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Abe’s Pro-Whaling Policy Defeated

SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported recently by the Shingetsu News Agency.

Top Headline

—Confrontation was intense at the biannual International Whaling Commission meeting in Brazil. The Abe government proposed ending the ban on commercial whaling through its “Way Forward” policy and threatened to resign from the International Whaling Commission if its policy wasn’t accepted. In the end, Japan’s “Way Forward” initiative was defeated 41-27. Abe government delegates denounced the International Whaling Commission as “dysfunctional” and suggested that there would be serious consequences, but they didn’t immediately make their next course of action clear.

Politics

—Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui drops disaster recovery efforts to fly to Europe and campaign for Osaka’s bid to host the 2025 World Expo. He is scheduled to return to Japan in about a week.

—Independent lawmaker Junya Ogawa accepted into the House of Representatives caucus of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, giving them 56 seats in that chamber.

—Abe government officials telling the media that after his expected victory in the Liberal Democratic Party presidential elections this month, Shinzo Abe planning a Cabinet reshuffle next month.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly planning to prioritize Constitution Article Nine revision in the autumn Diet session. An Asahi Shinbun poll finds that a plurality of the public opposes that move by a 49% to 32% margin.

—Yuichiro Tamaki taps Hirofumi Hirano to be Secretary-General of the Democratic Party For the People. Although undoubtedly one of the party’s most experienced hands, he was a miserably ineffective Chief Cabinet Secretary for Yukio Hatoyama in 2009-2010.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano meets US Senator Bernie Sanders in Washington DC. Early days yet, but this could be a move towards a more enlightened and progressive US-Japan relationship that emerges in the 2020s. Yukio Edano suggests that, as a result of his meeting with Sanders, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan may also adopt a policy of free university tuition for students as a measure to help bolster the progressive party’s support among young people.

—Shinzo Abe threatening entire Health Ministry with reduction of power or a complete breakup for embarrassing him in the 2007 pension records scandal and this year’s labor reform debate. Abe regime stepping up campaign of terror against bureaucrats who resist its policies.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano calls for the establishment of a “Public Documents Management Agency” to bring order and credibility to government administration in the wake of Shinzo Abe’s Moritomo and Kake Gakuen scandals.

—Jiji Press poll has Abe Cabinet support rising above the 40% level, now exceeding the nonsupport level. The top reason for supporting Abe is “because there is no other appropriate person.”

—Rengo continues to divide the opposition parties, demanding that the CDPJ and DPFP not cooperate with the Japan Communist Party in the Niigata mayoral elections. If Rengo’s leadership is not on the Abe government’s secret payroll, they certainly should be.

—Mainichi Shinbun: “Abe has limited the number of debates with Ishiba and his stump speeches, while showing up for interviews with selected media. Apparently, he has turned down interview requests from media organizations critical of him to avoid questions about the Moritomo and Kake affairs.”

—Agriculture Minister Ken Saito was told that he should quit his ministerial post if he dared to support Ishiba over Abe in the Liberal Democratic Party leadership race. He responded: “This atmosphere of using pressure to manage things is everywhere. I want to beat them.”

International

—Anti-base forces maintain their majority in the Nago City Council elections, winning 15 seats in the 26-seat chamber (about 58%). This will make it more difficult for Abe-backed Mayor Taketoyo Taguchi to take an openly pro-Henoko base construction position.

—More than one hundred scholars, peace activists and artists from around the world have issued a statement condemning the Japanese and US governments’ plans to build a new base for the US Marine Corps in northern Okinawa.

—Details need to be fleshed out, but Denny Tamaki has filed a criminal complaint with police over slanderous rumors about him being spread on the internet. We have a pretty good hunch who it is in Japan that spreads political lies on the internet, but will hold fire for now.

—Yukio Edano suggests that the problem with then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s policy of demanding Futenma base be relocated out of Okinawa was that it was “abrupt” and too little time was provided for such a major policy change.

