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Power Is Not Given; It Is Taken

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

Top Headline

—There is some chatter within the Liberal Democratic Party that the party’s rules could be changed again to allow Shinzo Abe to run for a fourth term in 2021. Twelve years of hard right Abe-Suga rule until 2024 is not entirely out of the question at this point. Meanwhile, Shinzo Abe’s continuous term as prime minister has now surpassed in length that of Shigeru Yoshida, who helped define the postwar regime. He need only surpass Hirobumi Ito, Eisaku Sato, and Taro Katsura to own the record books for longevity in power in modern Japan. All of this, of course, has little to do with public affection toward Abe, but more a combination of the current feebleness of the democratic system and the ruthlessness of the Abe-Suga regime in cutting down alternative centers of power that might challenge them.

Politics

—Social Democratic Party leader Seiji Mataichi reveals that he will not be running as proportional representation candidate, but only as a district candidate, in the July House of Councillors election. Although he denies it, this is more-or-less tantamount to his retirement.

—The “woman problem” (as reported by the Japanese media) that caused House of Representatives lawmaker Tsuyoshi Tabata to resign from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (but not from the Diet) is that he being accused of rape.

—The new political party to be created from the merged Democratic Party For the People and Liberal Party likely to be formally launched on March 14. The policy platform is now being negotiated. It remains to be seen how many lawmakers choose to join the new outfit.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan looks likely to recapture Number One opposition ranking in the House of Councillors as Yukihisa Fujita is deserting the Democratic Party For the People with the intention to join the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. Meanwhile, independent Antonio Inoki to join the Democratic Party For the People, keeping them just one seat behind.

—Japan Communist Party will not attend the thirty year memorial ceremony of Emperor Akihito’s reign. They explain, “We cannot escape the feeling that the current government is making political use of the Emperor.”

International

—Kyodo News poll suggests that about 68% of Okinawans plan to vote that they oppose the construction of Henoko base in the referendum next week. Only about 16% support the US Marine airbase construction.

—Internal Affairs Ministry dispute resolution panel dismisses the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s formal complaint that the national government is acting illegally in terms of existing local government laws on the Henoko matter. The panel declines to explain its decision.

—Abe government stoops to a new low, harassing anti-base, pro-Okinawa activist Rob Kajiwara as he arrived in Japan to attend various events. Kajiwara believes that it was the intervention of Okinawan politician, Kantoku Teruya, that helped his release. Kajiwara is known, of course, for initiating the very successful White House petition that called on the Trump administration to withdraw its support for Henoko base construction. He also organized the first Henoko protest in front of the White House. The treatment of Rob Kajiwara is Abe Politics 101. It’s about intimidation, but not so overt as to dispense with deniability. “We don’t like what you’re doing. You should stop.” This is their consistent message to critics. They aren’t interested in democratic accountability.

—South Korea National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-Sang pours oil on the fire in dispute with Japan: “The side that should be apologizing hasn’t done so. The people seeking an apology from me represent the side of the thieves.”

—Asahi Shinbun reports that, yes, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did indeed nominate Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. The letter was written last autumn. They also reveal that the idea for the nomination came from the US government, which asked Abe to do so.

—Typical slithery response from Shinzo Abe on his nomination of Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize: “The Nobel committee won’t reveal who nominated or those who were nominated for fifty years. In accordance with this policy, I’d like to refrain from commenting.” What on earth is the logical connection between the Nobel committee’s policy on revealing those who nominate people for the Nobel Peace Prize and Shinzo Abe’s own decision to confirm or deny what the president of the United States has openly claimed? It’s also worth noting that Abe reportedly made the Nobel Peace Prize nomination of Donald Trump “on behalf of the people of Japan.” Apparently, however, the “people of Japan” aren’t allowed to know who “they” supported.

—Honestly can’t quite figure out which is the more revolting: US government officials toadying up to Trump by asking Abe to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize, or Abe’s absolute willingness to prostrate himself before Trump’s needy ego. Can’t we find some better leaders?

