Record National Budget Enacted
SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported recently by the Shingetsu News Agency.
—The Diet enacts a 101.46 trillion yen (about US$920 billion) national general account budget for FY2019. This is the first time it is over 100 trillion yen. Since this is the Abe era, the military budget was also a new record at 5.26 trillion yen (about US$47.7 billion).
—Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso outraged that the Liberal Democratic Party is formally backing a candidate other than his man for the Fukuoka gubernatorial election. He denounces it as a “rebellion” at a press conference.
—Liberal Democratic Party sets up its first childcare room inside the party headquarters, a symbolic measure to show they now support working women. Unclear if they will follow-up by actually running a large number of female candidates, an area in which they trail the field.
—Japan Communist Party becomes the first Japanese political party to open a TikTok account for the purpose of reaching a younger audience. TikTok is a mobile phone application that involves sending around very short mobile phone videos.
—NHK poll finds that about 19% of Japan’s 1,788 local assemblies have no elected female politicians at all. Nationally, men hold 87% of all elected political positions at the local level, about the same proportion as the National Diet.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan withdraws endorsement of a Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly candidate after it is discovered that he had made anti-Korean tweets in the past. The discarded candidate admits the charge, saying that he was young and stupid at that time.
—Social Democratic Party upset that one of its longtime local politicians in Tokyo has defected to the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan to become a House of Councillors candidate. Of course, the Social Democratic Party ought to have gotten the hint by now that their day is done.
—South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Wha obliquely warns local government officials about their campaign for “War Crime Company” labeling for Japanese firms that offer no compensation for wartime forced labor.
—“The process of compulsory execution against war criminal firms has officially begun.” South Korean court begins to seize assets from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries over its refusal (as directed by the Abe government) to pay forced labor compensation.
—South Korea Foreign Ministry: “The government strongly condemns the Japanese government’s authorization of elementary school textbooks, including its unjustifiable claim to Dokdo, which is clearly our indigenous territory by history, geography, and international law.”
—South Korean National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-Sang again provocatively demands that Emperor Akihito personally apologize for the abuse of wartime Comfort Women. This draws a (for once justified) diplomatic rebuke from the Abe administration.
—Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai arrives on her first visit to Japan.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe quickly meets with visiting Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, though he previously disrespected Nobel Peace Prize winner Beatrice Fihn during her visit to Japan. Malala’s ideas no threat to Abe, while Fihn’s ideas go against his policies.
—Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai’s main message in Japan is that world governments need to invest more resources into education for girls. She delivered the keynote speech at the World Assembly for Women.
—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya makes clear that the government has no intention of respecting the Okinawa referendum at all, and that it will, if anything, try to construct Henoko airbase as fast as it can (which will take many years to complete).
—Their appeals to the Abe government haughtily dismissed once again, the Okinawa Prefectural Government files a fresh lawsuit against the central government over the construction of the new US Marine airbase at Henoko.
—Abe government begins pouring sand and gravel in a new section of Oura Bay in Henoko, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga again dismissing any notion that Tokyo’s policy should be in any way affected by the opinions or the voting of the Okinawan people.
—Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki offers a warning that all Japanese ought to heed. As for democracy in this nation, first they came for the Okinawans…
—Former US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy meets Okinawan students in New York and tells them: “The future of the US-Japan Alliance, which is the strongest and the most important in the world right now today, really depends on Okinawa.”
—US Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller visits Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Kantei and they agree that Henoko airbase must be built as soon as possible, and that the Okinawans have no democratic right to oppose their policies.
—Aiko Shimajiri, the Liberal Democratic Party candidate in the April 21 Okinawa District No. 3 House of Representatives by-election, will campaign on platform that Okinawa “has no choice but to accept” the construction of Henoko airbase.
—Since the Abe government clearly has no intention of doing so, the Okinawa Prefectural Government to create an international panel to study and present concrete alternatives to the construction of the US Marine airbase at Henoko.
—Japan and Russia held security talks in Moscow on March 22. Yomiuri Shinbun reports that the Russian side reiterated their serious concerns about Aegis Ashore.
—Visiting Nemuro in Hokkaido, Russian Ambassador Mikhail Galuzin raises concerns about the local community’s use of the slogan “Return the Four Northern Islands,” saying that “it’s as if Japan and Russia are in a state of war.”
—Japanese boats complain of increased pressure from the Russian authorities during this year’s pollack fishing season around Kunashiri. The number of on-the-spot inspections was second highest on record. Fines and temporary boat seizure also occurred.
—Ministry of Education requiring many changes to new school textbooks to toughen language on Japan’s territorial disputes. Northern Territories must be described as “inherent territory.” Ironically, the government itself will not now use that term for fear of angering Russia.
—Government reveals that under its unconstitutional 2015 Abe War Law they are also in the process of forming a military unit trained for overseas special forces missions, which will use Osprey aircraft as their primary means of transport in the field.
—The first subway line in Jakarta opens for service. It was largely funded and supported by the Japanese government and business. The city is already notorious for its traffic jams and this subway and the new lines under construction are expected to help.
—Japanese government planning to turn over this week some newly constructed terminal buildings at Kamuzu International Airport in Malawi. The buildings and associated radar equipment were donated through a Japanese government grant aid package.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga makes clear that Japan does not intend to rip up the most fundamental principles of international law and follow the Trump administration in recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
—Even though he will not step down as president of the Japanese Olympic Committee until June, Tsunekazu Takeda has already been dumped as a member of the International Olympic Committee, which has forced his resignation.
—World Happiness Report of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network finds Japan now ranks No. 58 in the world. Japan was ranked No. 43 when Shinzo Abe came to power in 2012 and has been slipping ever since.
