The Aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis
SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the last half of October 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.
Rolling Coverage: Typhoon Hagibis Aftermath
—Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai “withdraws” his comment that damage done by Typhoon Hagibis was “tolerable.” His comment has looked increasingly bad as the fuller picture of the human and material toll has become clear.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself criticizes Tokyo’s Taito Ward for refusing typhoon shelter to homeless people: “Shelters are supposed to be set up for the purpose of protecting lives of affected people. It is desirable to accept all affected people in shelters.”
—Taito Ward Mayor Yukuo Hattori issues an apology for evacuation centers in his ward refusing to admit homeless people, leaving them out in the elements during Typhoon Hagibis. He says he will set up an advisory committee (when all that is really needed is common decency).
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tours Nagano Prefecture in the wake of Typhoon Hagibis: “The government will do everything it can. We will make all-out efforts in searching for missing people and in restoring rivers and lifeline services.”
—Celebrations of the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito likely to be significantly toned down due to the tragedies of Typhoon Hagibis. Traditionally, natural disasters were seen as inauspicious for Imperial reigns, but will be hard to avoid in the Reiwa Era of climate change.
—The Cabinet has approved the proposal to delay Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement parade until November 10 in order not to appear too celebratory in the immediate wake of Typhoon Hagibis and the many deaths that it caused.
—The effects on the Hokuriku Shinkansen service, from Tokyo to Kanazawa, to endure for weeks. Services along the full line will take one or two weeks to resume, and even then the lack of cars (due to flooding) will mean reduced services.
—JR East is looking at a possible US$300 million price tag to replace the 120 Hokuriku Shinkansen cars flooded in the Nagano train yard, not including the costs of the prolonged suspension and then reduced services on the line. Price of climate change piling up quickly.
—Hakone Tozan Railway to take months to recover from Typhoon Hagibis as landslides and other damage make it inoperable along most of the line. The typhoon dumped more than one meter of rain in the area.
—The end of Typhoon Hagibis has not meant the end of record-breaking rainfall in Japan. Owase city, Mie Prefecture, has just experienced 124 millimeters of rain in just one hour. Such “rain bombs” are another symptom of climate change, and more of it is expected.
—Japanese government is beginning to recognize the growing threat of flooding caused by climate change, and is beginning a process to strengthen flood control measures along major rivers, understanding that this has become a key vulnerability with heavier rainfall.
—Disaster recovery efforts in Japan, such as recovery from Typhoon Hagibis, are running into a new problem that is slowing things down: The nation’s declining workforce means there is often a shortfall of human hands to do the needed clean-up and repair work.
Rolling Coverage: South Korea Relations
—South Korean visitors to Japan plunged 58.1% year-on-year, according to the Japan Tourism Agency. Massive increases in Chinese tourists kept the overall tourist figures growing, but the impact of Abe’s ideological policies of history denial remain serious.
—The Aichi Triennale has come to an end after 74 days. The festival, which is one of Japan’s most prestigious, was overshadowed by the controversy surrounding one of its exhibitions, titled “Freedom of Expression and After,” which featured a statue of a Comfort Woman.
—Abe government-supported rightwing terrorism wins another battle against freedom of expression. Kawasaki Shinyuri Film Festival reverses its decision to screen a movie about the Comfort Women issue. They are worried about public subsidies being pulled, as happened in Aichi.
—Annandale, northern Virginia, is expected to host a Comfort Women statue in the near future, angering Japanese rightwingers who demand that wartime history be whitewashed to suit their particular ideology.
—US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood publicly urges South Korea to reestablish its General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan.
—Foreign Ministry aims to convince Koreans that the Rising Sun flag is not a symbol of militarism nor oppression of their country, and that they are simply wrong to complain about it.
—Japan and South Korea may finally be on the road to stabilizing their diplomatic relations. The Abe and Moon governments are quietly holding talks to try to resolve some of the most divisive issues such as wartime forced labor.
—South Korean National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-Sang will make his first visit to Japan since making comments in February that then-Emperor Akihito should make a formal apology to Koreans over wartime Comfort Women. He is coming for a G20 related event.
