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Japan Resigns from the International Whaling Commission

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

Rolling Coverage: International Whaling Commission

—The Abe government formally announces its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission, having proven unable to bribe enough of its members to support its pro-whaling policies.

—Greenpeace “condemns the Japanese Government’s formal announcement today to officially withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), with the intention to resume commercial whaling in its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ).”

—Australia “is extremely disappointed that Japan has announced that it will withdraw from the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and its decision-making body, the International Whaling Commission, and resume commercial whaling.”

—New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters: “Whaling is an outdated and unnecessary practice. We continue to hope Japan eventually reconsiders its position and will cease all whaling in order to advance the protection of the ocean’s ecosystems.”

—United Kingdom’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove adds his voice to those condemning or expressing disappointment in the Abe government’s decision to pull out of the International Whaling Commission.

—Nicola Benyon of Humane Society International: “For Japan to decide to walk away from [the International Whaling Commission], it means they’re walking away from international law… What they will be doing is pirate whaling and it should be condemned.

—Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, representing the pro-whaling Wakayama Prefecture, declares in the face of international criticism: “No country is allowed to complain about other countries’ food cultures.”

—Japanese media reporting that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai were instrumental in the decision to pull Japan out of the International Whaling Commission. Their electoral districts are the key pro-whaling areas of the country.

—Anti-whaling groups pleased that Japan will no longer be able to hunt in the southern hemisphere. However, as Astrid Fuchs of Whale and Dolphin Conservation notes, “We won’t know how many whales they are catching, we won’t know how they will report it.”

Politics

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan admits four more House of Councillors lawmakers into the party as full members, bring their number up to 23 in the chamber. This makes them the largest opposition party in the upper house as well.

—At some point in January, the progressive Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan will have set up party chapters in 42 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. They are getting closer to having their full national organization in place. The prefectures that remain are as follows: Mie, scheduled for January; and as yet unscheduled, Saga, Hiroshima, Ishikawa, Toyama, and Iwate.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Party has firmed up their intention to propose legal revisions in the next Diet session that would guarantee equal civil rights, including same-sex marriage rights, for LGBT people.

—Yoshitada Konoike, who played a key role passing the unconstitutional 2015 Abe War Law through the House of Councillors, has passed away at age 78.

—Osaka Restoration Association leaders Ichiro Matsui and Hirofumi Yoshimura are putting heavy pressure on Komeito to allow a second referendum on Osaka unification. They are willing to force Komeito’s hand by provoking early elections that Komeito doesn’t want.

—Hyogo Prefecture moving towards enacting its own anti-smoking ordinance, but pro-smoking interests are weakening the move to the point that its not clear that there will be any actual penalties for violating the ordinance.

—The government might be starting to step up its regulation of the notorious Technical Intern Training Program after its many flaws were highlighted nationally during the recent debates over the new immigration legislation.

—The Tokyo Medical University scandal getting into new, even darker territory, no longer about gender discrimination alone, but apparently also about favoritism to the children of university donors and as yet unnamed politicians. Sounds like another explosion could be coming.

—Tokyo Medical University Scandal: Former Liberal Democratic Party Representative Tsuneo Akaeda, himself an alumnus of the university, identified as one of the people who improperly used his influence to get his younger relatives admitted to the university.

—The opposition parties may have a golden opportunity to win next April’s Fukuoka gubernatorial election. The conservatives are likely splitting between two candidates because Taro Aso is trying to overthrow the incumbent governor.

International

—New Ginowan (Futenma) Mayor Masanori Matsukawa to participate in the transparent Abe government plot to disrupt the planned February 24 Okinawa referendum on Henoko base construction by refusing to conduct the poll in his central Okinawa city. Very dirty politics.

—The mayor of Yonaguni to go along with holding the Okinawa referendum on Henoko base construction, defying the obstruction that was attempted by the conservative city council, with Abe government encouragement.

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki affirms that the Henoko base construction referendum will be held in all parts of Okinawa whether or not some local municipalities, working with the Abe government, try to disrupt the poll through non-cooperation.

—All Okinawa movement to field freelance journalist Tomohiro Yara as their candidate in the House of Representatives Okinawa District 3 by-election. He will likely be facing the pro-Abe government candidate Aiko Shimajiri.

