Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Australia Day #changethedate

A view *for* Japan

One week on from the public holiday for Australia Day on 26 January, one of Japan's leading newspapers, the Asahi Shimbun, featured a rather comprehensive article on the debate surrounding the day, invasion or celebration, mourning or commemoration.

Australia doesn't get a lot of coverage in Japanese media but to their credit, from time to time, Asahi does give space to major issues (one on the Manus Island asylum seekers comes to mind).

Australia Day: Settlement or Invasion?

This post aims to give an overview of the contents of the article. I was going to write a post anyway, as a way to convey my own thoughts on the day and as a response to how the day played out on twitter, as viewed from Tokyo. In the end, the timeliness of this article in the Asahi and my work in observing how Japan and Australia understand each other, outweigh my personal views, for a post here at least.

For the record, however, if I had been in Brisbane on the day, I would have been participating in the march across town. I was born in Sydney, sixth-generation Australian descended from English settlers via Portsmouth, on both sides. At school in Sydney, we learnt Cook discovered Australia (in 1770, I even have a vague recollection of the bicentenary in 1970) and 26 January 1788 marked the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove by Arthur Phillip. We even had school excursions to the 'birthplace' of Australia, the Rocks area and Mrs Macquarie's chair, Hyde Park and Victoria Barracks, just so we understood 'history'. As a Sydney-sider, it only ever represented to me just that, something for Sydney to reflect on. I never really did get why the rest of the country would want to celebrate that, particularly after we moved to Queensland.

The bicentenary in 1988 seemed to shift the local to the national. The re-enactment of the First Fleet arriving in Sydney Harbour seemed to trigger a nascent jingoism which has continued to grow, cause disrespect, anger and a contrived patriotism which mimics the very worst aspects of what overt nationalism can be.

Our politics is broken, of that there is no doubt. As a political scientist, that is a great disappointment, on my bad days, a sense of failure. What Australia Days in recent times have underscored is anger, hatred. As a nation we need healing and reconciliation. Our First Nation people are resilient and have much to teach us about land, environment, knowledges that can heal society.  The Uluru Statement is but one example. We need to support the Statement, we need to convince politicians who lack the courage and foresight to embrace this advance. We need to heal and go forward together, rebuilding our society, fairly, justly and equally.

But back to the article. Relations between Australia and Japan date from the mid-19th century. An adventurous acrobatic troupe was followed by indentured labourers who mainly inhabited Nothern Australia, namely Thursday Island and North Queensland, as pearl fishers, as farm labourers; they also went to Broome in WA. World War Two and postwar trade get much of the attention. But over the years I have been observing both countries, they also share a willingness to look to each others social structures. I recall an extended article in the 1980s on the merits of copying Australia's electoral system; there has long been interest in Australia's approach to multiculturalism, immigration and citizenship. A newly published book by Shiobara Yoshikazu is but the most recent in this extensive genre.

So what to make of the article in the Asahi? As the present Japanese government under Abe Shinzo continues its radical crafting of a rightwing conservatism similar to other western democracies, the Asahi has brought a critical eye to Australia's asylum seeker policies and now the settler vs invasion debate as Australia constructs a jingoistic patriotism. It is a much needed critical eye. Where once Japan looked to Australia to learn, it is almost like the Asahi is tempering that view with a wary eye.

The article reported at length on the demonstrations in each city, pictures that flowed through my twitter feed on the day were reprinted and described in detail. It mentions the changes Triple J made to its Hottest 100. Significantly too, the coverage includes use of the word 'Aborigine' vs Aboriginal people and Indigenous people. Asahi notes that it will in future stop using the word Aborigine and instead use the words Aboriginal People (先住民 senjumin) or Australian Aboriginal People in order to acknowledge First Nations People preferences.

I appreciate the Asahi's endeavours in tackling some of the major political issues in Australia, rather than just the odd koala or kangaroo story. It is a further important development in the relationship.

We can #changethedate and we can make a difference.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Mr Turnbull comes to Tokyo...