—Japanese beer shipments to South Korea fell 99.9% from year-on-year September levels.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga continues attacks on the Moon government because it won’t defy the South Korean Supreme Court over its forced labor compensation ruling. It seems that the Abe government considers Korea’s legal system a sham (as it may be in Japan).
—Isshu Sugawara resigns as Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry after being caught in a campaign law violation. As one of the more senior ministers in the Abe Cabinet, it is a considerable loss for the government.
—Hiroshi Kajiyama appointed to become the new Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. Needless to say, he’s another Nippon Kaigi member, supportive of nuclear power and revision of the pacifist constitution.
—Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai becomes the second Abe Cabinet minister in a week to suddenly resign over campaign law violations, although this time the violations apparently center on his wife. Masako Mori will be the new Justice Minister.
—In a clear step in the right direction, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Democratic Party For the People, and Social Democratic Party have decided to unite behind a Japan Communist Party candidate (who will run as an independent) in the Kochi gubernatorial race in November. Hopefully, this is the beginning of more competitive local races.
—Ichiro Ozawa is calling for a full merger of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party For the People into a new party by the end of the year. In other words, he wants to recreate the Democratic Party of Japan backed by Rengo.
—Takamatsu High Court rules July House of Councillors election conducted “in state of unconstitutionality” due to the 3-to-1 voter disparity. Recent landslide election victories of the Liberal Democratic Party continue to depend on artificial weight given to some districts.
—Akita branch of the Sendai High Court rules that it is no problem that some voters are effectively given three times more representation than others. Two other courts had ruled such a practice unconstitutional. Needless to say, the current system favors the ruling party.
—Seiichi Eto, minister of Okinawa and the Northern Territories, becomes the first Cabinet member in over two years to officially visit Yasukuni Shrine. It sounds like this war criminal worshipping minister is just the man to respect Okinawa’s history and democratic rights.
—Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi visits Yasukuni Shrine, becoming the second Cabinet minister to do so in recent days. She claims that her visit “shouldn’t” affect Japan’s relations with Asia.
—Democratic Party For the People lawmaker Yuko Mori may have had the content of her parliamentary questions leaked publicly before she officially presented them at a Diet committee. The government bureaucracy may have had a hand in the leak. Investigation underway.
—Former Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa rejects idea that she should run as the ruling party candidate against Yuriko Koike for Tokyo Governor next year. She says she plans to stay put in the House of Councillors.
—In a tradition that the Japanese public has now turned against but the establishment continues to push for its own political purposes, 550,000 petty criminals received pardons on the occasion of Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony.
—The Japanese people once again prove far more socially progressive than the ruling conservatives: 81.9% support the idea of a female Empress if no male is available to become Emperor. The Abe government and its Nippon Kaigi allies are horrified by such a prospect.
—Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama announces his plan to create a small opposition party, this one called Kyowato (same kanji as for US Republican Party). Japan’s independence from overbearing US government control will be one of its key policy pillars.
—Saitama gubernatorial election has a 20.8% voter turnout rate on a day with beautiful weather. Main opposition supported Kiyoshi Ueda smashes Protect the Nation from NHK leader Takashi Tachibana by a nearly 10-to-1 margin.
—Protect the Nation from NHK leader Takashi Tachibana, who just lost his Saitama House of Councillors election bid, hit by a lawsuit from… you guessed it… NHK, over his refusal to pay NHK broadcasting fees. The courts have previously backed NHK in other such suits.
—Corrupt Osaka prosecutors ask for seven-year prison sentences for Yasunori Kagoike, 66, and Junko Kagoike, 62. The same prosecutors have steadfastly refused to pursue charges against the government which colluded with the Kagoikes while they were still darlings of the Abes.
—International Olympic Committee invites itself to hold 2020 marathon and race walking events in Sapporo, not Tokyo, without asking permission from either city. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike quips that perhaps the International Olympic Committee should invite itself to the Northern Territories instead.
—Yoshiro Mori, president of Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, describes Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s sarcastic comments about holding the marathon on the Northern Territories as “irresponsible.” Of course, Mori himself would surely never say anything inappropriate.