—Journalist Tomohiro Yara formally declares his candidacy in the House of Representatives Okinawa District No. 3 by-election to succeed Denny Tamaki. If elected, Yara is expected to join Ichiro Ozawa’s Liberal Party, which Tamaki previously served as Secretary-General for.

—Liberal Party co-leader Ichiro Ozawa meets with executives of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and Democratic Party For the People and asks them to give their full support to Okinawa candidate Tomohiro Yara in the House of Representatives by-election.

—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki defends the model Rola, who is predictably under intense attack from conservatives and rightwingers: “Whether or not you regard her statements as ‘political’, I appreciate her feelings of wanting to help people who are in need.”

—Akahata reports that the Defense Ministry has spent more than 26 billion yen (US$234 million) since October 2015 for security guards to monitor and drag away the peaceful protesters in front of the Camp Schwab in Henoko.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga claims that the victory of conservative mayoral candidates in Nago and Ginowan shows the pro-base “popular will” in Okinawa, overlooking the fact that their campaigns, especially in Nago, studiously avoided the Henoko issue. This is why Suga is clearly working so hard below the surface to disrupt the scheduled February popular referendum about Henoko. He wants to be able to continue to muddy the waters and make absurd claims about the true nature of Okinawa public opinion on the matter.

—The Okinawa Social Mass Party apparently wants Keiko Itokazu, 71, to step aside at the July 2019 House of Councillors election, and to run university professor Tetsumi Takara, 64, as a somewhat younger generation candidate. Itokazu is believed to want to run again.

—For unclear reasons, the Abe government suppressed a story for almost two months about a Chinese fishing boat that kidnapped ten Japanese fisheries inspectors for about half a day while fleeing the Japan Coast Guard.

—The Defense Ministry releases a video which it says is conclusive evidence that a South Korean destroyer locked its fire-control radar on a Japanese patrol plane in the Sea of Japan last week. South Korea had been denying that there was such a lock on.

—South Korea renews its denial that its destroyer locked its firing-control radar on a Japanese patrol aircraft, saying that the video released by Tokyo’s Defense Ministry doesn’t prove what the Abe government contends that it proves.

—Chosun Ilbo Editorial: “It is clear that there was no intention to target the Japanese plane… Any further escalation in tensions could result in a nasty stand-off between Korea and Japan that will benefit no one. Everyone needs to calm down.”

—South Korea Defense Ministry: “We express deep concerns and regrets over Japan’s release of the footage just a day after the two sides held a working-level video conference to explore ways to dispel mutual misunderstandings and develop cooperative ties in the defense area.”

—Reading the statements from both government and media sources, you’ll understand that South Korea is trying very much to calm tensions over the alleged radar lock on issue, while the Japanese government is trying to ramp up tensions.

—JoongAng Daily: “If Japanese media reports that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the Ministry of Defense to release the video to elevate his declining approval rating are correct, he should be criticized. Both Seoul and Tokyo must cooperate with one another.”

—Korea Times: “According to some Japanese media reports, Prime Minister Abe ordered the release of the footage, despite a cautious approach recommended by Japan’s defense ministry. If that is true, Abe cannot avoid criticism that he is using the radar dispute as a political ploy.”

—Foreign Ministry survey finds that 68% of Americans support the US-Japan security treaty. That’s down from 82% last year. It is thought that the sharp decrease is driven by Donald Trump and his accusations that Japan doesn’t “pay enough” for US protection.

Economy

—The Nikkei Index chooses Christmas Day to fall to its lowest level of the year, shedding more than 5% of its value to drop below 20,000 points. The last time it was at these levels was April 2017.

—The Nikkei Stock Exchange ended the year at 20,014 points. At the end of 2017, it stood at 22,765, meaning that its value dropped by about 12% over the course of 2018. The stock market rise had been considered one of the few areas of success for Abenomics.

—Finance Minister Taro Aso cites the US-China trade war as the primary cause for the falling stock market, but he says that investors are overreacting and that the economy remains basically sound.

—Nissan’s Greg Kelly has been granted bail, even while Carlos Ghosn spends Christmas in prison. One of the accused finally will be able to tell his story in public, if he chooses to do so.

—Nissan’s Greg Kelly was released on bail, but so far hasn’t said much. It appears that keeping his mouth shut may be one of the conditions of his release, and he is under lawyers’ advice, so it’s not clear how much he will say to the media at this point.

