Abe Rewards Friends in Latest Cabinet Reshuffle
SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the first half of September 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.
Rolling Coverage: Cabinet Reshuffle
—Kazuyoshi Akaba tipped to become next Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Komeito wants current minister Keiichi Ishii to be replaced as he has held the post for several years, and Akaba is who they’ve asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to appoint.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reportedly firmed up his intention to appoint Taro Kono as Minister of Defense in the Cabinet reshuffle. This post has proven to be the most politically difficult ministerial post in recent years, usually tarnishing the ministers’ reputations.
—If the Japanese media reporting is correct, all of Shinzo Abe’s loyal little flunkeys will once again be rewarded with ministerial or party executive posts: Hagiuda, Seko, Kato, and even Amari will be rehabilitated. Loyalty is the new competence in rightwing governments.
—Shinjiro Koizumi’s first Cabinet post will be Minister of the Environment.
—Shinzo Abe again acting vindictively toward Shigeru Ishiba, the only major figure in the party who hasn’t become an Abe sycophant. The Ishiba Faction frozen out of any Cabinet appointments. Even a small degree of resistance is unacceptable to such rightwing governments.
—It appears that there will be two females in the new Abe Cabinet, the far right Sanae Takaichi returns as Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, and Seiko Hashimoto will be Olympics Minister, the latter of which is a quite an appropriate choice.
—Toshimitsu Motegi as Foreign Minister seems like a solid posting as he is experienced and competent, but Abe flunkey Koichi Hagiuda as Education Minister can mean nothing good. Taro Kono as Defense Minister is perhaps the most interesting move, as it is a rough assignment.
—Worth remembering that Koichi Hagiuda, now appointed Education Minister (of all things), was a central figure in the Kake Gakuen scandal in which Education Ministry influence was put at the disposal of Abe’s close personal friend, Kotaro Kake. Hagiuda was the middle man.
—Poor rightwing Takeshi Iwaya waited more than twenty years as a backbencher before finally getting posted as Defense Minister last October. After less than a year of unimaginative rightwing policies, he is now out of the Cabinet.
—The post of Defense Minister in the Shinzo Abe era has been the political graveyard for many politicians, most notably Tomomi Inada and now Takeshi Iwaya. This posting will likely determine whether or not Taro Kono actually has any hope of becoming a future prime minister.
—Hakubun Shimomura has been made head of the LDP’s Election Strategy Headquarters. Shimomura is the same conservative ally of Abe who opposed Yuriko Koike as the party’s candidate for Tokyo Governor.
—Despite earlier reporting, it appears that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will keep his long-time ally Akira Amari out of this Cabinet, judging that the taint of scandal is still too strong about him.
—New IT Minister Naokazu Takemoto being widely mocked, both for his comments that one of his priorities would be to preserve “hanko culture” (Japanese seals) in the computer age, and because he can’t manage to keep his own website online.
Rolling Coverage: South Korea Relations
—Foreign Ministry officially protests the visit of six South Korean lawmakers to the disputed Dokdo-Takeshima island.
—In interview with Korea Times, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said the Abe administration should immediately restore ties with South Korea as it is not possible to deal with their priority issues, such as the abductees and North Korean relations, without South Korea. In addition, Hatoyama stressed the need for grassroots cooperation between Japanese and Korean people, and for talks between those knowledgeable in bilateral relations on both sides to discuss the current difficulties.
—Seoul has announced that the reclassification of Japan off of the list of trusted trading nations will go into effect by the end of the month. There is broad support in Korea for this retaliatory measure, and popular pressure is building for its implementation.
—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike again refuses to send a message of condolence on the anniversary of the Kanto Massacre of 1923, in which thousands of innocent Koreans were murdered. Some people are questioning her moral fitness to oversee the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
—Weekly magazine Shukan Post under fire for inciting anti-Korean hatred after they run a ten-page feature titled “Goodbye to an Annoying Neighbor: We Don’t Need South Korea.” The feature claims that 10% of all Koreans need medical treatment for uncontrollable anger.