...a look at the media response

What the papers said today, 19 January 2018

Just 18 hours, a quick trip, a contrast with visits in the past which might have spread out over two days, cabinet minister to cabinet minister. In the 1970s, Japan and Australia instituted regular ministerial meetings which included key Cabinet ministers on both sides and held mostly annually until their ultimate demise in the late 1980s (maybe there was on last breath in the early 1990s). One of the last, the 1989 meeting, took a theme of a 'constructive partnership' and it was about this time we began to see Australian governments begin to 'encourage' Japan to strengthen its defence capabilities. In the context of Japan's comprehensive security approach at the time, so much more might have become of this gentle encouragement. Instead, almost thirty years later, Japan and Australia are on the verge of signing a Visiting Forces Agreement, VFA (訪問部隊地位協定)and security is now less comprehensive and concern more heightened. (And it alarms me I've been doing this for thirty years...)

PM Abe arrived back in Tokyo on 17 January from a six-country trip to the Baltic states and eastern Europe to walk into a meeting with Australian PM Turnbull on 18 January. This visit included a trip by helicopter to Narashino in Chiba, to a self-defence force training facility, not quite a review of the troops but Turnbull was able to see first-hand how Australian-built Bushmasters were being used by Japanese personnel. After a business lunch with Australian and Japanese business leaders, the Australian prime minister was back to meetings with PM Abe including sitting in on the Japanese National Security Council (NSC) before a joint media conference at 7.33pm and then a state dinner until 9.17pm. The detail comes from the 'Prime Minister's Day' published in most major papers, daily. 

A snapshot of PM Abe's day as reported by the Asahi Shimbun

 Mr Turnbull, known for using public transport in Australia, was also captured by the media catching the Marunouchi Subway Line for a couple of stops, vision of which remained up on Asahi Digital for much of the day today (19 January).

In the era of social and digital media, reporting of the prime minister's visit was happening pretty much in real time during the day, but I'm a bit old-fashioned and in my PhD days, with my academic training wheels on, one of my research tasks included trawling through the newspapers for all and any story that mentioned Japan and Australia...that's what we do. Or did. I imagine the young ones today get to do it all via search engines.

But, there's nothing like surprising the staff at the station kiosk on days like today, buying up five newspapers, along with my usual coffee and snack pack. (I also do this on the days on and around election days...they are getting used to my eccentricities.) Measured in column inches, airwaves and increasingly these days social media likes and comments, the day in Tokyo didn't go unnoticed (although students in my seminar class this morning, when asked, weren't aware of the visit).

To begin with, first thing this morning on my regular radio program, PM Turnbull's visit was the first issue of Morimoto Takero's 'Standby' program, on TBS radio from 6.30am. The defence cooperation was mentioned in the context of how North Korea might respond but perhaps the most telling comment was to remind listeners 'Mr Turnbull of course had *that* conversation with President Trump'...indeed, it was food for the commentariat many days after it was reported last year. Mostly astonishment that a president would speak to another leader like that (that, and Trump's notorious handshake with Abe around the same time).

To the newspapers then:

Asahi Shimbun on page four, covered the visit in three articles:
日豪、防衛協力を深化、北朝鮮に圧力強化 ( a deepening of defence cooperation, applying pressure to North Korea)
日米印豪が協議 インド太平洋の安保, US, Japan, India and Australia in consultations on Indo-Pacific security (referring to the conference simultaneously held in Dehli)
豪首相は電車がお好き? Does the Australian PM like trains? with a pic of Turnbull riding the subway

Asahi is considered centre-left in the mediascape, less syncophantic when it comes to PM Abe's constitutional and military agenda. The paper reports that Australia and Japan were seeking strengthening and deepening defence relations in the wake of North Korea's nuclear (and) missile developments. This cooperation includes increased joint military exercises with Japanese and Australian troops. It also mentioned PM Turnbull sitting in on the NSC, taking the 'special strategic partnership' to the next level.

The end of the article also noted Mr Turnbull's visit to the Narashino (Chiba) training facility, by helicopter, where Mr Turnbull reiterated 'this region's two main security fears,* terrorism and North Korea. Australia and Japan and US close cooperation is extremely important'. (*News to those of us resident here but I digress.)


Tokyo Shimbun's summary of growing defence cooperation

Tokyo Shimbun on page two 'confirms a strengthening of security' 日豪 安保強化を確認、米以外との連携進む (advancing cooperation with countries other than the US [Australia, South Korea, India and the UK]
Tokyo Shimbun, notably most critical of the Abe Government's security agenda, reported that the two PMs discussed North Korea's missile development, China's maritime activities, and increasing security and defence cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Both leaders agreed on signing a new agreement that would enable joint miltary exercises.

