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The End of the Liberal Party

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

Rolling Coverage: Opposition Party Realignment

—Seven lawmakers led by former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda establish a new parliamentary caucus in the House of Representatives. It goes by the catchy name of “The Reviewing Group on Social Security Policy.”

—Democratic Party For the People and Liberal Party have apparently agreed to a full merger which may see Yuichiro Tamaki as party leader and Ichiro Ozawa as secretary-general. This consolidation aimed at a better performance in the July House of Councillors elections.

—The biggest stumbling block for this merger is likely to be nuclear energy policy. The Liberal Party has lawmakers entirely dedicated to a “zero nuclear” policy, while the Democratic Party For the People includes some outspokenly pro-nuclear lawmakers.

—The Democratic Party For the People merger with the Liberal Party will create the largest opposition caucus in the House of Councillors, taking that distinction back from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which recently took the top position in that chamber.

—The way the merger will work is that the Liberal Party will dissolve itself and its lawmakers will then enter the Democratic Party For the People. At present it seems there will be no party name change, just the disappearance of the Liberal Party.

—One pending question will be regarding Tomohiro Yara, the All-Okinawa candidate for the House of Representatives Okinawa No. 3 District by-election on April 21. If he won, he was expected to join the Liberal Party. Would he now be obligated to join the Democratic Party For the People?

—It will also be interesting to see if the new Democratic Party For the People will have any sort of coherence or unity with lawmakers like Yasukuni Shrine visiting Yuichiro Hata on the one hand, and lawmakers like Taro Yamamoto on the other hand. Sounds stable, right?

—On the whole, though, the disappearance of the Liberal Party can only be a good thing for the progressive opposition. One less mini-party means one less distraction syphoning off proportional representation votes from the more viable Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Politics

—Likely Diet schedule going forward (but subject to change): 01.28 – Opening of Ordinary Diet Session; 06.26 – Close of Ordinary Diet Session; 07.04 – Start of House of Councillors Official Campaign Period; 07.21 – House of Councillors Elections.

— Democratic Party For the People leader Yuichiro Tamaki plays right into the Abe government’s hands. He openly attacks Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano for making no public comments about the South Korea radar incident. Edano has kept the focus on Okinawa, where it should be. Our analysis from the beginning was that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the radar dispute public in part to distract from his actions in Okinawa. Unfortunately, this sleazy flag-waving tactic is working all too well, even dividing the opposition parties. This is also why the Democratic Party For the People is headed for the dustbin of history. Which constituency is Tamaki appealing to when he attacks Edano with this nationalist garbage? He’s appealing to people who only vote Liberal Democratic Party or parties further right. They aren’t going to vote for the Democratic Party For the People anyway.

—Liberal Democratic Party close to a decision on their candidate for Hokkaido Governor. It’s between Land Ministry senior bureaucrat Akihiro Izumi and Yubari Mayor Naomichi Suzuki. The opposition is also having trouble selecting their candidate for the April election.

—Yoshihide Yada, who has been Mayor of Tokyo’s Chuo Ward since 1987 (that’s 32 years!) has announced that he will not be running for a 9th term in the upcoming April elections. Chuo Ward will thus have its first new mayor this year in a long, long time.

—Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi clearly becoming increasingly concerned that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will call a double election in July. Speculation that Abe will do so is becoming more prevalent in the political world

—Prominent Japanese fascist commentator Naoki Hyakuta piles on the attacks over the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s silence on the South Korean radar incident: “The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is a Korean political party wearing Japanese skin,” he declares. As is evident, when the nationalist madness is unleashed, rightwingers start denouncing people as traitors not only for voicing criticism, but even simply for remaining silent and declining to jump on their bandwagon of hate. That’s why these people cannot be allowed power.

—Female members of the Imperial Family to be excluded from from viewing the Kenji to Shokei no Gi Imperial accession ceremony because, well, gender equality still isn’t a priority for the Abe government, compared to maintaining Meiji Era invented chauvinist customs.

