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Osaka Headed to Second Referendum

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

Rolling Coverage: Osaka Referendum

—Osaka Restoration Association to again run Hideki Nagafuji as their candidate for Sakai city mayor. With the scandal-induced resignation of Osami Takeyama, the local nemesis of the Osaka party leaders, they have a golden opportunity to expand their local power.

—Komeito announces that it will reconsider its opposition to the Osaka administrative unification plan in the wake of the Osaka Restoration Association landslide victory in last month’s Unified Local Elections. This could prove to be a turning point for Osaka.

—The Osaka chapter of Komeito is preparing to accept the policy of holding a second popular referendum on the issue of administratively unifying Osaka prefecture and city. This is a big win for the Osaka Restoration Association and gives the policy the support they needed.

—Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui says that the second referendum on merging Osaka prefecture and city will likely be called sometime in the fall of 2020. Now that Komeito is supporting the referendum, it is expected to go forward.


—Social Democratic Party leader Seiji Mataichi announces that he has been diagnosed with lung cancer and will soon undergo surgery. Mizuho Fukushima will lead the party until his return. Mataichi suggests that the cancer was found early and the prognosis is good.

—Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga? Speculation about this prospect gaining further steam as the chief cabinet secretary plans to make an out-of-the-ordinary diplomatic trip to Washington and meet US Vice-President Mike Pence. That’s not the role of someone in his post.

—Intraparty Abe rival Shigeru Ishiba agrees that Yoshihide Suga is emerging as a powerful candidate to succeed Shinzo Abe as prime minister.

—Strange Bedfellows: For the first time in its near-century of existence, the Japan Communist Party sends congratulations for the accession of the new Emperor. In an odd way, Emperor Naruhito and the Communists are now de facto political allies in preserving Japan’s pacifism.

—Party of Hope leader Shigefumi Matsuzawa openly announces his aim to form a united caucus in the House of Councillors with the Japan Innovation Party (Ishin). He says there should be a united third pole representing rightwing opposition parties.

—Democratic Party For the People leader Yuichiro Tamaki wants to create a new executive post for Ichiro Ozawa that would give him a role in election strategy. Ozawa himself is said to be negative about the idea.

—Takeshi Shina resigns from Democratic Party For the People over its decision to admit Ichiro Ozawa into the party. Shina is a local Iwate Prefecture enemy of Ozawa and he is outraged that he is now asked to share the same political party with him.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama punches back at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s repeated assertions that people must vote for the ruling party or else fall back into the “nightmare” of the DPJ era.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano to use his party’s support for gender equality even at the level of the Imperial family to distinguish itself from the ruling conservatives, and from the centrist Democratic Party For the People.

—The Diet enacts legislation to make preschool education free. This is intended both to encourage more families to have children as well as to take some of the economic sting out of the expected hike of the consumption tax to 10% in October.

—As expected, Shiori Yamao’s comments that she wants debate over revising Article 9 of the Constitution is not going over well within the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. While her media skills are appreciated, there is worry about her political orientation.


—Japanese government said close to getting the US military to move the Charlie Water Area and R116 Airspace, off the coast of Chiba Prefecture, to a new location less obstructive to Narita Airport traffic. The price is that the size of the US military zones will be expanded.

—Defense Ministry announces that the flight recorder of the F-35A that went down in the seas near Aomori Prefecture has now been found. It seems that efforts to recover the aircraft will soon begin.

—Tasuton Airport, the Tokyo-based company that owns most of Mageshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, tells the Defense Ministry it is no longer willing to sell the land to be used as a US military weapons training zone. The Defense Ministry may try to force them to sell.

—Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama points out Abe Diplomacy has effectively achieved nothing in its 6 1/2 years. Negotiations with Russia have gone nowhere and Japan is out of the loop on North Korea. Dependence on the United States isn’t helping.

—Former Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe appeals for the Abe government to take an independent diplomatic line on Iran, rather than just follow along submissively with Trump administration militarism.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono opposes South Korea’s plan to provide food and other humanitarian aid to North Korea, arguing that the aid might be used to further develop missiles and nuclear weapons.

