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LDP Strikes Out in House of Representatives By-Elections

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

Rolling Coverage: Unified Local Elections

—In the midst of Okinawa by-election, someone has put up posters overnight that read: “Politics is Not for Women; Women Should Return to the Kitchen.” It is yet unclear if this is from a misguided Yara supporter or a dirty trick from the Shimajiri campaign to mobilize women. It should be noted that this is an obvious play on Aiko Shimajiri’s successful 2007 House of Councillors campaign in which her slogan was “Change Politics from the Kitchen.”

—All-Okinawa candidate Tomohiro Yara wins the House of Representatives Okinawa No. 3 District by-election, continuing the trend whereby Okinawa is the only prefecture that can successfully defy pressure from the Abe government.

—The Liberal Democratic Party strikes out in the House of Representatives Osaka No. 12 District by-election, as Osaka Restoration Association candidate Fumitake Fujita sweeps to victory.

—It’s a rare night when the ruling Liberal Democratic Party goes 0-for-2 in House of Representatives elections, but of course Okinawa and Osaka are precisely the two prefectures in Japan where non-LDP parties are quite strong.

—At long last Mac Akasaka has actually won an election. This time he ran for the 34-seat Minato City Council and placed 30th among the 54 candidates, meaning that he is now a democratically elected politician in Japan.

—Tokyoites First, while no longer the dominating force that it was before Governor Yuriko Koike’s massive popularity was punctured in the October 2017 House of Representatives elections, did pretty well in city council elections, getting most of the candidates it ran elected.

—Yosota Hanakawa elected to a fifth term as Mayor of Kita Ward in Tokyo. At age 84, he is already the oldest mayor in the Tokyo metropolitan area, and is now set to remain in office until he is 88 years old.

—Most of the local elections held as part of this month’s Unified Local Elections witnessed the lowest voter turnout in postwar Japanese history as genuine competition and hope that the people’s voice matters in the Abe Era has clearly waned. Under 50% turnout now common.

—To say that the All-Okinawa candidate Tomohiro Yara beat the Abe government candidate Aiko Shimajiri convincingly would be an understatement: He won 74.9% of the vote. Okinawa’s rejection of the Henoko base construction again made very clear.


—For unclear reasons, former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori has suddenly resigned as Honorary Chairman of the Japan Rugby Football Union.

—Democratic Party For the People’s latest pathetic scheme to raise their bottom basement support ratings is to call themselves “Democratic Party” on the House of Councillors election ballots, so as to attract the nostalgia vote. How about propose attractive policies instead?

—Osami Takeyama to resign as mayor of Sakai city over a political funding scandal. This is big news because Takeyama has been a top nemesis for the Osaka Restoration Association’s plans for the administrative unification of Osaka prefecture and city. In other words, perhaps the No. 1 local enemy of Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura and Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui has just imploded right after they themselves have won thumping electoral victories. Events now seem to be going the Osaka Restoration Association’s way.


—The Abe government has effectively abandoned hopes of signing a framework agreement on a peace treaty when Russian President Vladimir Putin visits in June. Instead, the government’s focus will return to joint economic projects on the disputed islands. Interesting to watch will be Japan’s attitude to Russia’s proposal for Hokkaido-Sakhalin visa-free zone. It would help realize joint projects on the islands but Japan will worry if it implies the islands are part of Sakhalin. Also, Japan’s public may not welcome the scheme.

—With government encouragement, Japanese tourism firms to run tours to Sakhalin this summer for 400 people. This fits with the agreement reached between Abe and Putin in January to boost mutual visitor numbers to 400,000 by 2023. Last year, 1,400 Japanese stayed on Sakhalin.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono expected to visit Moscow on May 11-12 as Japan seeks progress in peace treaty talks ahead of Vladimir Putin’s visit to the Osaka G20 in June. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is also anticipated in Tokyo on May 30-31 for the Japan-Russia 2+2 meeting.

—Leading figures in the United Russia party to visit Tokyo in mid-May to hold talks with counterparts in the Liberal Democratic Party. This is in accordance with the cooperation agreement signed between party leaders Toshihiro Nikai and Dmitri Medvedev in April 2018.

—23,600 Russians visited Japan during the first three months of 2019, an increase of 21% from the same period in 2018. Only visitor numbers from Vietnam and Thailand are increasing at a faster rate.

—With hopes gone for a breakthrough in June, the Hokkaido Shimbun slams Abe government for its naïve Russia policy. Acting secretively, Abe softened Japan’s territorial demands. In return, Russia’s position only hardened. They think lost ground will not be easily recovered.

—Ambassador Mikhail Galuzin on Russia-Japan peace treaty talks: “It is desirable to steadily proceed with dialogue without unreasonably raising the level of expectations. It is not effective to try to accelerate matters by forcibly setting deadlines.” Galuzin also criticizes Japan for joining US sanctions against Russia, saying these are against Article 1 of 1956 joint declaration, which established good-neighborly relations. Also, “The US military is deployed throughout Japan and is a threat to Russian security.”

—Fukuoka High Court rules aircraft noise around the US Marine airbase Futenma in Okinawa is “beyond endurance” for the local residents and confirms that the state owes them damages because Tokyo is not making the US military abide by its agreements to stop late night flights.

—Mainichi Shinbun finds evidence that the Risingsun Security Service was contracted to film and identify journalists covering Henoko base protests.

—The Seoul High Court has overturned a lower court’s order to South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to disclose the details of the negotiations of the controversial 2015 Comfort Women settlement with Japan, citing potential harm to government credibility and future talks.