—Hiroto Saikawa-led Nissan Motor orders all company employees to have absolutely no communication with Carlos Ghosn, Greg Kelly, their lawyers, or close associates. Note that this is being ordered at a time when Ghosn and Kelly remain on the Nissan Board of Directors.

—Prosecutors and court extend Carlos Ghosn’s detention once again to January 11. As part of Japan’s hostage justice, if you can’t get a confession, you just go about destroying the suspect’s life and create miserable conditions until they confess to anything you want.

—Mainichi Shinbun: “Continuing to focus on nuclear power exports will lead Japan nowhere. The government should take another look at global trends, and review the basis of its nuclear power policy to rid Japan of nuclear power as soon as possible.”

—Lawyers ask for a five-year prison term for top TEPCO executives who ignored warnings that the Fukushima Daiichi plant was threatened by typhoons. Prosecutors, so gung ho against the foreigner Carlos Ghosn, twice refused to prosecute this case, resulting in a special trial.

—Suruga Bank’s new management files lawsuit against five senior members of the former management team, charging them with making inappropriate loans to companies that are related to the bank’s founding family.

—UK-based charity Christian Aid releases report finding that Japan suffered the 3rd most expensive climate change related disasters in 2018, costing up to US$12.5 billion. Worldwide, they estimate more than US$85 billion in damages from 2018 climate change related disasters.

—The activities of the new Japan Investment Corporation are effectively suspended as most of it executives’ resignations have been confirmed after METI quickly violated agreements with the inaugural executive team. They will apparently attempt to rebuild with a B-team.

—The new Departure Tax of 1,000 yen (US$9) per person will begin to be charged at all Japanese international ports and airports from January 7.

—The 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership comes into force. This is considered by some as a genuine achievement of the Abe administration, which led renegotiations of the pact once the United States pulled out.

—Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development confirms that Japan’s labor productivity rating is the lowest among G7 nations, and 20th among the 36 member states. The nation with the highest labor productivity is Ireland.

—Akahata: “Since the Abe government was inaugurated in 2012, workers’ wages grew only by 1% each year except in 2013 which saw a negative growth. In contrast, large corporations increased their profits through Prime Minister Abe’s so-called ‘trickle-down’ economic policy.”

Technology

—FamilyMart announces that it is creating its own mobile payment platform, dubbed FamiPay. 2019 really set to be the year of the mobile payment platform battles in Japan, with at least four major services in the field.

Society

—About 1,600 Ground Self-Defense Forces troops have been mobilized in Gifu Prefecture in relation to a hog cholera epidemic. Thousands of pigs are being culled and the task of the troops is to bury the dead pigs.

—Shukan Bunshun is accusing Ryuichi Hirokawa, perhaps the best-known photojournalist in all of Japan, of sexual violence against multiple women. They claim to have gathered seven accusers to testify to this kind of behavior.

—Ryuichi Hirokawa has been fired as president of the photojournalism magazine “Days Japan” in the wake of Shukan Bunshun’s article accusing him of sexual assault. Hirokawa is not denying the charges completely, but says he never coerced anyone.

—Many observers surprised to see a substantial interview with Shiori Ito on NHK this evening. For the most part the mainstream Japanese media has studiously ignored this rape case and the #MeToo movement as it applies to Japan.

—Ministry of Land reports there have been 3,451 mudslide disasters in Japan this year, which is a new record. While quake-related mudslides are included, the main cause is unusually intense rains and typhoon, likely related to climate change.

—For whatever reason, foreigners are raising their hands in droves to be 2020 Olympics volunteers. Though only about 2% of Japan’s population, they apparently make up 37% of the 186,000 people who say they want to volunteer for the Games.

—Two more death row inmates have been executed by the Abe government. The two prisoners, executed in Osaka, are Keizo Kawamura and Hiroya Suemori, who were both associated with a 1988 murder case of an investment company president. The Abe government executed 15 people this year, which ties the 2008 record for the number of executions in Japan.

—Ten same-sex couples planning to sue the Abe government in February, arguing that the lack of legal recognition of their marriages violates Article 24 of the Constitution. This may be the first major legal test of this issue in Japan.

—With the hike of the consumption tax rate to 10% in October 2019, the government to boost support for child care, including free public preschool education for all children aged between 3 and 5, and financial support for daycare for the younger children of poorer families.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between December 25 and December 30.

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