Tokyo Shimbun ran a most detailed report on the content of the joint media conference given by the prime minsters after their meeting. It also mentioned the TPP.


Mainichi Shimbun featured an article on page two, confirmation of Indo-Pacific cooperation, (「インド太平洋」連携、日豪首脳会談で確認) 
This was the focus of this article, along with the TPP, excluding the US. It reported on the proposed joint military exercises, China's maritime incursions and assisting with building SE Asian maritime security (警備). Abe referred to Australia as a ‘special strategic partner’, while Turnbull reiterated the concerns about North Korea.

A second article on page five used the language 'an unusually warm reception' 豪首相を異例の厚遇、陸自視察やNSC出席, citing the tour of the SDF facility and sitting in on the NSC meeting as examples. The Mainichi also used the expression quasi-ally (準同盟国) suggesting Abe noted this as something to aim for in deepening the security relationship. Mainichi noted that Turnbull was the third PM after former PM Abbott and UK PM May, to be invited to the NSC. There was also a small exchange about the draw for the Rugby World Cup, coming up in 2019. 

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the leading economic daily (think Australian Financial Review in Australia) and most popularly read on my subway line each morning, crowded or not (but I digress), offered a front page story and a page four follow-up. The Nikkei (as it is also known) has been the key journal of record of the development of the Australia-Japan relationship since the 1960s, especially the economic relationship. (For my sins, in my early days as a PhD student, I trawled through thirty years worth of Nikkei articles on microfiche--yes, that era--to seek out articles on Australia and Japan; that's what we do in order to get to this point in an academic life.)

The front page focus was 'pressure on North Korea' (日豪「北朝鮮に圧力」、安倍首相
「状況は悪化」 as Abe describes a 'worsening of the situation'. Similarly, Nikkei reported the growing defence cooperation between the two countries and not to be lulled by the dialogue between North and South Korea over the Winter Olympics.

The page four article elaborated on the joint media conference as noted above. Indo-Pacific cooperation featured as well as Turnbull's attendance at the NSC. Nikkei also reported the use of the term 'quasi-ally'.
Yomiuri's page 4 graphic illustrating China concerns
The Yomiuri Shimbun, the most pro-government of all media examined here, carried articles on page one and page four. Page one highlighted 'defence cooperation' and the TPP (日豪、防衛協力を強化、TPP 早期発効連携). The Yomiuri foreshadowed this visit back on Christmas Day, using the term 'quasi-ally' back then. The article on page four looked at the developments in security in more detail while also recognising the potential issues with China as Japan, the US and Australia increase defence cooperation.  

Both Prime Ministers put their instagram accounts to good use as well, PM Abe a relative newcomer to the platform having opened an account just before Christmas. On twitter, PM Turnbull's selfie with PM Abe and Mr Abe's pic with Mr Turnbull on the way to the training facility garnered likes, RTs and plenty of comments, interestingly, from Japanese followers lots of commentary on the smiles...

In summary then, media coverage was quite substantial for a one-day visit. Not the blanket coverage garnered by the American president but there was a distinct 'securitization' (to use a buzzword) of the relationship, with photo ops with men in khakis, helicopters, Bushmasters and, significantly, coining of the term 'quasi-ally' (準同盟国). It fits Abe's agenda and, likely, for now, Australian governments as well. PM Abe faces his party later this year, seeking an extension to his term as leader (both of the party and the government) not quite the fait accompli many expect it to be. There is movement in the LDP underbelly, with members seeking to put their case for a turn at the Prime Ministership. The contenders, if successful, are likely to tone down Abe's military ambition. Can the momentum be contained? I remain hopeful (I have to, otherwise I wouldn't get out of bed), that we will survive this phase and move into an era where genuine peace can be realised by leaders with true courage, ambition and imagination.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs recorded the visit here. (A note is made of Mr Turnbull's question about whaling...)

The Prime Minister's Office of Australia recorded the joint media conference here, the visit to the SDF training facility here, and the luncheon address here.

(And good work on both sides getting the record up in record time, on behalf of researchers and bloggers everywhere.)
Any queries or comments, please contact me via twitter @psephy


What is ahead for PM Abe in 2018

Mr Abe has a lot to contemplate

Just as PM Turnbull was in town to meet with his Japanese counterpart yesterday, I completed a piece for the Lowy Institute Interpreter. The final version is here.

