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This Week in Japan (08.16.17)

This Week in Japan is your source for news and information about politics and other happenings in this East Asian island country. This episode covers the Top Five stories of the second week of August 2017.

Reconstruction Minister Sacked After Fresh Gaffe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga have repeatedly been warning this particularly gaffe-prone set of Cabinet ministers to exercise caution and to be very careful about what they say in public. Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura, however, didn’t seem to get the memo, and after a fresh gaffe he is swiftly out.

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.”

Loneliness of the Long-Distance Coalition Partner

This should be the best of times for the New Komeito Party. Somehow they remained loyal partners of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) even after the crushing electoral defeat of August 2009, and they patiently weathered more than three years on the opposition benches while the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) mismanaged the nation. By rights, the last two national elections should be judged a triumph in which this party performed well and its ally came to dominate the government ranks.

Shinzo Abe Loses His Grip on the Hard Right

As anyone who studies Japanese political history of the 1930s can attest, the rightwing forces in this nation can be a fractious lot. Once the spirit of nationalism rages, any sort of moderate, compromising behavior can be denounced as treason. Shinzo Abe came to power as a spokesman for the hard right, but after ten months of reasonably cautious behavior, a good chunk of this movement is ready to turn against him.

A Coup by Appointment: Debilitating Article Nine

It is not exactly an unknown technique in politics, but the Abe administration is using it in several high-profile cases, and some people, at least, have noticed. The technique is to establish supposedly “independent” panels or organizations, but appointing people to serve on those panels or in those organizations whose opinions and conclusions are already known in advance.