—South Korea’s Embassy in Tokyo receiving some harassment from rightwingers. There has been a case of vandalism and, more seriously, a threatening letter containing a bullet, addressed to the *former* South Korean ambassador (rightwingers’ research abilities remain limited). Tokyo police report that a rightwinger’s threatening letter to the South Korean embassy included this passage: “I’ve got a rifle and I’m hunting Koreans.”
—South Korean boycott of Japanese goods hitting beer industry remarkably hard. Figures suggest that South Korean imports of Japanese beer has fallen a stunning 97% in August compared to last year’s figures. Other industries reporting smaller impact.
—August figures show Japanese automobile sales plummet 57% in South Korea from the previous year’s figures. Evidence of the effectiveness of the South Korean boycott of Japanese goods is becoming clearer.
—Seoul and Busan municipal governments pass ordinances to designate some Japanese firms as “War Crime Companies” due to their use of forced labor during the Pacific War. Busan may attach stickers with this designation on some products from these firms.
—Nissan Motors is considering a withdrawal from the Korean market amidst dismal sales figures, down 88% from last year, due to the anti-Japanese consumer boycott and the trade dispute currently underway.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga speaks about the serious decline in Japan-South Korea relations: “The fact that relations have become so twisted is entirely the fault of South Korea.” Suga says the Abe government has ZERO responsibility for the crisis.
—In his first press conference since returning from hospitalization, Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi expresses concern about the state of Japan-South Korea relations, but says that he has no fresh ideas how to quickly improve the situation.
—South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-Hee announces that her country has launched an official WTO complaint against Japan over the “discriminatory” Abe government policy of tightening export controls on Korea trade. She notes (correctly) that it was political retaliation.
—Tokyo Olympics officials set up an unneeded controversy by refusing to ban Rising Sun flags at Tokyo 2020 events. Rightwingers will predictably delight in bringing and waving these flags, while Koreans and others will be made to feel unwelcome and get angry. South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism sends a letter to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach formally requesting that the Rising Sun flag be banned from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Rolling Coverage: Typhoon Faxai
—Typhoon No. 15 (Typhoon Faxai) appears to be headed directly toward the Kanto region, and it may pack a serious punch. Forecasts suggests that it will hit the capital region overnight of September 7 and 8, perhaps causing disruptions on Monday morning.
—Tokaido Shinkansen services to shut down as Typhoon No. 15 (Typhoon Faxai) begins to hit the Kanto region directly from the Pacific Ocean. Other transportation systems expected to be suspended as the typhoon passes.
—Typhoon No. 15 (Typhoon Faxai) made landfall near Chiba city at around 5 am after traveling directly up Tokyo Bay.
—There is little comment in news reports on yesterday’s commuter transportation nightmare that the typhoon forecasts were well known and accurate. Schools and many businesses could have done the sane thing and told their employees to come into work later in the day.
—Typhoon No. 15 (Typhoon Faxai) Roundup: Three people killed; more than fifty people injured; transportation in Tokyo area snarled for the better part of the day; about 14,000 stranded at Narita Airport in miserable conditions. Japan mostly coped well, but Narita not so much.
—Typhoon No. 15 (Typhoon Faxai) effects in Chiba Prefecture worse than in other areas. About 500,000 buildings and homes have not had electricity since the typhoon hit, and TEPCO says these outages likely to continue all day today and possibly longer.
—TEPCO botches it again, leaving tens of thousands of homes in Chiba Prefecture without electricity after the typhoon, and saying it may take one or two more weeks. This follows earlier statements that electricity could quickly be restored.
—As Chiba Prefecture assesses damage from Typhoon No. 15 (Typhoon Faxai) it is finding especially heavy damage to the agricultural sector, where a record number of greenhouses were destroyed. Also, about 200 fishing boats were damaged.