—Opposition parties have good opportunities in the upcoming gubernatorial races in Fukuoka, Fukui, Shimane, and Tokushima because in each case the national Liberal Democratic Party and the local Liberal Democratic Party are split on their candidate support plan. Not clear if the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan can or will capitalize.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano travels to Okinawa to view the destruction of Henoko beach and to rally support for the All-Okinawa candidate in the upcoming House of Representatives Okinawa District 3 by-election.

—The reason we haven’t been hearing about Abe’s legislative agenda for the upcoming Ordinary Diet Session is because there isn’t much of an agenda. The number of bill submitted may hit a postwar record low and controversial plans being delayed until after the July elections.

International

—South Korea Defense Ministry on the Singapore bilateral talks: “Japan did not disclose the radar frequency data that it has about our warship, which is a smoking gun, and instead only asked for information from South Korea. Such a demand is extremely rude and unacceptable.”

—Japan’s Defense Ministry protests South Korean Defense Ministry’s public disclosure of the contents of bilateral working-level talks in Singapore, also claiming that South Korea misrepresented the contents of the talks in certain ways.

—The next useless dispute between Japan and South Korea looks to be over the vital national question of whether the body of water between them should be known internationally as the Sea of Japan or the East Sea.

—The Japanese and South Korea militaries, one month on from the December 20 incident, continue to bicker over whether or not South Korean warships aimed fire-control radar at a Japanese patrol plane. The Abe government announces a halt of bilateral military talks.

—Governor Denny Tamaki points out that as a resident of Okinawa city, run by pro-Abe conservative saboteurs, he personally may be unable to vote in the Henoko base construction referendum.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano suggests that lawsuits might be filed by local citizens against the mayors and city councils who are sabotaging the Okinawa referendum on the construction of the US Marine base at Henoko.

—Ryukyu Shimpo has uncovered the part of evidence showing what we knew to be true but couldn’t prove: The Abe government encouraged the conservative local leaders in Okinawa to sabotage the Henoko referendum.

—Okinawa Prefectural Assembly exploring idea of adding a third referendum option to whether the people “support” or “oppose” the construction of the Henoko base. This is meant as a compromise to bring the conservative municipalities back into the fold.

—Jinshiro Motoyama ends his hunger strike after 105 hours. The democratic rights for self-determination of the Okinawan people remain unrespected by either Washington or Tokyo, but the struggle will no doubt continue.

—Katsuya Takasu, surely one of the most repugnant public figures in Japan with his open Holocaust denial and Nanjing massacre denial, mocks the hunger strike of Jinshiro Motoyama as a “comedy” and a mere “diet.” This man is often on TV.

—126 Constitution scholars to release statement describing the forcible construction of the US Marine airbase at Henoko as “unconstitutional” on the basis of it violating democracy, fundamental respect for human rights, and the local government autonomy provisions.

—The seafloor at Henoko is softer than expected in some places, requiring some changes in the airbase construction plan. This requires new permissions from the prefectural government that Governor Denny Tamaki has already vowed not to agree to.

—Abe government officials admit to the Japanese media that negotiations with North Korea over the abductee issue haven’t gone anywhere at all. Pyongyang evidently believes there’s little point talking to Abe, as compared to the more flexible Trump and Moon governments.

—Minister of Economic Revitalization Toshimitsu Motegi visits Bangladesh. When meeting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he plays down the fact her election was a farce, built on widespread suppression and violence against opposition parties.

—Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov asks a good question: “Why is Japan the only country in the world that cannot accept the results of World War II in their entirety?” Answer: Because the unrepentant grandchildren of War Criminals like Nobusuke Kishi returned to power.

—Several hundred Russians march in Moscow against the notion of returning any part of the Southern Kuriles / Northern Territories to Japan. This comes a couple days in advance of a scheduled summit meeting between Shinzo Abe and Vladimir Putin.

