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All posts by Michael Penn

The Shrinking Space for Political Dissent

The first round of the unified local elections on April 12 showed once again that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party are in firm control of the nation. More than two years after the December 2012 general elections, there remains no sign whatsoever that the opposition parties are on the rebound or can even put up a decent fight against the ruling coalition.

Recalling the Pivot to the Pacific

In the year 2011 the Obama administration rolled out a new policy called the “Pivot to Asia,” which was supposed to herald a shifting of the United States’ attention and resources to the Asia-Pacific, deemed to be the most important geography for the emerging 21st century.

China’s “Diplomatic Victory” over Japan

Japan Innovation Party leader Kenji Eda couldn’t have framed the events in starker terms when he discussed the issue of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank at a press conference last Thursday: “It was a victory for Chinese diplomacy and a complete defeat for Japanese diplomacy,” he declared.

Stumbling into Tragedy

The group sometimes called the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) murdered freelance journalist Kenji Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa. The various messages that ISIL sent through Goto’s voice to the world demonstrate clearly that they are listening to the debates in the world’s media, and we therefore can understand that ISIL murdered Mr. Goto in full knowledge of the humanitarian nature of his work and the fact that he personally bore no enmity toward Muslims or their causes.

The Yomiuri Shinbun Takes Pride in Its Shame

The Yomiuri Shinbun stunned the world in late November with a highly unusual apology. The paper announced that it had found dozens of articles in past issues of the English-language Daily Yomiuri (now called The Japan News) between February 1992 and January 2013 that used the expression “sex slave” to refer to wartime comfort women.

New Year’s Eve with the Shibuya Homeless

For seventeen years a private aid group has been feeding the homeless of Shibuya Ward during the winter holiday period when city services are otherwise unavailable. In the early years, about one hundred homeless would show up and participate, but in recent years that number has swelled to about two hundred, according to the organizers.

Aftermath of an Ambiguous General Election

Today Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will form his third cabinet since his December 2012 return to power. It will look an awful lot like the second cabinet, the only difference being that underperforming Defense Minister Akinori Eto will be dropped in favor of veteran hand Gen Nakatani.

NHK’s Decline into Propaganda

When NHK was founded in 1926, it was quite consciously modelled on the BBC of the United Kingdom. In that spirit, visitors to the English-language section of the NHK webpage will find its self-description as follows: “NHK delivers a wide range of impartial, high-quality programs, both at home and abroad.”