—Some municipal governments in Chiba Prefecture at wit’s end over the extended blackouts in their communities. Some are calling for volunteers to help out, but they don’t have a plan for making proper use of volunteers and aren’t sure quite what they should be doing.
Rolling Coverage: Russia Relations
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is said to look favorably on Trump’s proposal for Russia to return to the G7. Abe is set to raise this issue in Vladivostok. Russia, however, shows little enthusiasm, making it hard for Abe to use Japan’s support for Russia’s G7 return as leverage.
—India proposes creating trilateral framework to promote economic and diplomatic cooperation between India, Russia, and Japan. The proposal could be a focus for discussion when Modi, Putin, and Abe meet in Vladivostok for the Eastern Economic Forum from September 4.
—Ceremonies were held on Shikotan and Kunashir on September 2 to mark the anniversary of Russia’s victory over Japan in the Pacific War. Participants stressed their belief that the islands rightfully belong to Russia and expressed opposition to any transfer to Japan.
—Russia has deployed K-300P Bastion-P anti-ship missiles on Paramushir and Matua of the Kuril chain. Also, it is reported that a vessel-detection radio base and an air fleet will also be installed on Matua. These two Kuril islands are not claimed by Japan.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga avoids directly criticizing Russia after Putin oversees (via video link) the opening of a new fish processing plant on disputed Shikotan: “We will make an appropriate response to the Russian side, including a representation.”
—At the 5th Eastern Economic Forum plenary session in Vladivostok, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaffirms his commitment to signing a peace treaty with Russia: “The next step is to conclude a peace treaty, which is our historic mission.”
—Democratic Party For the People leader Yuichiro Tamaki notes the lack of results from Abe’s Eastern Economic Forum trip. He also describes Putin’s decision to use the forum to oversee the opening of a fish processing plant on disputed Shikotan as an act of rudeness.
—Foreign Ministry summary of Vladivostok talks says Abe did raise issue of Putin’s use of the forum to preside (via video link) over opening ceremony of fish processing plant on disputed Shikotan. It says, however, that Abe simply “communicated our country’s position.” This seems a remarkably soft response to what could be seen as a diplomatic insult. The Japanese government is always ready with a forceful response to any measure taken by South Korea. By contrast, Putin can publicly humiliate Abe and the Japan does nothing in reply.
—The Russian Embassy in Tokyo rejects Japan’s comments about Putin’s opening of new factory on Shikotan: “The Southern Kurils legally belong to Russia as a result of World War II. Russia has the right to take any measures for the social development of this territory.”
Rolling Coverage: Nissan Motors
—Carlos Ghosn’s French lawyer Francois Zimeray declares that Tokyo prosecutors are guilty of “serious breaches of the duty of impartiality, such as staggering collusion with Nissan and the political authorities.”
—Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa under criticism after it is revealed he was overpaid according to the rules of the company. It was precisely Carlos Ghosn’s compensation that Saikawa used to launch his coup against his former boss and patron, so the level of hypocrisy is extreme.
—Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa has indicated that he will resign, the coup he led against his former patron Carlos Ghosn having become messier than he at first intended, fatally damaging his own reputation as well.
—Worth noting that former Nissan executive Greg Kelly successfully got his revenge. It was he that revealed that Hiroto Saikawa had been overpaid, publicly showing Saikawa’s hypocrisy and tipping the scales against the CEO’s ability to continue on.
—Hiroto Saikawa has clarified that he will step down as CEO of Nissan on September 16. Discussions about who will lead Nissan from now are ongoing.
—METI Minister Hiroshige Seko admits that the government has been directly involved at Nissan “in supporting the implementation of corporate governance” and he approves of the decision to see Hiroto Saikawa go. The Abe government’s real level of involvement is still hidden.