This is the original version, mainly for my records, but you're welcome to read it too. I recalled a post I wrote back in June 2014 on the then 2+2 ministerial meeting. You'll find that here. The more things change...etc.


A dogged year ahead (a nod to 2018 being the year of the Dog)

As news outlets summed up the year that was and the year ahead, the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s most widely-read newspaper (and notably pro-government) featured its top 10 stories for 2017, domestic and international, according to its readers. Internationally, Trump was the story. Domestically, it was a 14 year old shogi (Japanese chess) master-in-the-making and his run of 29 straight victories. In a year where there was a snap election, political scandals, formalisation of the Emperor’s abdication (for the first time in centuries), and growing concerns about the Korean Peninsula, it was Sota Fujii, who captured most readers’ imaginations. Perhaps it was a sign that the nation, exhausted by the politics of the year, sought refuge in the competitive instincts of a junior high school chess master in the making.

 As in shogi, so too the demands of politics, domestic and international, will require masterful strategic analysis and plays, especially as 2018 unfolds for Prime Minister Abe. 

He began the year with a six-nation trip to Europe, taking in three Baltic States, as well as Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania. Talks were expected to centre on international issues such as North Korea as well as regional economic potential. The visit was a first for a Japanese prime minister and for PM Abe, it was also an opportunity for some diplomatic content for his newly-acquired Instagram account.

 The backdrop to 2018 here in Japan is the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, recognised as the time when a ‘closed’ Japan was opened to the West. As with most narratives of nation-forging identities, the Meiji Restoration has its supporters and its detractors. The debate will continue through the year. PM Abe increasingly sees himself as a latter-day Meiji figure, ready to restore Japan to its former greatness, with just sufficient ambiguity as to just what that means for the nation and for regional relations.

In the broad brush of Meiji commemorations, perhaps PM Abe seeks to avert his gaze from the pressing domestic issues placed before him, like shogi pieces he will need to account for them though rather than sweep the board. Carrying over from 2017, the ongoing tensions with the people of Okinawa, host of key American bases, and increasingly, site of accidents and ‘mishaps’ that the locals continue to resist. In the year that Abe seeks to amend the constitution, we will be compelled to engage with the very real concerns of Okinawans who confront the reality of a ‘reconstituted’ military daily. Australian proponents of greater security cooperation would do well to familiarise themselves with the circumstances that draw the people of this prefecture to an ongoing resistance of Tokyo’s dictates.

 Abe’s strategizing on several fronts leads to his party, the Liberal Democratic Party holding its conference later in the year, whereupon Abe anticipates a further extension of his already-extended term as party president. At times, this seems like a fait accompli and at other times, increasing factional machinations point to a testing road to the presidential post. In recent LDP history, extensions to its admittedly self-imposed two two-term limits on the post (as party president one is automatically prime minister as long as the LDP is in government) have been ceded but only where no immediate challengers were apparent and a level of charisma carried the incumbent over the line. This is not the case for PM Abe and his ambivalent relationship with the public does concern some members of the party, both hawks and doves, who are reluctant to wait much longer to take their turn at leading the party.

 Meanwhile, although the opposition parties are continuing to shake out the 2017 shakedown of break-ups and alliances, it is clear that a more concerted opposition to constitutional reform will coalesce and at the same time, opposition parties are also declaring their intent to pursue ongoing political scandals with Moritomo and Kake educational organisations. These scandals over money and favours for friends, cost Abe greatly in opinion polling, even more so than constitutional reform, which is played out at a much more abstract level for many people.

Abe returns to Tokyo then to walk almost straight into a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Turnbull, while not quite the first strategic move on the chess board for 2018, both prime ministers share a potentially tumultuous year ahead will perhaps seek a moment to confide in each other’s respective domestic domains as well as reaffirm strengthening, if not predictable, security cooperation. The meeting was foreshadowed on Christmas Day 2017, on the front page of the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun, something of a surprise for keen observers of the bilateral relationship. The Yomiuri, as a strong backer of Abe’s constitutional reforms, not surprisingly reported the forthcoming meeting as a strategic necessity, even citing the talks as signalling a ‘strengthening of a relationship with a partner considered a quasi-ally’. No doubt, both prime ministers will nod in furious agreement but it is not exactly the sort of thing that is going to spark the hearts and minds of a populace prepared to back the outlier story in a year of notable events. For that to happen, Japan and Australia will need to go beyond the military-security pretext and reinvigorate a once robust and multi-dimensional relationship.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Signs of December

Wrapping up an interesting year

I'm not quite wrapping up the year on a personal note. Rather, we have reached that time of the year where various media outlets offer their summaries, their 'one word' that sums up the year in politics and society.  In Japan, there are two in particular that are anticipated: the kanji (Japanese/Chinese character) of the year, and the word of the year. I will also add, this year, an award-winning photograph of the year, 'The Okinawa Gaze' (沖縄の視線).

