-looking plan for recruiting human talent for higher positions.   How has the Japanese term “Meiji Ishin” been translated into English? For a long time, the generally accepted English translation for this phrase has been the “Meiji Restoration.” The translation appears to correspond to the idea of “a restoration of imperial rule,” but something may have been lost in translation. What about the “Meiji Revolution” as an alternative translation? There was certainly a distinction between the pro-imperial Ishin army and the pro-shogunate “rebels,” but the author is somewhat at a loss when asked whether or not the Meiji Ishin changed ... ... [Read more]

No.41
Discussions, Politics, No.41  Oct. 27, 2017

A Long-Lived, Unamended Constitution

As the debate in Japan over constitutional revision becomes heated, two researchers from the University of Tokyo make comparisons with other nations and discuss the unique features of Japan’s constitution and the constitutional revision debate. Kenneth Mori McElwain is an associate professor specializing in comparative political institutions and party politics, while Makihara Izuru is a professor specializing in oral history, political studies, and the study of public administration. Makihara Izuru (MI): I know that you are researching issues connected with the constitution of Japan (COD) and its revision. Please could you first tell us a little about the background to that research. Kenneth Mori McElwain (KM): My original study theme wasn’t constitutional law but comparative political institutions and party politics. Like my parents, I was very interested in politics, and just as I finished high school in 1994 the Japanese electoral system was revised. ... ... [Read more]

No.38
Politics, No.38  Apr. 10, 2017

PKO Cooperation Act with Serious Flaws Finally Improved after a Quarter Century Issues Left for Kaketsuke-Keigo in UN Peacekeeping Operations

A task known in Japan as kaketsuke-keigo (coming to the aid of a geographically distant unit or personnel under attack) will be added to assignments for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) unit to be sent to South Sudan in November 2016, at the earliest. Armed forces dispatched by emerging nations will perform the role of guarding the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations in the country. The SDF unit will be mobilized in a limited way. However, changing the procedural standard is necessary for the SDF unit to properly perform the newly assigned task of kaketsuke-keigo.   Located in the center of the African continent, South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, is the youngest nation in the world. Japan is involved in the UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) aimed at helping the country build and stabilize itself. In July 2016, a large-scale armed conflict broke out ... ... [Read more]

No.38
Politics, No.38  Apr. 10, 2017

Passing Down The Significance of President Obama’s Visit to The Future

I thought that it would be the last chance. In May 2016, then U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima. Because I was convinced that a visit to Hiroshima from the president of the United States would be a historic event and the chance for such a visit would be strong while President Obama was in office, we continued to work for several years to realize the presidential visit. When it was decided that the Summit would be held in Japan in the year that President Obama leaves office, I thought that it would be the last chance for him to visit Hiroshima. Looking back, the first step was taken when former U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, who took office in 2009, participated in the Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6, 2010. We had also been advised that it would be better if a ... ... [Read more]

No.34
Politics, No.34  Oct. 25, 2016

Interpreting the Upper House Elections: Two concerns about maintaining the status quo ― Sustaining social security and Japan’s policy towards China

Tanaka Naoki, President, Center for International Public Policy Studies

< Key Points > Difficult international conditions forcing a decision on maintaining the status quo Need to take political action to avoid the collapse of the universal pension and health insurance system Diplomatic measures to prevent issues surrounding the Senkaku Islands from escalating into military conflict The Upper House elections saw a fourth consecutive national election victory for Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. On the domestic front, one of the reasons behind voters’ decision was down to expectations of the Japanese market broadening its horizons, as a result of current economic policy and progress with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. In particular, domestic restrictions standing in the way of the TPP would have remained unresolved under any administration other than Abe. Another reason why voters chose to retain the current administration was down to fundamental concerns regarding Japan’s involvement in the international community. Amidst growing ... ... [Read more]