—Among the items that will still be taxed at 8% after October 1 is print newspaper subscriptions, not including electronic editions. This is yet another sign of the Abe government using carrots and sticks to encourage the major news media to toe the political line.
—Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama makes a key point in interview with the Korea Times: “The Abe administration is controlling Japanese media; as a result, the Japanese media doesn’t criticize the government, and it hides important information from the people.”
—Daisuke Tsuda, director of the Aichi Triennale 2019, a good example of what is really wrong in Japan. Every country has its rightwing villains, but in Japan those who are supposed to be on the side of freedom of expression are all too often spineless compromisers.
—It has been discovered that in 2016 a member of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau who had been seconded from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare leaked the contents of a bill relating to clinical research outside of the organization.
—Hodaka Maruyama has truly found the right political party. His new party leader, Takashi Tachibana of the Protect the Nation from NHK Party, says Maruyama’s call for war against South Korea is “no problem” since he has “freedom of speech.”
—Unrepentant rightwing lawmaker Hodaka Maruyama defends his comments calling for war against, first Russia and now, South Korea, saying that his critics are trying to curtail his “right to free speech.”
—Takashi Tachibana, leader of the Protect the Nation from NHK party, is in trouble. Police are investigating him on accusations of trying to blackmail one of his own party’s local candidates in Tokyo. It seems that NHK fee collectors not the only ones using pressure tactics.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Secretary-General Tetsuro Fukuyama declares it now clear that Hodaka Maruyama “lied” to the nation when he apologized for his earlier comments calling for war against Russia. It’s now apparent that his “gaffe” expressed his true self.
—Abe government officials seem to be moving toward the view that heckling officials’ political street speeches is not part of freedom of expression. “I think that it cannot be said that shouting (at political speeches) is a guaranteed right,” declares the education minister.
—As expected, Takuya Tasso is reelected Governor of Iwate Prefecture. Although he was facing a ruling party challenger, Tasso is backed by Ichiro Ozawa’s still-formidable political machine in the prefecture.
—Yuichiro Tamaki tells Democratic Party For the People lawmakers that the merged parliamentary caucus with the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan signifies no change in the party’s commitment to “reform centrism.” There seems to have been little policy coordination.
—Rightwing history denier Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura threatens to withhold promised subsidies to the Aichi Triennale, not satisfied with their suppression of the Comfort Women statue exhibit, suggesting it shouldn’t have been included in the first place.
—Shinjiro Koizumi speaks in favor of letting married women keep using their maiden names, an issue that is of particular immediacy for him now that he will marry celebrity announcer Christel Takigawa. Presumably, she doesn’t want to be forced to change to Christel Koizumi.
—Judge rules that independent journalist Yasumi Iwakami must pay 330,000 yen to rightwing politician Toru Hashimoto because Iwakami retweeted someone else’s claim that Hashimoto had worked staff members to death. A retweet.
—Independent journalist Yasumi Iwakami has filed an appeal against the rather ridiculous court judgment that he must pay 330,000 yen to rightwing politician Toru Hashimoto because Iwakami retweeted someone else’s claim that Hashimoto had worked staff members to death.
—Japan Communist Party finally finds another progressive political party willing to work closely with it. Taro Yamamoto of Reiwa Shinsengumi agrees that the parties of the left should work together to form the next Japanese government.
—An advertisement placed in the Nihon Keizai Shinbun on August 19 urging for solidarity with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement has been nominated for the Nikkei Advertising Awards. It featured an egg hit by a bullet, referencing a Haruki Murakami speech.
—Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama tells Jiji Press that his decision at the end of his premiership in May 2010 to abandon his promise to move the US Marines out of Okinawa was “a big mistake.” He now believes he should have stuck to his campaign promise and demanded them out.
—US Department of Defense reportedly planning to ask Japan and other pigeons… err… allies, to pay more for US military bases on their territories because President Donald Trump shifted US$1.8 billion meant for overseas bases to his Mexico border wall project. Needless to say, this will effectively be a request not to assist the United States as a whole, but support for the partisan interests of Donald Trump and the US Republican Party. This is also true of Abe’s recent agreement to buy more corn from US farmers.