Each of these awards speak to the sense of unease and uncertainty surrounding Prime Minister Abe and his government.

Source: Kyoto Shimbun, 12 December 2017
Today's announcement of Kanji of the year appeared, initially, a little bland, kita or north, but those who have been watching will be aware of its significance. North Korea. Abe's main vehicle for pressing constitutional revision, and more recently justifying an increase in the defence budget, has been the 'threat' from North Korea's missile program. The judges also noted some 'coincidental' 'north' references: the floods in the northern part of Kyushu, the potato drought in the northernmost island Hokkaido, and a couple of baseball references involving the northernmost team, but the message was pretty clear. North Korea is on the minds of most people who participated in the voting process (other candidates for 2017 included 政 for politics, 不 a prefix indicating un~, or disagreement as in 不支持 'lack of support', where numbers for Abe have been quite high in opinion polls; 核 for nuclear and 新 for new).

The kanji is drawn live on TV and written by revered calligrapher Mori Seihan, Chief Buddhist priest at Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. The character remains on display for a few weeks.

The word of the year award, announced a couple of weeks ago was the word sontaku (忖度). It is a word that tends to defy simple definition but it is one of those words that 'when it happens, you know it' as Japanese people seem to translate it. It suggests a request (kind of inferred, but stronger) will be met, without the request (or demand) being formally made (or spoken). It gained popularity during the year in light of a couple of scandals which continue to linger, and which continue to stalk Prime Minister Abe. Both involve educational institutions which have received favourable and extraordinary treatment from the government, implicating in particular Prime Minister Abe and his wife, Akie. The new opposition parties have vowed to continue to seek accountability on these deals in the new year, when parliament returns.

Taken on 23 June 2017, Sawada Masato
Source: Tokyo Shimbun, online, 25 November 2017
The third award I will highlight here is the Tokyo photojournalists association award for 'Okinawa Gaze' 沖縄の視線 a photo taken by Tokyo Shimbun cameraman Sawada Masato ( 沢田将人). As someone with an interest in photography, it is a compelling picture and sums up much of the animosity held by people for PM Abe's constitutional push, nowhere more so that the people of Okinawa. The Okinawa story is one which deserves its own blog post (soon) but the island chain, a prefecture of Japan at the southern end of the archipelago, is where Japanese domestic politics, the US Forces bases and Japanese security all intersect and overlap. The people of Okinawa, led by the prefectural governor Onaga Takeshi, mostly resist the construction of new bases but even more so, resent the way in which the Government in Tokyo appears to overrule their wishes in the name of 'national security'. For many in this particular picture, the sight of PM Abe laying a wreath at a ceremony commemorating world war two at the same time as advocating a stronger military, was too great a hypocrisy. The photo captures the anger.  Governor Onaga is immediately behind Abe, his gaze unmistakeable.

The puzzles for the new year 2018, for observers such as me, focus on PM Abe, his ambitions and the contradictions inherent in a country that wants to remain at peace, fears the missile threat, doesn't want US bases in Okinawa, but can't be without them either...these awards, this year in particular, struck me as indicative of the mix of belief and ambivalence in Japan this year. I look forward to teasing out the strands next year.


At the kind invitation of the editor Daniel Flitton, I will be writing a few articles for the Interpreter, part of the Lowy Institute stable of foreign policy and security commentary from an Australian perspective. A recent piece on PM Abe is here.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Peace in the peace park

Peace makers, peaceniks, give peace a chance...

A week ago, while heading off to catch a train, a group of peace activists were at the station surveying passers-by about various aspects of Japan's constitution, re-armament, nuclear power and the three non-nuclear principles. 

These are not particularly scientific surveys with respondents placing a sticker on a board for their answer. It is, nonetheless, a good way to engage in conversation and given that this activity was happening just two weeks after the election where Abe was returned, I thought the result would be interesting. As it happened, the group was hosting a festival in a neighbourhood park a week later, today in fact, where they would announce the results. 