—Japanese rightwingers start bouncing off the (social media) walls as an unnamed senior Abe government official tells Kyodo News that the notion of Russia returning all four disputed islands to Japan is “unrealistic.”

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has left Japan bound for Moscow. His meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to be high stakes as the moment of truth on territorial negotiations and a possible peace treaty seems to have arrived.

—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya seems to be focusing on militarizing space and also cyberspace. He emphasized these subjects in a recent meeting with his Indian counterpart and has done so again during his trip to Washington DC.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe planning to use his appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos to propose a global effort to combat plastic pollution. This is one of the few occasions upon which Abe is using his power for a genuinely positive purpose.

Economy

—Reuters reports that the Hiroto Saikawa-led Nissan preparing to file a civil lawsuit against former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, claiming he misused company funds. Saikawa’s campaign against his former superior has been brutal, so we tend to believe this report.

—Man On The Run! Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda cites “personal reasons” for refusing to attend a scheduled International Olympic Committee meeting in Switzerland in which he was to chair a panel. Guess he fears hostage justice!

—Keidanren Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi speaks on the Carlos Ghosn case: “There’s a need to recognize the fact that Japan’s way of detaining people for a long time is being rejected by the common sense of the global community.”

—There’s still no indication from the Abe government that they recognize the Carlos Ghosn case is badly damaging Japan’s international reputation, and directly undermines their supposed policy of bringing in more high-level international business executives to Japan.

—Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita outraged by international criticism of the Japanese legal system in light of the Carlos Ghosn case: “Different countries have different systems!” he declares. Apparently, he has no interest in reforming hostage justice.

—The Macron government asks Japan to agree to a merger between Nissan and Renault. There’s a good chance that Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa through Carlos Ghosn under the bus specifically to stop such a merger. Now, however, its a major diplomatic issue as well.

—The role of Dentsu is becoming a focus in the French investigation of possible Japanese Olympic Committee payoffs to obtain the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They are the ones, it seems, who connected Tsunekazu Takeda with Papa Massata Diack and Black Tidings.

—Carlos Ghosn pledging to the Tokyo court that if released he will not flee Japan and would be willing to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet and report his whereabouts daily.

—Carlos Ghosn’s wife Carole tells CNN: “For hours each day, the prosecutors interrogate him, browbeat him, lecture him, and berate him, outside the presence of his attorneys, in an effort to extract a confession.”

—After more than two months in detention, Carlos Ghosn is… condemned to yet more time in detention as the court once again rejects his request for bail. Ghosn had offered any security guarantees the court wanted, but it made no difference.

—Japan appears to be moving towards a revision of corporate law that will require large firms to have outside directors on their boards.

—Many economists predicting that the end of the weak Yen is in sight. It might not be long before the exchange rate is about US$1.00 = 100 Yen. If there is a recession in Japan, that number could go back to 2012 levels of 90 or 80. Abenomics being dialed back to zero.

—Hitachi publicly confirms that it is suspending construction of the Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Power Plant in the United Kingdom as financial losses have been piling up at a staggering rate. Abe’s pro-nuclear policy takes another heavy blow.

—Yomiuri Shinbun laments the serial failures of the Abe government’s nuclear export policies: “It is highly likely the number of Japanese nuclear export projects could effectively become zero.” They want more taxpayer money to go down this same rathole.

—In the wake of the collapse of the Abe government’s nuclear export policy, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga warns that Japan must maintain its nuclear industry skills and manpower in order to operate existing nuclear plants in Japan and clean up Fukushima Daiichi.

—METI Minister Hiroshige Seko makes clear that his opinion is unchanged that nuclear power should be the government’s main energy focus, and that he still thinks it is the most economical. He won’t be shaken in his desire to downplay renewable energies like solar, etc. Seko, never one of the more savvy flunkeys of Shinzo Abe, now acting like one of those Japanese generals in the last months of the Pacific War. His policy of nuclear energy exports is totally defeated, but he pretends that fighting spirit will save it

—In what one insider called “an unprecedented scandal shaking public trust in government statistics,” the Labor Ministry jobs data scandal has become a major embarrassment. It’s now confirmed that nationwide wage levels have long been higher than the official data showed.