—Abe government plans to launch a new “Cool Japan” initiative, this time after creating a “private-sector organization” to play the key role.
—Pope Francis’ visit to Japan set for November 23 to 26. He is scheduled to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki in addition to Tokyo. If the visit occurs as planned, Francis will the first pope to visit Japan since 1981.
—Pope Francis may use his November visit to Japan for a serious purpose: to draw attention to need to end capital punishment in Japan. This may include a meeting between the Pope and Iwao Hakamada, whose treatment by the legal system has been despicable.
—Japanese business leaders becoming more alarmed as the US-China trade war intensifies. Some businesses mull pulling out or reducing their presence in China so as not to get hit full force by the new tariffs.
—JOGMEC and Mitsui’s purchase of a 10% stake in Arctic LNG-2 was finalized at the Eastern Economic Forum. The overall cost of the project is now estimated at US$21.3 billion. It will begin production in 2023 and its total annual capacity will be 19.8 million tons per year.
—Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership talks in Bangkok made no progress, according to participants, though details on the sticking points not revealed. The aim to reach an agreement by the end of this year may be in jeopardy.
—Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada notes that space is running out to store radioactive water from the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and that his opinion is that it will soon be necessary to dump the radioactive water into the ocean.
—Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations is outraged at Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada’s suggestion that radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant should be dumped in the ocean. They have already suffered badly from the disaster.
—New Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi will waste no time, making his first visit to Fukushima to investigate the issue of radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
—Nuclear Regulation Authority announces that it will conduct a fresh investigation of the March 2011, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, with a special view to examining how radiation leaked from the damaged reactors.
—Yahoo Japan offers almost US$4 billion to buy Zozo Inc., the Japanese online retailer run by flamboyant billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who is now well-known internationally for his appointment to become one of the first Moon tourists.
—After an extended visit, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz admits that more of his state’s agricultural products cannot really be exported to Japan, particularly not enough to make up for markets being lost in China due to Trump’s trade war.
—Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study finds that Japan spends the least among all its 35 member countries on public education. On average, OECD nations spend 4% of their GDP on education. The figure in Japan is 2.9%.
—In its latest scheme to get people to use the unpopular MyNumber system, the Abe government will next try bribery, offering 5,000 yen (about US$47) in free cash if people use a MyNumber-linked smartphone payments system.
—Having completely fallen on its face with the failed 7Pay mobile payments system, Seven-Eleven Japan has decided to ally with Rakuten to bring the Rakuten Pay mobile payments system to Seven-Eleven.
—The Taiji dolphin hunt season begins with Wakayama police on alert for animal rights activists. The dolphin hunt became notorious internationally since the release of the 2009 documentary “The Cove,” but a decade later it continues.
—Abe government decides to make a more serious push to use family names first when rendering Japanese names. They might ask for the private sector to follow suit, but it remains to be seen if this will happen or not.
—Three Vietnamese nationals launch lawsuit against a Japanese firm that brought them to the country under the notorious Technical Intern Training Program only to have use them for radiation decontamination work in Fukushima.
—The Keikyu Main Line has finally resumed service more than two days after a major accident in Yokohama in which a truck became trapped on the tracks and was hit by a train. The truck driver was killed and 35 people on the train were injured.
—Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education issues official notice to all junior and senior high schools that they should not force students to dye their hair black. This odd and invasive custom arose out of an overzealous desire to enforce conformity on young people in Japan.
—New survey shows that more than 61% of freelance workers in Japan report that they have been victims of power harassment, with female freelancers in particular suffering such behavior. Of the 1,218 people surveyed, 53 even said they were raped.
—Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announces that there now more than 70,000 Japanese who have reached age 100 or older. Of these, more than 88% are women.
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