Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, October 02, 2006

"Honest Abe" Takes the Helm...

Actually, that's pronounced "ah-bay", not "eib". I'm talking about Japan's new PM, Shinzo Abe. He is the first truly post-war prime minister, i.e. the first to have been born after World War II.

Unfortunately, as far as our closest Asian neighbors are concerned, his stated policies reflect that fact all too well.

Following in the footsteps of controversial but generally popular conservative PM Junichiro Koizumi, Abe has always been seen as a rather hawkish politician, but now he is promising to lead the country in a whole new direction...a newly nationalistic one. Certainly, Koizumi was unashamedly patriotic, as he displayed with his visits to (pro-imperialist) Shinto war memorial Yasukuni Shrine in violation of the Constitution and in total defiance of the protests of China and the Koreas. However, Koizumi's main concern seemed to be privatizing public services (and reducing if not eliminating all subsidization of said services) and reducing the tax and legislative restrictions on business. Abe, on the other hand has made national pride his top priority.

Just a few years ago a new series of school history textbooks was published that whitewashed Japan's modern history and tried to claim that Japanese colonization of Asia was both benign and beneficial. Not many schools use it at present, but it was one of the main reasons cited for those explosive protests in China last year, when all those Japanese consulates and businesses were vandalized. Guess what? Abe has been one of the driving forces behind that textbook series from the beginning. He calls it "the foundation of a newly confident Japan" and supports its widespread introduction. One of his stated platform goals is to revise the education system in order to promote national pride. It would seem he is trying to make the playing down if not forgetting of history a fundamental rule.

Our Asian neighbors are not very happy.

One of his other stated platform goals is to revise the Constitution even more than Koizumi did in order to establish a powerful, new military force with the ability to operate wherever and whenever needed. He still wants to rely on the U.S.-Japan alliance for national defense, but he wants Japan to be an equal if not the dominant partner. He says that Japan has played by other countries' rules for too long and wants Japan to start making rules itself. This sounds perfectly reasonable, but considering the "non-military" Japan Self-Defense Forces already constitute the 9th largest armed force in the world (not to mention one of the most sophisticated), bolstering it even a little would turn Japan into a bona fide military power.

Our Asian neighbors are definitely not happy, as this relatively moderate article shows.

It is often said that Abe was elected mainly on account of his hawkishness and patriotism. However, the two men that he beat out in the election are even more rabidly nationalistic than he is. Abe is definitely the most moderate and rational of the three, and that's kind of scary. One thing is definitely certain: Japan has taken a very hard turn to the right. We could be in for a very interesting ride from here...


  • Abe's grandfather worked hand in glove with Gen. Hideki Tojo ("The Razor")in Manchuko (Manchuria) and after WWII was arrested and held in prison as a Class A war criminal. He was spared prosecution however and released when the cold war got under way.

    Seems all the LDP leadership is rooted in Japan's fascist past. Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 6:16 PM  

  • Because of Prime Minister Abe's mask and "soft" looks, and especially beause he did sort of pretty well with North Korea's abduction issue, he is very popular.
    But most Japanese people don't know about his grandfater nor his hawkish side, including me until recently.

    By Anonymous K, at 6:29 PM  

  • this is interesting... i'll stay tuned.

    i liked the last PM... pretty cool that he was so into Elvis! ;)

    By Blogger tooners, at 4:40 PM  

  • I'll stay tuned too. As Tooners said it, I nearly said "tooned". Maybe Japan will start making waves now? (You could see a tsunami related pun here. What is with me today?)

    Anyway, I will miss Koizumi's rather distinguished grey Hugh Grant hair.

    My code is kqqbj, don't tell me I could make something of that...

    By Anonymous Olivia at Work, at 8:34 PM  

  • Pandabonium
    It seems like the LDP just keeps getting more blatantly right wing year after year now that the socialists are safely out of the way.

    I think it was kind of that way with Koizumi's landslide win in the last victory. People didn't pay any attention to his political goals. They just saw the opposition and rebel LDP lawmakers as "troublemakers" causing the popular leader grief, so they gave him a blank mandate.

    Koizumi was definitely unique and likable in many ways...though I started getting a bit worried with the increasingly rightist slant of his policies. I'm in favor of a strong and confident Japan, but I'm not in favor of trying to cover up if not glorify the Showa colonial period.

    Oh, no...a challenge!

    Keep challenging me if you may.
    Quite fun it is, now, every day!
    Queer letters keep coming,
    But my muse is humming!
    Just keep 'em a-heading my way!

    Or how about mine this time:
    Why do I so hammer my brain,
    Only giving my poor head more strain?
    Such vain little lines,
    Pouring forth, twisting minds,
    Verse can be such a fun load of pain...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:57 PM  

  • Wha! How'd you do that?
    How long does it take?

    And surely you'd never write one for an 8 letter code. My code is so long it curves to come round again.


    By Blogger Olivia, at 7:22 AM  

  • Believe it or not, the poem I made out of your word verification code just hit me as I was looking at your message. The one I made for mine after that took a lot longer (more than ten minutes) because I got stuck in the middle.

    An 8-letter code??!? I don't even want to think about it right now...

    Still, it is an even number...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 3:50 PM  

  • And I just did one from a 8-letter code on Happysurfer's site...

    Am I a masochist, or what? (Actually, I'm having a grand, old time!)

    Oh, bloody hell:

    I sometimes tend to be an imbecile,
    Getting myself in water deep and hot.
    So often it is simply for the thrill,
    Venting inner frustration when it's not.
    "Quit it," says my judgment's better side,
    X-raying my subconscious for a clue.
    Humility, hubris, or simple pride?
    The truth is that I've nothing else to do!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:42 PM  

  • Really cool to see the blog of another "gaijin in Japan" :) Really fun reading your writings; keep it up!

    By Anonymous Hasan in Japan, at 11:55 PM  

  • Reading this I'm wondering if you are one and the same as the writer for who take a similar view re: Yasukuni/Koizumi/Abe. The problem for Abe is that the next few years wil be crucial as Japans ecconomy recovers or falters Vis a Vis China and the USA may walk away.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:06 PM  

  • Anonymous
    No, actually, this and my picture site are the only blogs I have. I've never even heard of I don't generally comment on blogs of people I don't know unless I'm introduced.

    You have some good points.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:13 AM  

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