That is where I spent much of the day, talking with participants, looking at a number of displays ranging from atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China, labour conditions, the trending to the nationalist right of school education as well as the announcement of the results of the survey. 
The responses

The results

The group received responses from 70 people over two days at perhaps the area's two busiest stations, Narimasu and Oyama. The results aren't all that surprising  given that people most likely to respond are those interested in and supportive of, generally, the issues. 

Well done to the committee for making a day of it in the park too. There was dancing, a couple instrumentalists, food and a flea market as well as the results. The event attracted a few hundred over the course of the four or five hours. It was the 29th time this particular festival had been held, and they are already planning number 30, next year. 

While the turnout at this little local festival and results might have been a bit disappointing on one level, I am interested in the way so many people are willing to engage in these activities across Tokyo and across Japan. 

The take-away from October's election was that the LDP (and the Komeito coalition partners) swept in on a constitution-changing platform or that the 53.68% voting participation rate shows Japanese voters are fairly apathetic when it comes to changing governments. These activities don't receive a lot of press attention and it is easy to assume that the Abe government has little resistance. More than half the population (well, the majority of people who respond to surveys through the media or elsewhere) remain opposed to constitutional revision. I'm interested in how these acts of resistance get written into the broader narrative, and demonstrate that the present government shouldn't think it has the broad mandate it thinks it has for dramatic changes to Japan's postwar peace. 

It is an interesting time to be here. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

A case of 'where are they now'?

Reflecting on research endeavours

Today was 3 November 2017. It is a public holiday in Japan, 'Culture Day' but also the anniversary of the promulgation of the 1946 Constitution. (Yes, there is also a public holiday, 3 May, for when it came into effect in 1947.) 

But we had classes as usual and today I planned to take my honours thesis to my seminar group to show them what a completed research project looks like. The students are in the midst of embarking on their 'graduation thesis', a similar sort of research endeavour. I noted on the title page that it had been submitted 'on this day' back in 1986--on the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the 1946 Constitution...

The project looked at the role of factions in the ruling LDP and in particular focussed on a cross-factional group of relatively newly-elected politicians who were seeking the end of factional rivalries and a focus on policy development--idealists all. During my exchange student studies at Daito Bunka University 1984-5, I happened to be introduced to a couple of the politicians and that's how it started...

A rather earnest student, I wrote a rather earnest thesis. Like most of us though, I guess if I had my time over, it would read very differently. Or I would do something completely different. But at the time it was exciting to have interviewed politicians so I stuck with it. 

Anyway...over the years I've kept a bit of an eye on the members of the group, watching their progress through Japan's political world. Some have reached great heights, some less so. But in the age of the internet and wikipedia, I thought it was too good a chance to pass up to look into their whereabouts now, particularly given the day, 3 November. There was something in that, I'm sure. 

So here is a brief rundown of 'where are they now'...I'll run through in the order they were listed in the thesis--basically from the founding group of four and the order in which they joined up. There may be a few surprises* in store...(*only for diehard followers of the Japanese political world, I don't imagine the rest of you have reached this far)

The Forum for a Fair Society : 自由主義経済推進構想

Hamada Takujiro (浜田卓二郎) b. 1941
Hamada was one of the four foundation members of the group. He was elected four times as a member of the House of Reps, and once as a member of the House of Councillors. Not too surprisingly, he found himself in the centre of the political changes in 1994-94, consistent with his 'new politics'. He quit the LDP and like others at the time, made his way through a number of the new parties that emerged and evolved at that time. He last stood as a candidate in 2004 but failed to get elected and returned to law, post-politics.

Funada Hajime (船田元) b. 1953
Funada is still a member of parliament, a member of the LDP. he entered the Cabinet (Miyazawa) in 1992 heading up the Economic Planning Bureau, the youngest to do so. In 1994, he too joined the LDP exodus to form and join new parties but returned to the fold in 1997. He was just re-elected for the 12th time. He has held some significant party posts along the way but also suffered from rather public marital issues as well.