—Abe government increases the FY2019 draft budget by 650 million yen (about US$6 million) to cover additional payments it should have made to the unemployed had the Labor Ministry not botched its data on national wage levels.

—Extended government shutdown in the United States is resulting in the bilateral US-Japan trade talks being delayed. The Abe administration isn’t complaining because they never wanted these bilateral talks anyway, but had caved to Trump administration pressure.

—Ministers from Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership countries meet in Tokyo to discuss the possible expansion of the pact beyond the founding eleven nations. No clear decisions appear to have been reached.

—Revealed that the Tsutaya T Card has been a secret source of information for police and prosecutors for years. At police request, with no court order, the company has secretly handed over names, birth dates, phone numbers, shopping, and movie rental records of its customers.

—No more adult magazines in convenience stores. Major chains are getting rid of their adult magazines because Japanese authorities are worrying more about their international image with the 2020 Olympics on the way and a keener focus on the tourism industry.

Technology

—Ibaraki Governor Kazuhiro Oikawa signs deal with Origami, Inc. to create a new smartphone-based cashless payments system in the prefecture. It’s not clear that one prefecture will be able to compete with all the major players moving into that business right now.

—Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications indicates that Japanese privacy and anti-monopoly laws may soon be enforced vis-a-vis the GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) technology giants. This is part of a growing global trend. Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is particularly looking at GAFA’s non-consensual use of people’s email and texting data for advertisement targeting and other such purposes.

—Toyota Motor and Panasonic to join forces to create a new joint venture to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles. The two companies began working together on battery technology in 2017, and the new venture is meant to tighten the alliance.

Society

—Tokyo, which has about 550,000 foreign residents, not including the tourists on any given day, thinking about how it can better prepare for disasters. A disaster drill aimed at helping foreigners was conducted.

—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike explains the keen need for disaster preparation in the nation’s capital: “We are told that the possibility of an earthquake directly hitting Tokyo within the next thirty years is 70%.”

—Prosecutions moving forward over October 28 pre-Halloween incident in Shibuya in which a varied group of Japanese and western Europeans flipped over a small truck and some of them danced on top of it. Using camera footage, police later tracked most of them down.

—Osaka District Court makes sensible ruling: They award compensation to two subway drivers who were punished for refusing to shave off their beards when then-Mayor Toru Hashimoto demanded all drivers be clean-shaven. Judge rules having a beard is part of “individual freedom.”

—We should have seen it coming. Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura publicly upset at Osaka District Court ruling that it is part of individual freedom for public workers to have beards. The city will appeal the verdict.

—Health Ministry releases a new set of data for the first time. They find that in the year 2016, a total of 995,132 people were newly diagnosed with cancer. About 57% were in male patients and 43% female.

—Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau under fire in Japanese social media after it becomes known that a Bangladeshi asylum seeker was treated like a criminal as he was allowed to visit a hospital, with officials handcuffing him and tying a rope around his waist.

—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike poses next to graffiti of a small rat that metropolitan officials think might have been left by the mysterious street artist Banksy. Japanese officials have a low opinion of street art, but that changes when global prestige is involved.

—Suicides in Japan were at 20,598 in 2018, the lowest level in almost four decades. It seems that the number is likely to fall below 20,000 soon. The main reason for the change is demographic: people just getting older.

—Masazo Nonaka, recognized as the world’s oldest man, dies peacefully at home at age 113. He had been born in Hokkaido in 1905.

—Human Rights Watch: “Over 95% of incidents of sexual violence in Japan are not reported to police, according to government figures, partly because discussing rape is perceived to be ’embarrassing’ in Japan and many victims feel reporting it would not make a difference.”

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between January 16 and January 22.

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