—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s joke about holding Olympic marathons on the Northern Territories continues to attract attention. Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki says the remarks were “extremely regrettable.” Seems excessive to get worked up about what was obviously a joke.
—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike disputing with the International Olympic Committee over the location and time at which the marathon and race-walking events will be held. The International Olympic Committee has tried to move the events to Sapporo by fiat, without seeking any local government consent.
—It appears that the Japanese client state will again follow US government commands and dispatch the Self-Defense Forces to the Persian Gulf region on an anti-Iran mission. Details yet to be revealed, but again Japan lets US priorities guide its own defense policies.
—Abe government appears to be trying to have it both ways on Persian Gulf deployment; telling Washington that it shows its commitment to the alliance, and telling Tehran that it won’t formally be part of the US anti-Iran coalition. It is Japan’s Iraq War policy redux.
—The Abe government’s token contribution to Persian Gulf security likely to be… token. It may consist of only two ships, one of which is already in the region on ostensible anti-piracy duties. Not clear what the ships will do other than sail around and defend themselves.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga comments on the reported death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: “We believe it is an important step toward peace and stability in the Middle East and recognize it as a result of the international fight against extremism.”
—US Marines in Okinawa continue to demonstrate contempt for host country Japan, holding parachute exercises in areas that have not been designated for that purpose. Even pro-American Defense Minister Taro Kono says this behavior “could affect the US-Japan Alliance.”
—Abe government may deploy the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) anti-missile system in Tokyo during the Olympics because, apparently, the Evil Chinese or North Koreans might want to kill their own athletes by missile attack during the competition.
—Russia has decided to break off talks about creating a visa-free zone between Sakhalin and Hokkaido after Japan refused to give ground. Japan was reluctant to treat residents of the disputed islands in the same way as Sakhalin residents.
—Duma deputy Natalya Poklonskaya has been denied a Japanese tourist visa. In her former role as Crimean prosecutor, she was placed under Japanese sanctions. She briefly achieved fame following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 when she was turned into an anime character.
—Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam arriving in Japan today to attend Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony. As the people of Hong Kong fight for democracy, the Establishment continues to honor the proponents of authoritarianism.
—Emperor Naruhito formally proclaims his accession to the throne before an audience of the world’s royalty and political leaders. The overwhelming majority of world nations sent delegations to the event.
—Human Rights Watch: “The Japanese government should publicly hold Myanmar to account for military atrocities committed against Rohingya and other ethnic minorities… It should discourage Japanese investment that would benefit the military.”
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calls on visiting Myanmarese leader Aung San Suu Kyi to take “appropriate measures” regarding the Rohingya minority. After such a tongue-lashing, she pledges to act “correctly.” It’s about as meaningless a call for human rights as possible.
—Hiroshima High Court follows what is becoming the usual verdict on US military aircraft noise: Acknowledging that nearby residents are suffering and ordering the Japanese government to financially compensate them, but refusing to touch on US military behavior.
—Japanese companies, never very tolerant of “uncertainty,” are said to be growing increasingly frustrated with the United Kingdom over its Brexit (non-)policies. While a mass exit from the country still seems some way off, alternatives to Britain under consideration.
—Former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata has passed away at age 92. She was always one of Japan’s best and most sensible diplomats on the world stage.
—Mos Food Services partnering with Danang Vocational Tourism College to train hundreds of Vietnamese students to gain skills and speak Japanese, and then help them get visas to work at Mos Burger outlets in Japan.
—The SoftBank Group is doubling down on its investment in the troubled startup WeWork, with a fresh US$10 billion financial commitment that will see SoftBank own about 80% of the firm’s shares.
—Abe government claims the new bilateral US-Japan trade deal will boost Japan’s GDP by 0.8%. Sorry, don’t believe that for a second. If it is so good for Japan’s economy, why did the Abe government spend a couple years trying to avoid such an agreement? More fake statistics.
—Akahata: “PM Abe obsessively describes the agreement as ‘win-win’ for both countries, but taking a look at the details of the formally-signed agreement, it is obvious that Japan one-sidedly gives in to US demands and that the US is the sole winner.”