Shirokawa Katsuhiro (白川勝彦) b. 1945
Shirokawa enjoyed six terms as an MP including a stint in cabinet as local government minister and chaired some committees. he two went through a few different parties and, heralding from the same prefecture as the Tanaka dynasty, Niigata, he made some political alliances with Tanaka Makiko, Kakuei's daughter, and her husband, who also became a politician. He returned to legal practicepost-politics as well as some time as a radio announcer.
Ota Seiichi ( 太田誠一) b. 1945
Ota was elected eight times and also reached Ministerial ranks (notably Agricultural minister). He was one of seven politicians who quit the LDP in 1994 and formed the Jiyuto though rejoined the LDP when the Jiyuto merged with the Shinshinto. (It was happening a lot between 1993-94...) He lost his seat in 2004 following awful comments about rapists, but returned to Parliament in 2005. He lost again in 2009 and after a short stint as advisor to the newly-elected Fukuoka mayor, retired from political life in 2011.

Sakurai Shin (桜井新) b. 1933
I had the most interaction with Sakurai Shin, interviewing him a few times, spending a bit of time in his office and learning of his political philosophy via a book he wrote. Also hailing from Niigata, and in fact the same electorate as Tanaka Kakuei, he had an interesting relationship with the former Prime Minister. For some years he led the local branch of the LDP Youth League before a falling out with Tanaka saw him stand for election without Tanaka's support... 
In the end, served one term in the Upper House, and six terms in the lower house. He managed just two months as a parliamentary secretary (Environment) in the Murayama Cabinet (1994) before a 'regrettable outburst'* forced his resignation. (*Wikipedia; in fact it was a denial of japan's invasion of Asian countries during world war two being a bad thing, rather it liberated countries from European colonialism.) So many revisionists...sad the subject of my study turned out to be one too.
He was opposed to the LDP's privatisation of the post office initially but came around post-election.
He didn't nominate for the 2007 election and thus retired from politics.

Ohshima Tadamori (大島理森 ) b. 1946
Ohshima has just been confirmed as Speaker of the House of Representatives, a post he first took up in 2015. That's about as high as it gets, besides Prime Minister of course. he has also held Cabinet positions and key party positions during his political career.
Somehwere in my archives I have a letter from Ohshima who kindly answered my letter of enquiry as a budding researcher...In Ohshima's case, I guess 'there is more to come'.

Kaneko Genjiro (金子原二郎) b. 1944
Kaneko spent five terms as a member of the lower house, and some time as Nagasaki Mayor before returning to national politics as a member of the Upper House, affiliated with the LDP. he remains in the upper house, having been re-elected in 2016. he brings a range of experience to his post.

Sasayama Tatsuo (笹山登生) b. 1941
Sasayama was elected for a total of five terms, representing Tohoku, the northern part of the main island of Honshu. He held some minor ministerial positions in the Takeshita Cabinet (1988) but lost the 1990 election. In 1993 he joined the new party headed by Ozawa Ichiro and Hata Tsutomu (later PM, briefly) and was re-elected. He joined the Jiyuto in 1997 (in the ongoing evolution of Japanese opposition parties around this time), stood for re-election in 2000 but failed to win hos seat.

Sato Eisaku ( 佐藤栄佐久) b. 1939 (Familiar name, but not the former PM)
Another member turned mayor, Sato had one term as a member of the House of Councillors before resigning in 1988 to stand as Fukushima Governor. He was successfully re-elected four times but had to resign during his fifth term following a scandal involving his brother. According to Wiki, he was arrested...

Tanigaki Sadakazu (谷垣禎一) b. 1945
Tanigaki will be familiar to Jpnpol nerd-types. He continued as a member of parliament until this last election in October. He suffered life-threatening injuries in a bicycle accident last year and despite courageous efforts at rehabilitation, he decided to retire from politics once the october election was called. He held several cabinet and senior party positions in the LDP and was considered a great loss to the parliament when he announced his retirement.

Nogami Toru (野上徹) b. 1937
Nogami served two terms as a member of parliament. A Tokyo University graduate, he was for a time a journalist for the Asahi Shimbun. He lost the 1986 election 8the same year I was writing about him...). He tried several more times in 1990, 1993, and 1996. He failed each time to get elected. His son, however, is presently a member of the Upper House...a second generation 'young turk'!

Noro Akihiko (野呂明彦) b. 1946
Noro had four terms as a member of the lower house, spent a term as mayor in his hometown in Mie Prefecture and later governor of the same prefecture until 2010. Interestingly, in his prefectural political life he was endorsed by the Democrats and the Socialists.   

