Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, September 23, 2007


There has been a lot to mourn these days. In the past few weeks we have seen:

At least in the last case there is a tiny glimmer of hope. For many, Abe was the epitome of the sadly-misnamed "Liberal Democratic Party" in Japan (which is neither liberal, democratic, nor a party). The ironically right-wing LDP, which has controlled the Japanese government during the overwhelming majority of the years since WWII, would be more correctly called the "Corporate Party", since it has always represented big business interests far more than those of the general public. Not surprisingly, its history has long been tainted with scandals, and Abe has wound up being something of a poster boy in this regard. The public is obviously fed up, which is why the LDP just suffered one of its worst election defeats in the Diet...ironically only a year after it enjoyed one of its biggest election victories. Many said Abe should have taken responsibility and resigned immediately, but noooo...he had to complicate things. He made a bold policy statement...and then ducked and ran a few days later.

The fight for Abe's successor as president of the LDP (i.e. the Prime Minister by default) was complicated at first, but it came down to a surprising duel between two men, former foreign minister Taro Aso and former cabinet spokesman Yasuo Fukuda. Aso was notorious as a very (obnoxiously) vocal jingoist with a horrible case of foot-in-mouth disease. Among his gems were a claim that Taiwan should be "grateful" to Japan for colonizing and "uplifting" them and a statement that Japan could succeed where the U.S. would fail in geopolitics because Japan is "one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture and one race". The man has a penchant for the irrational, but his loudmouthed patriotism nevertheless led to his forming the largest faction within the fragmented LDP. Fukuda, on the other hand, was famous for being what the other big-name LDP politicians weren't, i.e. he was prudent, rational, measured, resourceful, and always spoke and acted from a position of common sense. In other words, he was seen as a wise advisor, but not as a charismatic hero.

Needless to say, the media favored Aso to win. Guess what: he didn't. Yasuo Fukuda is now president of the LDP and, therefore, PM for the time being. It will be VERY INTERESTING to see how things proceed from here. I, for one, hope that he is able to bring some small amount of sense to the government before the "real politicians" bury him.

Incidentally, and not surprisingly, the Western world is already making jokes about Fukuda's surname and the way English-speakers who don't know better would read it (e.g. "Farkuda" on For your information, it's "FOO-KOO-DA". Now fuk u and get a life!


  • Hopefully Fukuda is an improvement. If he isn't, we should slap an anime tarriff on Japan.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 1:15 AM  

  • In sort of a combination to this post and the one before it, I wanted to mention that Madeleine L'Engle who wrote "A Wrinkle in Time" recently passed away as well. As for your missing three minutes, you guys didn't happen to pass through Peru did you?

    By Anonymous The Intrepid Adventurer, at 5:10 AM  

  • Yes, has already made every college age male in North American (and probably the UK) aware of the fascinating linguistic possibilities of Mr. Fukuda's name...

    But it's more interesting to know the politics behind it, in my humble opinion.

    Hopefully Mr. Fukuda will prove to be worthy of all the virtues with which you have described least he doesn't appear to be a rabid idealogue.

    By Blogger ladybug, at 6:58 AM  

  • RIP long live the icon

    By Blogger QUASAR9, at 7:17 AM  

  • As for the one nation one race
    dangerous as it may sound, it does nevertheless hold true for Japan

    unlike in the US, where no matter how many countries they invade or how much they 'invoke' fighting anti-americanism, the american mation is neither homogenous or at One on matters of race or foreign policy.

    By Blogger QUASAR9, at 7:21 AM  

  • Funny thing with political party names

    The Liberals (now LibDems) in Britain have been out of office for over a hundred years, and are not likely to get back in any time soon.

    The conservatives ruled most of the 20th Century - almost under the auspices Divine Right to Rule of Kings (Britain Still being a Monarchy and the Queen accustomed to a conservative government to look after her & the pseudo-feudal hierarchical & historical interests).

    And finally Labour who a hundred years after being formed by workers interests, finally managed to hang on to not just a second term, but even a third term under the leadership of Tony Blair (a self confessed disciple of Thatcherism).

    And now that Blair is gone, his one infamous legacy endures - british troops in Iraq & Afghanistan

    By Blogger QUASAR9, at 7:28 AM  

  • I feel sorry for Abe.

    Saw Fukuda in the news last night and you are right, he doesn't look like a charismatic hero at all but I'm crossing fingers for him.

    By Blogger Selba, at 4:26 PM  

  • As for the deaths - this too the Buddha knew. Namoamidabutsu.

    As for free speech and civil rights - damn, didn't we fight those battle already? sigh.

    As for Abe - sayonara and don't let the door hit you on your sorry ass on the way out. I have a good kitchen knife if you decide to opt for seppuku and need help.

    As for Fukuda, oh, you mean, "Dad was Tojo's Cabinet secretary, Japan may someday want to arm with nukes, didn't pay my pension premiums, long time oil man" Fukuda? Lottsa luck, lame duck. Any bets on how long it takes someone in his cabinet to create a new scandal?

    Quasar9 - actually, Japan is not "one nation one race", but a mix of Jomons (the world's oldest potters) who were left here 12,000 years ago when ocean levels receded, and the Yahoi who arrived a couple thousand years later with very different DNA. In addition, there have been infusions from China and Korea (even the Emperor has Korean blood) Siberia, even Tibet, and there are significant DNA variations from one end of Japan to the other.

    Recently, scientists have been allowed access to the interior of ancient royal burial mounds. It is thought that this was prevented in the past out of fear that it may prove that the royal family originated in China or Korea and did not descend from the gods (no S*** buckwheat?). It will be interesting to see what they discover in those mounds.

    My, I'm sounding awfully pissy tonight, aren't I?

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 4:41 PM  

  • Maybe a little, Panda-B! What's up?

    (At least no one is trying to blame Iran for any of these things...yet.)

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:54 PM  

  • Hi Pandabonium, thanks for that.
    I appreciate the influxes and the different 'races' in Japan ... of course I didn't mean it 'literally' but it would be fair to say there is still less of a global mix and more of a 'local or regional' mix in Japan.

    Japan, China & Korea are more homogenous than the US, where literally people from all five continents (not just old europe) have churned & mixed especially since the arrival of air travel.

    Japan may have been overwhelmed by Big Macs and Hollywood movies, but they also have their own food tradition and movies. And of course any food or tradition or custom is necessarily generalised ... and never necessarily all encompassing

    whether it be boiled rice or s*** buckwheat - lol!

    PS - Turns out that the Indian Arians (and the gods of the vedas) may have actually been invaders from central Asia come east thru afghanistan and the keyber pass. But there you go ... history myths and perceptions get written and re-written every day.

    By Blogger QUASAR9, at 2:29 AM  

  • Quasar9 - very true. we're both on the same page with that.

    When these politicians who are direct descendants of fascists both biologically and ideologically start talking about the "Japanese race" though, I think we need to look at that very critically, because they aren't talking science, they're talking nationalism and a ethnocentrism and trying to appeal to a dangerous element. That's the only reason I reacted to that.

    Moody - I don't know why I was so, well, moody. I should take my own advice and "no get nuts". :)

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 10:22 AM  

  • Reminds me of the Holy Roman Empire which was neither Holy, Roman, or and Empire...

    Hey LDP it's the 21st century

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 9:04 AM  

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