—Plans afoot to have US President Donald Trump visit Japan in late May in order to become the first head-of-state to meet the new Emperor Naruhito.

—Spineless client state Japan again falls in line with policy demands from Washington, supporting the attempted conservative coup in Venezuela: “We express our clear support for interim President Guaido,” says Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

—Jewish National Fund apologizes after it is discovered that the monument near Jerusalem to Chiune Sugihara, who saved thousand of lives during the Holocaust, was quietly removed to make way for condominiums. The monument had been established in 1985.

—Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai expected to visit Tokyo in late March to participate in a women’s conference. This will be her first visit to Japan.

Economy

—Wall Street Journal reveals that months before Carlos Ghosn’s arrest, “Nissan” (presumably Hiroto Saikawa and crew) asked the Abe government for help in avoiding the Nissan-Renault merger that Ghosn was pushing. Abe government may have been part of the coup plot all along.

—Carlos Ghosn shifting his defense style from an initial one of being the quiet, good foreigner toward making noise in the media in order to better focus international pressure on Japan. It may not save him from hostage justice, but it makes the coup plotters pay a price.

—Carlos Ghosn’s new lawyer Junichiro Hironaka nails it: “Issues that needed to be dealt with by Nissan internally were somehow handed over to the prosecutors. The prosecutors then somehow took on this case, even though they aren’t supposed to interfere in civil affairs.”

—A touch of realism strikes: Abe government to ease Japanese-language requirements for “foreign technical interns” who will work in the nursing care sector. The manpower is badly needed in that area, but the language proficiency policies stunted recruitment.

—About 40% of the total Japanese investment in the European Union goes to the United Kingdom. With the coming of Brexit, however, this number is expected to be reduced, though how sharply remains to be seen.

—Honda Motor to close Swindon car factory, United Kingdom, in 2021. President and CEO Takahiro Hachigo claims that the decision to close the factory was entirely unrelated to Brexit.

—Japan and the United Kingdom apparently held secret talks with the aim of trading under the terms of the new Japan-EU trade agreement, even in the event of a No Deal Brexit. The bilateral trade talks, however, failed. Japan-UK trade will go back to WTO rules with a No Deal Brexit.

—Seven-Eleven Japan in increasingly bitter struggle with some of its franchisees over its mandatory 24 hour business policy. Some franchisees can’t find overnight workers and are being reduced to poverty or madness staying open all night in unprofitable locations.

Technology

—The J-Coin initiative to be launched next month, which is a new cashless payment system developed by Mizuho Financial Group and including about half the regional banks in Japan.

—JAXA reports that Hayabusa-2 has made a successful landing on the very rocky asteroid Ryugu.

—Kyodo News reports that the Abe government is aiming to establish 160 hydrogen fueling stations around the nation by around FY2020. The infrastructure for the wide-scale use of hydrogen cars is being advanced.

—Abe government planning to adopt a rather unambitious target of reducing plastic waste by 25% by 2030. One driver of the policy change is that China and Southeast Asia are becoming less willing to be Japan’s plastic garbage dumps.

Society

—There has been an online kerfuffle whereby the “talent” Fifi, who has a huge social media following, falsely accused Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan executive Renho of opposing a revision of the Law on Child Abuse Prevention back in 2004. Some major media was taken in before the mistake was caught.

—Tourist numbers from mainland China jumped an amazing 19.3% in January 2019, as compared to the previous year’s figure. Overall, tourist numbers saw a year-on-year 7.5%, obviously driven by the Chinese in particular.

—Bans on schoolchildren bringing smartphones to school, which seemed to be a good idea from an educational point of view, running up against the problem that the smartphones can be important for communication in disaster situations and when children get lost.

—The global #FridaysForFuture youth movement has finally arrived in Japan. This is about young people calling for serious action to combat climate change, which threatens their futures more than us oldsters.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between February 17 and February 22.

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