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.
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.
The Japanese economy has emerged from recession, helped along by low oil prices and a surging stock market. But at a household level optimism remains elusive.
The Nikkei, Japan’s most important stock index, hit a 15-year high last Friday with closing figures above the 19,000 mark. The advance of the stock market, which is largely owed to multinationals operating overseas profiting from Abenomics’ policy of monetary easing, along with a stable increase in demand from the United States, is a welcome success for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose hesitance to implement or clearly define the crucial “third arrow” of his economic policy has been criticized by politicians and economists alike.
Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took to power for the second time in December 2012, many of his bills have been met by skepticism from politicians and the public alike. One of Prime Minister Abe’s least controversial reforms, however, is the plan to lower the legal voting age from 20 to 18 years.
Political donations have been a problem for Japanese politicians for a very long time. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already has lost three of his ministers due to alleged violations of the Political Funds Control Law after the reshuffle of his Cabinet in September last year, and suspicions are being raised about a fourth, Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura.
Only days after Agriculture Minister Koya Nishikawa saw himself forced to resign over allegations of campaign funding irregularities, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet faces renewed challenges with another senior minister suffering similar allegations, as well as a concern about the role of government subsidy receiving firms that has touched even the prime minister and chief cabinet secretary themselves.
Energy conservation has become a major topic in Japan over the past few years, not only because of the suspension of nuclear reactors after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, but also because of the higher energy bills that came with it. New technology might help in that struggle.
The history of Japanese war crimes committed during the Pacific War, and who should take responsibility for them, is a very involved one. It took numerous expert historians and years of research to come to the conclusion that Japan was guilty of abducting Korean and Chinese women to use them as prostitutes for the Japanese Imperial Army: the so-called comfort women issue.
After having spent only six months in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reshuffled cabinet, Minister of Agriculture Koya Nishikiwa found himself forced to resign over allegations of wrongfully accepting campaign donations from the sugar industry. The decision to step down didn’t come as a surprise, as the critique about the funding scandal had been steadily building, even leading to questioning in the Diet, and eventually leading Prime Minster Abe to make a public defense of his agriculture minister.