—Pope Francis says that he hopes to make a visit to Japan next year.

—The Hokkaido Earthquake has reportedly help decide Sapporo to give up its bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Economy

—US President Donald Trump again threatens Japan over trade issues: “If we don’t make a deal with Japan, Japan knows it’s a big problem for them.”

—Rolling blackouts are still a possibility in Hokkaido in coming days as the region’s backup generators are only barely meeting the energy demand.

—Hokkaido Electric’s Tomato-Atsuma Thermal Power Plant will not be entirely functional until November due to the extensive earthquake damage. Until it is back online, electricity supplies will be tight.

—METI Minister Hiroshige Seko wants investigation of why Hokkaido Earthquake caused a blackout throughout the entire island, and why damage at one plant, the Tomato-Atsuma Thermal Power Plant, collapsed the whole Hokkaido Electric power system.

—Businesses and households in Hokkaido have reduced their electricity consumption by 13.9% from pre-earthquake levels, but this is well short of the 20% reduction demanded by the Abe government.

—METI Minister Hiroshige Seko scales back Hokkaido energy-reduction target to 10% after finding that his original 20% was unrealistic. Seko has made a number of unrealistic pronouncements during this crisis, speaking out before gaining any command of the facts.

—There are concerns that if cold weather starts hitting Hokkaido too soon, it could overwhelm the still-limited capacity of Hokkaido Electric to provide power to all businesses and homes, perhaps leading to further tragedies.

—Post-earthquake hotel reservation cancellations in Hokkaido are now north of the half-a-million level. The Hokkaido tourism industry is taking a pounding.

—Kansai International Airport resumes some international flights, but is still operating at a fraction of its usual capacity.

—Land Minister Keiichi Ishii says that the train connecting to Kansai International Airport will be able to resume services by the end of this month.

—Itami city government accepts request to expand the number of flights at Itami Airport, Hyogo Prefecture, to cover some of what Kansai International Airport is currently unable to manage. They reject, however, the request to extend the airport’s opening hours to 10pm.

—Japan GDP growth rate estimate revised upward to +0.7% for the April-June 2018 period.

—Ministry of Internal Affairs considering a crackdown on the popular furusato nozei (hometown tax) system, complaining that many local municipalities are not following guidelines regarding the gifts and incentives they are offering taxpayers to choose their local government.

—Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications considering the elimination of Saturday mail deliveries to improve Japan Post’s profitability and to ease labor shortage.

—Tractor-maker Kubota Corporation admits that it, too, has been falsifying test data about its products, joining a growing list of Japanese firms that were routinely cheating on product safety evaluations.

—At World Economic Forum, Foreign Minister Taro Kono says Japan is preparing for a more serious immigration policy to address increasingly critical labor shortages. Kono has long believed in immigration, quite differently from the prime minister he now serves.

—Jiji Press poll finds that about 60% of the Japanese population is now open to the idea of having more foreign workers come to Japan

Technology

—Abe government to slash solar power feed-in tariffs by about 50%, depending mainly on its continuing enthusiasm for restarting nuclear power plants rather than seriously ramp up renewable energy sources like solar, wind, etc.

Society

—Toyosu Fish Market on track for October 11 after the national government gives its approval. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike leads the opening ceremony.

—Central Disaster Management Council begins discussions on how to manage the effects should Mt. Fuji erupt again and pour volcanic ash over the Tokyo region.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says that the number of people who died in the Hokkaido Earthquake was 41 people. The central government had been slightly over-counting for a few days.

—Some Japanese are using the Furusato Nozei (Hometown Tax) system to funnel relief money to municipalities in earthquake-hit Hokkaido.

—Health Ministry reports that the cigarette smoking rate among Japanese men has dropped below 30% for the first time since surveys began. The Japanese female smoking rate has fallen to 7.2%.

—There are now almost 70,000 Japanese people who are Age 100 or older. Among them, more than 88% are women.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between September 9 and September 15.

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