Ishii Ichiji (石井一二) b. 1936
Ishii, first elected in 1983 was re-elected three times. In 1993, he joined the exodus from the LDP to one of the new parties formed at the time and despite holding executive positions and several attempts, he failed to be re-elected. He also tried his hand at local politics, with plans to stand for Kobe mayor in 1997. His last attempt at election was the 2001 election for the Upper House.

Komura Masahiko (高村正彦) b. 1942
Now for the Jpnpol nerdy-types who have reached this far, Komura will be a familiar face, or name. This is the same Komura who announced his retirement just prior to the 2017 election, the same Komura who became a significant and influential member of the LDP and several governments since his election in 1980. His bio mentions that shortly after his election, he 'quickly became one of the young turks, joining the new policy study group'...that would include the FFS.
Among several significant executive posts he was also Justice Minister, Defence Minister and Foreign Minister. He also held the post of LDP vice-president, which he held for a record 1586 days.
Ogawa Hajime (小川元) b. 1939
A latecomer to the group (at the time of the study), Ogawa was elected in 1986. He was re-elected in 1993, and 1996. Little more is said about Ogawa except that he developed close relations with Chile, taking up a special ambassadorial role in 2002 until 2007.


And what of that honours students 30 years ago? Well, I went back to Tokyo to do some postgraduate fieldwork at Tokyo University (1988-89), worked as a project officer in the Australia-Japan Foundation, went on to eventually complete postgraduate studies at the University of Queensland, taught Japanese Studies and politics in Brisbane universities, temporarily unemployed, worked for a Queensland senator and ended up at the University of the Sunshine Coast for longer than was necessary. In April 2016, I took up a new position at a university here in Tokyo, keeping a close eye on the politics of the day. That's a fair bit of work I guess. Is it what I expected way back in 1986? Pretty much, I've been rather fortunate.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Looking at the results #jpnvotes17 part 2

Looking at the results: the fallout

Koike returned from Paris, and obviously disappointed with the result, indicated that her comments about 'excluding' former Democrats may have hurt her chances. She appeared briefly at the end of a meeting of members of the party, wishing them well. She will turn her energies back to the Governorship. It is a setback but not the end for Koike's ambitions.

The independent ex-Dems have opted to form their own faction within parliament for now rather than merge with existing entities Kibo and RikkenDs; this is probably not a great decision as it continues to split the opposition. Yamao, who had to resign from the old Dems prior to the election over media-generated adultery rumours, and who subsequently stood as an independent in her electorate, has joined the RikkenDs, giving them an additional seat. There may be others who do the same. 

The JCP seem to have been quite magnanimous in their defeat. They acknowledge they lost seats to the RikkenDs, but as part of their broader strategy of cooperation in opposition to defeat the LDP-led government, they were content with the result. They vow to continue the cooperation strategy.

Disgruntled Komei voters have admitted to voting for RikkenDs because they are losing faith in the Komei siding with the LDP; this is a big split (and explains the loss of Komei seats). In particular, the issues important to the Komei core include peace and maintaining the constitution, especially article 9. There appears to be some disappoinment too over the 'fair weather friend' approach by the Komei leadership to back Koike's Tokyo government but remain aligned with the LDP at the national level. 

During the week, Koike's righthand man, Wakasa resigned, having lost the election and saying it is time for younger people and women to come through the ranks. 
Wakasu speaking at Koike's Governor rally 2016

He is just 60 (relatively young for Japanese politics) and it is interesting to see how Koike will receive the news. It is a blow and perhaps a lack of confidence in Kibo's future directions. He has announced he is going cycling...I'm not sure if that is what he is actually doing, or whether it is a euphemism...

I am now preparing a longer paper on this election, an analysis which seeks to examine the characteristics of the party and electoral system which can apparently bring a 'landslide' victory for the incumbents while exit polls and trends  in opinion polls are consistent in the electorate's distrust, dislike and concern over Abe's prime ministership. It is more specifically about Abe than the LDP I think, a different leader might produce different results. 

I am also going against the popular analysis and reject the notion of a 'landslide' win for Abe this time. The figures don't stack up. The LDP-Komei coalition ended up with the same number of seats as prior to the election and taking into account the decrease in electorates (475 to 465) this time and the fact that Komei lost seats (34 to 29) suggests a status quo, rather than a landslide. I would contend too that the relative success of the RikkenDs suggests a desire on the part of the Japanese electors to once again seek a less right-wing government...is it the system at fault. 

Much analysis to come, psephologically-speaking...