—The Drone Wars! Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Tourism reports that Kansai International Airport suspended operations for about forty minutes due to the sighting of a suspected drone in the area.
—Seven-Eleven Japan becomes the first major convenience store chain to give up a mandatory 24-hour business at all outlets. To begin with, about eight stores will be allowed to close during the late night period, and this number may later be expanded.
—Welfare Ministry projects that Japan could face a shortage of up to 270,000 nursing staff within the next five years or so.
—ANA to begin flights between Narita and Vladivostok on March 16, 2020. The flights will operate twice a week (Monday and Friday). JAL is also expected to start operating same route from summer 2020. The new flights are a response to increased Russian visitors to Japan.
—Vanilla Air ends its operations, absorbed into Kansai-based Peach Aviation, which has now become the largest low-cost air carrier in Japan. It operates under the auspices of All-Nippon Airways (ANA).
—For the first time since it opened in 1978, Narita Airport has extended its operating hours. The airport will now remain open until midnight. Some train and bus operators have also extended their hours. This is part of the ramp up connected with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
—JR West reopens the Geibi Line along its full route in Hiroshima and Okayama prefectures. It was knocked out of service by the July 2018 floods and took fifteen months to restore.
—Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) showing first signs of embracing the global progressive movement, making a call to raise the national minimum wage by more than 20% to the 1,100 Yen (about US$10.20) level.
—Tokyo Labor Commission rules that Gaba language teachers have the right to strike. The company had argued that they have no such right because they are “service providers” and not workers. The commission rejected this argument.
—Carlos Ghosn lawyers now publicly making the case that our analysis had concluded months ago: The criminal case against Ghosn was fabricated by Nissan executives and the Abe government over fears that he would hand over Nissan to effective French control.
—Tesla’s country manager for Japan indicates that Powerwall home power storage battery installations in the country will begin in spring 2020, the first in Asia. The inability of utilities to prevent blackouts during disasters expected to boost Japanese demand.
—The Japanese government decides that it wants to participate in a US program to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024. In particular, Japan would assist in constructing an orbital outpost for the mission. Japan might participate in Mars exploration projects as well.
—National Institute for Environmental Studies concludes that Japan may be losing the battle to keep fire ants out of the country. Fifty queens and more than three hundred workers were found recently in a colony at the Aomi container terminal in Tokyo.
—Fire Ants! Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declares, “The government will act as one to prevent fire ants from becoming an established species in the country.”
—Cabinet Office survey finds 89% of Japanese say they are interested in the problem of marine pollution caused by plastic waste.
—Education Ministry announces that there were a record 540,000+ bullying cases at elementary and high schools in FY2018. Of course, this likely doesn’t indicate record levels of bullying, but rather a new willingness at the local level to identify and report about bullying.
—Extinction Rebellion reaches Japan, but is not much of a “rebellion.” About a dozen Japanese activists stage a “die-in” in Yoyogi Park, but when police arrive within an hour and tell them to stop it, they pack up and leave peacefully. Par for the course for Japan protests.
—Shibuya Ward apparently planning for hardline policing of the increasingly out-of-control Halloween celebrations this year, armed with a new ordinance that bans public drinking after 6pm and activities such as climbing on streetlights.
—Shibuya Ward Mayor Ken Hasebe announces that about US$1 million of taxpayer money to be spent to provide additional security regarding Halloween celebrations, including the deployment of over a hundred security guards.
—Record 2,829,416 foreign residents now registered in Japan, making up well over 2.2% of Japan’s overall population. By nationality: Chinese (786,241), South Koreans (451,543), and Vietnamese (371,755) lead the pack. Vietnamese have been the fastest-growing group.
—Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda announces that official documents will begin listing individuals’ family name first on official documents from January 1, as the Abe government continues to spend its time tackling the issues that really matter.
—Shuri Castle in Naha, a world heritage site, has been entirely lost in a massive fire overnight. The castle is about five centuries old and is a crucial cultural legacy of Ryukyu history.
—The destruction of Shuri Castle creates a moment of consensus in Japanese politics, as both ruling coalition and opposition lawmakers agree that they will cooperate to rebuild this central symbol of Okinawa’s culture and history.
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