—Despite the many difficulties in diplomatic relations with Japan, cultural ties between South Korea and Japan are strong and growing stronger, says Hwang Seong-Woon, head of the Korean Cultural Center in Japan. It was the first established by South Korea in 1979.

—Nihon Keizai Shinbun argues that the value of the “Japan card” has decreased for Russia. After 2014, engagement with Japan was useful to demonstrate that the G7 was not united in isolating Russia. With the United States actively engaging with Russia again, this is no longer so valuable.

—Parades to mark Victory Day took place throughout Russia on May 9, including on Kunashir. Russia considers that the island, as well as the rest of the Southern Kurils, were legally won as a result of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany and its Japanese ally in World War II.

—Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting: Lavrov says he drew attention to US actions that Russia considers a threat. These include the deployment of missile defense in Japan, the increase in the US military presence in the region, and US actions in the area of arms control.

—Japan-Russia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting: Lavrov confirms that a United Russia delegation headed by Andrey Turchak, secretary of the party’s General Council, will soon visit Japan. The follows the agreement signed between the LDP and United Russia in April 2018.

—Back from Moscow, Foreign Minister Taro Kono describes the difficulty of peace treaty talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, saying they became “quite heated,” but he suggests that progress is being made towards realizing joint economic projects on the disputed islands.

—The first visa-free visit of 2019 to the Southern Kurils began on May 10. Around sixty Japanese will stay on Kunashir until May 13, visiting Japanese grave sites and meeting local Russian residents. They travelled on the recently upgraded Etopirika ship.

—New Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki has expressed his desire to visit the Northern Territories. This should be possible as long as he doesn’t say anything to upset the Russians. His predecessor, Harumi Takahashi, visited in 2005 and 2012 on visa-free trips.

—Ginowan Mayor Masanori Matsukawa to travel to Washington DC next week to appeal for the earliest possible closure of the US Marine base at Futenma. The current agreement is that it should close in 2023, but no one believes it will actually occur. Matsukawa is a conservative.

—US Department of State removes Japan from its list of countries showing a pattern of noncompliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This may be more of a Trump government favor to Abe than a serious improvement in Japanese policies.


—Yahoo Japan to become a consolidated subsidiary of SoftBank under a reorganization plan, marking its disappearance as a formally independent company.

—Internal Affairs Ministry planning to ban four local governments from the Hometown Tax (furusato nozei) system. This is punishment for the four local governments giving too lavish gifts to taxpayers who donated their tax money to these municipalities.

—The Diet enacts legislation meant to force mobile phone carriers to reduce monthly fees. Under the terms of the new laws, carriers will no longer be able to offer a single package which covers both the price of the mobile device and the connection fees.

—Reports suggest that the Abe government is becoming more worried about the direction of the Trump administration’s trade policies, both that demands on Japan will become increasingly harsh and that the US-China trade conflict will hit the Japanese economy.

—Liberal Democratic Party executive Akira Amari insists that the hike of the consumption tax to 10% in October is still 99% likely to occur. He repeats that the only thing that might stop it is a global economic crisis on the scale of the Lehman Shock.


—Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is holding a general meeting in Kyoto. The lead topic is a discussion on how to calculate each country’s greenhouse gas emissions.


—Japan’s annual “CoolBiz” campaign kicks off, the first day after the long Golden Week holiday. Many Japanese businessmen not wearing neckties and dressing more casually. This 15-year campaign is meant to reduce energy consumption.

—Dozens participated in the Marijuana March in Tokyo 2019. Japan has been noted for its irrationally harsh policies regarding marijuana, which science suggests is significantly less dangerous to human health than the ubiquitous cigarette smoking.

—Tickets for some Tokyo 2020 Olympics events have begun to go on sale. The most expensive seats at the opening ceremony can run as high as 300,000 yen (US$2,730), but more than half of the tickets will be 8,000 yen (US$73) or less.

—“Flower Protests” held in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka over recent court judgments that let rapists receive “Not Guilty” verdicts for the sole reason that their female victims were held by judges as having not put up sufficient physical resistance to their attackers.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between May 6 and May 11.

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