—About 38% of jobs in Japan are now for irregular, largely unprotected workers. During the Abenomics era, unemployment has been low, but about 73% of the new jobs created have been for this class of irregular, low-paying positions.
—Finance Minister Taro Aso indicates that the government has effectively given up on the 2% inflation goal that had been at the heart of Abenomics, but they remain unwilling to publicly admit that their signature economic policy has largely been a failure.
—Train service between Miyako and Kamaishi stations in Iwate Prefecture, knocked out in March 2011 tsunami, has finally been restored over eight years later. JR East, the former operator, has turned the line over to Sanriku Railway.
—Chinese statistics confirm that China overtook Japan in 2018 to become the world’s largest importer of natural gas. China now relies on imports for 45.3% of its gas.
—Kyodo News survey finds the unsurprising result that the Abe government’s half-hearted campaign to encourage companies to locate their headquarters outside of the Tokyo area has mostly fallen flat. The government incentives are too modest to be effective.
—International Energy Agency: Global energy-related carbon emissions rose 1.7% in 2018 to the highest level ever. Under the Trump government, emissions rose 3.1%, reversing what had been a decline in emissions. Japan has seen declining emissions in recent years as it recovers from Fukushima.
—Matsuyama District Court rules “the state and TEPCO were able to predict the tsunami” and thus awards damages to more than twenty people who were forced to evacuate due to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. TEPCO has lost ten straight cases of this nature.
—On April 10, part of the town of Okuma will see its status as a radiation exclusion zone lifted. Okuma and Futaba are the local municipalities that host the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
—METI Minister Hiroshige Seko says he will get involved in the issue of major convenience store chains not being able to secure enough workers, thus putting heavy burdens on franchisees. He will soon meet with the heads of the top four chains.
—Japan’s energy and land ministries held a joint meeting this week to advance wind power development. They agreed on procedures for designating areas of the country as special wind power promotion regions and how to go about commissioning private businesses.
—Niigata Prefecture is launching a local project to produce hydrogen-powered buses, hoping that the development of eco-friendly technologies can become a driver for the local economy. The local government and bus companies are participating.
—METI says that average electricity prices for consumers will be raised 2% from the beginning of April due to the additional financial burden of purchasing renewable energy like solar and wind. Renewables currently make up 16% of the nation’s energy mix.
—New report “Banking on Climate Change” finds three Japanese banks (MUFG, Mizuho, SMBC) among the top 33 banks which have been investing in fossil fuel companies, thus advancing the climate change disaster.
—METI said to be planning controversial measure of offering financial subsidies to the unpopular nuclear power industry by framing the aid as “greenhouse gas countermeasures.” If this moves forward, it is expected to meet fierce public criticism.
—TEPCO Fuel & Power and JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy to team up to build a facility in Tokyo that can supply hydrogen fuel to about 290 fuel cell cars and buses daily. The government wants to showcase fuel cell vehicles during the 2020 Olympics.
—Ministry of Agriculture selects 69 farms for “smart agriculture” experiments, utilizing AI, robots, and more to improve production and profitability. The 69 farms were selected out of a pool of 252 applicants.
—Tokyu Corporation announces that its Setagaya Line in Tokyo has become the first urban train line in Japan that relies entirely on renewable energy, in this case geothermal and hydraulic power supplied by the Tohoku Electric Power Company.
—Tohoku Electric Power Company has joined the Akita Yurihonjo Offshore Wind Power Generation Project, led by Renova. This project aims to have a capacity of approximately 700 mw, making it one of the largest offshore wind farms in Japan once it is up and running.
—Kushimoto town in Wakayama Prefecture likely to become well-known in the 2020s. It has been selected as launch site for Space One, the country’s first commercial space rocket firm.
—From April 2020, computer programming to become a required subject for elementary school students beginning in the 5th grade. The government has become increasingly concerned that Japan has fallen behind on the education of future technology workers.
—NTT to establish a new energy company within the next few months that will focus on the provision of renewable energy, utilizing solar power and battery storage technologies.
—Tesla announces that it took them only two days to install a Powerpack battery storage unit in Osaka, which “is designed to provide emergency backup power to safely move a train and its passengers to the nearest station.”
—Drunk and disorderly Health Ministry bureaucrat gets himself into a scrape at Gimpo International Airport in Seoul, allegedly assaulting an airport worker while yelling that he hates Koreans.
—Korean Air labor union demanding full apology and possibly compensation from the drunk and violent Japanese government official who went on a rampage at Gimpo International Airport in Seoul, yelling he hated Korea.
—Head of Setagaya Ward Japan Pension Service discovered behind hateful tweets against Koreans, whom he described as “cowardly people with vassal-like spirits” and who “should be purged from Japan.”
—“Days Former Staff Association” is established for the purpose of collecting evidence of sexual and power harassment by former Days Japan Editor-in-Chief Ryuichi Hirokawa, and to offer them consultation.
—Several dozen former applicants file a lawsuit against Tokyo Medical University for its secret manipulation of test scores to reduce the number of successful female applicants.
—Ministry of Justice reports that there were 2,731,093 foreign nationals living in Japan at the end of 2018, which is a 6.6% increase over the previous year. More than 2.1% of the people living in Japan are foreigners, and the proportion rising fairly rapidly.
—Tokyo District Court rules that the ban on married couples using different surnames does not violate the constitutional equality guarantees.
—Ministry of Education conducts on-site inspection of Tokyo University of Social Welfare after roughly 1,400 of its foreign students have disappeared in recent years. Some ended up becoming illegal overstayers in Japan.
Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between March 22 and March 26.
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