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No.15
Politics, Nos.13-15  Mar. 5, 2013

(RIGHT TILT?) Is "Japan Moves to Right" True? Second Abe Administration Faces Test of Realism

Major Western media, such as The Washington Post and Time magazine in the United States, and Focus magazine in Germany, carried stories on “Japan’s shift to the right” following the Asahi Shimbun newspaper’s report in July 2012 on the Japanese government’s “nationalization” of the Senkuku Islands, and especially after the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) landslide victory in the election for the House of Representatives on Dec. 16. Not only China and South Korea but many other countries around the world began to say, “Japan is moving to the right.” One factor behind such overseas media reports on “Japan’s shift to the right” is Japan’s insufficient explanatory capacity... [Read more]

No.15
Politics, Nos.13-15  Mar. 5, 2013

(RIGHT TILT?) Does Shinzo Abe’s Election Really Herald a More Militarist Japan?

Is Japan drifting to the right? The ongoing dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea (known in China as the Diaoyu Islands) has triggered a debate about the trajectory of Japanese politics, and the return to power of the old guard Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has further enlivened it. Moreover, as LDP’s comeback kid, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is such a self-assertive figure that the argument has become inflamed. The Japanese and international media have already concluded the matter, coalescing around the idea that Japan is presently undergoing a shift to the right. But the truth is not so simple, and this consensus conclusion is neither accurate nor useful.... [Read more]

No.15
Politics, Nos.13-15  Mar. 5, 2013

(RIGHT TILT?) The Twisted Truth About Tokyo

Interest overseas in Japan’s foreign policy – once a dormant topic – has gained steam over the past year as Tokyo sparred with old rivals over its territory and history. Add to that the return of the conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the international media is rife with “analysis” speculating that pacifist Japan wants to rewrite wartime history, change its Self-Defense Forces into a trigger-happy fighting machine and turn East Asia into a powder keg–all under the scary regime of Shinzo Abe. The Korea Times ran a panicky editorial just prior to last year’s election that Abe’s return to the Prime Minister’s Office... [Read more]

No.11
Discussions, Politics, No.11  May. 31, 2012

WHO IS GROUP 1984?

It was the spring of 1974 when I read the article by Group 1984 for the first time. I was on the Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train), on my way back to Tokyo from Kansai. The article was titled “Criticism of the Japanese Communist Party’s Platform for the United Democratic Government,” and had been handed to me by Mr. Yamazaki Masakazu, Professor Emeritus at Osaka University. He said that I would find it interesting. I looked to see who the author was. It was co-written by Group 1984. I immediately understood that the group was named after the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four written by George Orwell. This novel is about a dystopian, highly controlled society set in the near future. At the time of its publication, it was also seen as a criticism of socialism as well as of a technostress society. I thought that the ... ... [Read more]

No.11
Politics, No.11  May. 29, 2012

RECONSIDERING NIHON NO JISATSU (JAPAN'S SUICIDE)

The oldest civilization we know of dates back no more than 6,000 years. During these 6,000 years, 21 civilizations emerged, including Minoan, Sumerian, Mayan, Indian, Chinese, Syrian, Hittite, Babylonian, Andean, Mexican, Yucatan, Egyptian, Hindu, Iranian, Arabian, Hellenic, Western European, Byzantine and Far Eastern. They developed, and in time some declined and vanished. According to Arnold Joseph Toynbee, the seven civilizations still surviving in the 20th century are Western civilization, the main body of orthodox Christians in the Near East, a branch of orthodox Christians in Russia, Islamic, Hindu, the main body of Far Eastern society in China, and a branch of Far Eastern society in Japan. There are also three groups that stopped developing – Polynesians, Aleut, and nomads. Does the historic drama of the rise and fall of these 21 civilizations over the past 6,000 years and comparative studies among... [Read more]

No.11
Politics, No.11  May. 28, 2012

THE SITUATION IS GROWING WORSE

What is most interesting in referring to the mood of the time when the Bungeishunju article titled Nihon no jisatsu (“Japan’s Suicide”) was released in February 1975 is the fact that it was followed by the release of numerous books analyzing the rise of Japan as an economic power. Bunmei to shite no ieshakai [House society as a culture] (Murakami Yasusuke, Kumon Shunpei, Sato Seizaburo, 1979) and Japan as Number One (Ezra Vogel, 1979) are two such examples. “Japan’s Suicide” was a sort of prophecy indicated in the era of Japan’s rise, but has reading value in the era of recession, such as we have today. People living in the current age should reread this Cassandra’s prophecy of an article with the following two points in mind.... [Read more]

No.11
Politics, No.11  May. 27, 2012

COUNTERING PANEM ET CIRCENSES IN THE 21ST CENTURY–FOR THE REEMERGENCE OF QUALITY INTELLECT

Nihon no jisatsu (“Japan’s Suicide”) is quite an evocative title. Few writings have foreseen the pathology that Japan would suffer in the 21th century as accurately as this. This article written by Group 1984, an anonymous group of conservative intellectuals in Japan, was published in the February 1975 edition of the monthly literary magazine Bungeishunju. It argues that Japan should learn lessons from the experience of the Romans, who at a time were industrious but grew absorbed in consumption and asserted their rights so strongly that they forgot their obligations, and ultimately vanished from history in exchange for prosperity. The cautionary words seeking an example from history drew a strong response in Japanese society at that... [Read more]

No.11
Politics, No.11  May. 25, 2012

PEACE FOR PROSPERITY OR WAR FOR SUFFERING

Reflecting on the Senkaku Boat Collision Incident – Almost a year and a half have passed since you were appointed as the ambassador to China in July 2010, the first ambassador from the private sector since the end of World War II. During this period, a series of critical issues took place, including the collision of a Chinese trawler with Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats near the Senkaku Islands; the detention of Japanese construction company employees in China; and the suspension of rare earth mineral exports to Japan. How do you look back on this time?... [Read more]

No.11
Politics, No.11  May. 23, 2012

DIALOG BETWEEN JAPAN, UNITED STATES AND CHINA THE ASIA PACIFIC ORDER AND NETWORK DIPLOMACY

NAKANISHI Hiroshi: At the end of last year, on December 19th, news broke that Secretary-General Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea, had died on December 17th.What action did you take? GEMBA Koichiro: I was in Washington, D.C. in the United States at the time, but I was notified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo that North Korea would transmit a “special broadcast” from noon Japan time on the 19th, so I instructed the Vice-Minister to take adequate measures, including information gathering. In addition, after the announcement of the death of Commander-in-chief Kim Jong-il, I once again instructed the Vice-Minister to reinforce the information-gathering activity and to make absolutely sure nothing was omitted so that we could respond to any situation. Vice-Minister Yamane reported these instructions to Prime Minister Noda at a meeting of the Security Council of Japan held on that ... ... [Read more]

No.10
Discussions, Politics, No.10  Mar. 31, 2012

TIME FOR JAPAN TO SHOW THE WORLD HOW TO OVERCOME CHALLENGES: PRIME MINISTER NODA, BE PREPARED TO ALWAYS STAY ON THE BATTLEFIELD.

Rapid repair and strengthening of ties with the United States needed I recently enjoyed a visit from Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko, giving me the opportunity to speak with him. The prime minister has famously described himself as a loach, setting an image for himself that is in sharp contrast with that of former prime ministers Hatoyama Yukio and Kan Naoto. Noda seems keen to get off to a good start with a modest and cautious approach to dealing with the twisted Diet. During the course of our conversation, I told him that I supported this approach and said that his administration could have staying power if Noda handles government effectively. I’m worried that Japanese politics is at risk of... [Read more]