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The Age Grows Darker

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

Top Headline

—US Democrats taking the House of Representatives is significant, but overall the US Midterms seemed to us more of a victory for Trump than a defeat. He was not repudiated by the American people; he was normalized. And many solid, progressive candidates fell. Our age grows darker. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, however, says what you’d expect him to say about the US Midterm Elections: “We believe that the elections’ results would not have a direct impact on the Japan-US relations.”

Politics

—Ichita Yamamoto, ruling party lawmaker and something of a celebrity, is mulling the possibility of running for the post of Governor of Gunma Prefecture next summer.

—In Diet debate, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterates his limited criticism of anti-LGBT ruling party lawmaker Mio Sugita, saying that she is “wrong” to claim that having children or not having children is the correct measure of social “productivity.”

—Abe government reportedly aiming to lure the centrist Democratic Party For the People into supporting Constitution revision. This may include subtle help to try to give the Democratic Party For the People electoral advantages over the more progressive Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

—Abe government planning to revise the national health insurance system to prevent what they regard as being “misuse.” This includes the sensible step of stopping people who don’t live in Japan being covered by the Japanese health insurance system.

—The centrist Democratic Party For the People reaches six months of age and has never been above 1% national support. They are now questioning themselves, trying to think more carefully what is their identity. Should they go left or right? Their new party slogan is “Let’s Create a New Answer!”… and they wonder why they can’t rise above a 1% support rate? How about, like, actually standing for something?

International

—Defense Ministry seeking budget for a submarine surveillance drone, billed as a measure to protect outlying Japanese islands from the imagined Chinese landings.

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki’s US tour set for November 11 to 15, including stops in New York and Washington DC. He will attempt to build US contacts that might eventually challenge the US bipartisan establishment policy of denying self-determination to Okinawans.

—New Zealand’s Parliament Speaker Trevor Mallard under fire for visiting Japan last week at taxpayer expense. The conservative opposition is claiming that his whole purpose was to watch an All Blacks rugby game, not for building serious links with Japan.

—Abe government spokesmen continue to talk tough about the South Korea Supreme Court ruling on compensation for wartime forced labor. Their line is that the ruling destroys the “legal basis” for Japan-South Korea diplomatic relations.

—South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-Yeon: “Remarks by Japanese government leaders are not appropriate and sensible. The court decision is not a diplomatic matter between the two countries. The judiciary makes a legal judgment, with which the administration cannot interfere.”

—US Vice-President Mike Pence scheduled to visit Tokyo at the beginning of next week.

Economy

—Mitsubishi Materials Corporation close to unveiling details about a fund for forced labor compensation that was reached with Chinese claimants in June 2016. This comes shortly after the Abe government’s angry response to similar claims against Nippon Steel by South Koreans.

—Development Bank of Japan estimates that the four major natural disasters that hit Japan this year (flooding, typhoon, earthquake) cost the Japanese economy more than US$10 billion. Other than the Hokkaido Earthquake, many of these likely related to climate change.

—Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita claims in Diet debate that allowing more foreign laborers into Japan will have “no effect” on employment for Japanese people.

—Masayoshi Son of SoftBank makes it official: His massive financial dealings with Saudi Arabia outweigh Mohammed bin Salman’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Son says he has “a responsibility towards the Saudi people” to maintain his business links.

—Abe government mulling serious regulation of global technology giants Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, which we learn are now being referred to collectively as “GAFA,” one of the greatest powers of this era.

—Abe Cabinet endorses the Japan-European Union trade agreement and is seeking ratification in the current Diet session. At the earliest, it could be effectuated by February 1, 2019. We’re looking forward to seeing if it improves our cheese options at the market.

—National Diet enacts the special extra budget for disaster recovery, amounting to 936 billion yen (about US$8.3 billion).

—Donald Trump: “I tell [Prime Minister Shinzo Abe] all the time that Japan doesn’t treat the United States fairly on trade. They send in millions of cars at a very low tax. They don’t take our cars.”

Technology

—Japan Post begins first drone deliveries of documents, starting in Fukushima Prefecture. Service became possible only after the Abe government was convinced to ease its highly restrictive drone law, which had formerly required the drone operator to always be in personal view.

Society

—Contradicting Japan’s traditionally xenophobic image, a Kyodo News poll finds that a majority (51.3%) of the Japanese public supports allowing more foreign laborers into the country. 39.5% poll as opposed to such a policy.

—Tokyo Medical University to grant admission to the women it secretly discriminated against over the last couple years by covertly lowering their entrance exam scores. It’s too late for most of them, no doubt, especially the older applicants.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between November 5 and November 7.

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