—Confirmed that US President Donald Trump will be the first state guest of the Reiwa Era to officially greet the new Emperor Naruhito. This will happen from May 26 to 28. Not sure we’d like to describe this as an “auspicious” start to the new era.

—US-Japan “2+2 Meeting” confirms for the first time that a cyberattack could, under certain circumstances, trigger Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty, whereby the US military would defend Japan from attack.

—Abe government has asked Washington to open Yokota Air Base to civilian airliners during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and hopefully afterward as well. The massive Yokota Rapcon Airspace has done serious and mostly unreported economic damage to Japan.

—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya and US Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan agree to quickly deploy a deep-sea search ship to find the wreckage of the crashed F-35A fighter. They remain paranoid that China or Russia will sneak in and recover the technology.

—The Japanese destroyer Suzutsuki visiting the port of Qingdao in China. This the first such MSDF warship visit to China since the rightwing then-Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara triggered the deterioration in Sino-Japanese relations over the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands.

—The Japanese government confirms to the media that at least one Japanese national was killed in the Sri Lanka Easter Day terrorist attacks. She was a woman having breakfast at a hotel together with her family members. Her husband is among the wounded. She was not a tourist, but rather a resident in Sri Lanka with some connection to the Japanese government.


—Executive Vice President Daniele Schillaci, head of global sales, becomes the next non-Japanese senior executive to resign from Nissan Motor after it carried out its nationalist purge against Carlos Ghosn and Greg Kelly.

—Tokyo prosecutors bring a 4th round of indictments against Carlos Ghosn, allowing them to argue that his detention needs to be extended even further.

—Liberal Democratic Party Deputy Secretary-General and close Abe aide Koichi Hagiuda suggests that the consumption tax hike to 10%, now scheduled for October, could be delayed once again unless there are strong economic growth figures in coming months.

—Finance Minister Taro Aso quickly smacks down Abe aide Koichi Hagiuda’s assertion that the consumption tax hike to 10% scheduled for October will be delayed. Aso says the policy remains unchanged. Only a Lehman Shock magnitude event could lead to a delay.

—Abe aide Koichi Hagiuda completely backs down on his consumption tax hike delay comments. He says that he hadn’t consulted with the prime minister before opening his mouth and insists that he does not oppose the government policy.

—Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai publicly criticizes Abe aide Koichi Hagiuda for making his comments about delaying the consumption tax hike. Hagiuda, he suggests, ought to keep his opinions to himself and coordinate with the party, as is his job.

—Not well covered by the mainstream media, the National Federation of Dockworkers Unions of Japan conducted their first weekday strike in 22 years this week. It regarded the minimum wages dockworkers receive. They may go on strike again during the long Golden Week holiday.

—Japan Research Institute survey finds that 6% of corporate managers admit paying foreigners less than Japanese employees, while another 11.8% pay all foreign workers minimum wage. 1.8% say they pay foreign employees more than Japanese workers.

—TEPCO planning to use the Abe government’s new work visa program to put foreigners to work cleaning up radiation at the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Bonus! If they later develop health problems, it will probably be after their five-year work limit.

—Keidanren Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi says the era of Japan’s famed lifetime employment system is now over and cannot be continued. Keidanren will soon make proposals about how to shift to a new employment system across the nation.

—The end of the lifetime employment system also encompasses a breakdown of Japan’s university system, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Major companies likely to expand year-round hiring of university graduates instead of the traditional once-a-year class system.

—Norway pushing for new trade agreement with Japan, concerned that the recent effectuation of the CPTPP and Japan-EU trade agreements may put its own fisheries exports to Japan at a disadvantage in respect to the terms of trade.

—Trump administration expected to threaten sanctions against all nations, including Japan, that continue to import Iranian oil. This is Iran’s punishment for fully abiding by its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, from which the Trump regime unilaterally withdrew.


—NTT begins testing drones and AI for use in rice farming. They acknowledge that one of the key challenges is climate change, which is quickly changing the usual patterns by which insects appear, and the types of insects found in various areas.

—Seven-Eleven Japan begins using first fuel cell trucks to deliver goods to its stores. The hydrogen-powered trucks, made by Toyota, will be evaluated for their performance and may later be used more widely. Across the nation, Seven Eleven utilizes about 6,000 trucks.

—University of Tokyo and the National Institute for Environmental Studies are conducting joint research on the effect of global warming on the increasing intensity of floods and droughts. They are concerned about such extremes in Japan as well, considering the 2018 events.

—Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) sets targets for the reduction of plastic wastes by 2030 that it will ask its member companies to meet. While the targets are non-binding, as the nation’s most influential business group it is likely to have an impact.


—Anti Racism Information Center conducts a small-sample survey that finds about half of the foreigners living in Tokyo feel that they have suffered some kind of discriminatory treatment in this country.

—“No Smoking Promotion Business Consortium” is launched with the support of the Tokyo Medical Association and Governor Yuriko Koike. Business leaders are being recruited to adopt no smoking policies as matter of public and employee welfare.

—J-Village has been fully reopened for the first time since the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The Abe government plans to use it as the starting point for the 2020 Olympics torch relay.

—Tokyo Fire Department creates its first “counter-terrorism unit.” Despite the name, it is far more likely to be useful in confronting the very real threat of natural disasters instead of the mostly-imaginary threat of a massive terrorist attack in Tokyo.

—National Institute of Population and Social Security Research estimates that by 2040, 48% of households in Tokyo will be people living alone, mainly encompassing elderly people whose spouses have passed away and younger people who are no longer interested in marriage.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between April 17 and April 21.

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