Swans Commentary » swans.com December 16, 2013  



Perspectives: A Review of 2013


A Review Of 2013 In Japan
It started with a bad feeling because of our new prime minister.


by Kazue Daikoku





[ed. Kazue Daikoku, the publisher and editor of "Happa-no-Kofu," was very gracious and generous to share her sensitive thoughts in April 2011 about the natural disaster that befell Japan, her beloved country.]


(Swans - December 16, 2013)   In the end of 2012, more accurately, 26 December, we got a new prime minister in Japan. After only three years of taking power by the Democratic Party of Japan -- the first time in their history -- the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) regained control of the government in the 2012 election, and Shinzo Abe, the party leader of LDP, became the prime minister of Japan, again. His first time as Japan's prime minister was between September 2006 and September 2007, lasting only a year. He suddenly resigned for reasons no one could understand, and he seemed to lose the trust of everyone.

So we were kind of surprised when he won the LDP presidential election, and then became Japan's prime minister again. I was in a bad mood when I heard he was the new prime minister, and I thought the year 2013 would be awful. I was anxious about our future and Japan's situation. He is a very conservative person in all respects, though he sometimes poses as a liberal person. He has conservative ideas about history and its education, and has kept adversarial eyes on nearby Asian countries like China, South Korea, and North Korea. And he believes strongly in Japan as "a beautiful country."

You may remember that Tokyo was announced as the host city of the 2020 Summer Olympics at the IOC Session in Buenos Aires in September, and what Sinzo Abe said in his speech there came as a complete surprise. He said, "The situation is under control"; he was speaking about radioactive leaks at Fukushima. He continued, "It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo. It poses no problem whatsoever, the contamination was limited to a small area, and had been 'completely blocked'." Oh, has it really??? Most people in Japan don't believe, or never believed, that radioactive leaks had been "completely blocked," not only in Fukushima, but also anywhere else in Japan, Tokyo included.

There have been lots of newspaper reports about additional information on radioactive leaks since the accident in 2011. Even now we often receive the reports: additional ones and newly-discovered ones, so we don't think there is nothing to stop, especially leaks of toxic water into the sea. We don't think we are "under control" at all. His speech in Buenos Aires is founded on a lie.

Shinzo Abe is "Japan's youngest prime minister since World War II, and is the first to be born after the war" (from Wikipedia), but we knew he was a man who had an old-fashioned idea about nation, politics, culture, history, education, etc. when he was at the position in his first term. He is a grandson of Nobusuke Kishi, who was the prime minister (LDP) from 1957 to 1960 and called "the Showa era devil," and his younger brother, Shinzo Abe's great-uncle, Eisaku Sato, was also the prime minister (LDP) from 1964 to 1972. These two infamous politicians (at least for liberal and conscientious Japanese) meant much to postwar Japan, I think.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's trademark phrase is "grab back Japan" -- he repeats it all the time. But we are not sure what we should get back, and what he means by the "Japan" that we have to have again.

He published a book called Toward a Beautiful Nation: My Vision For Japan in 2006, which was his bestselling book in this country. (I found strange things about the English version of this book on Amazon.com -- I will explain at the end of this article.) I think he has had a clear image about a "beautiful Japan" that I don't understand. And I have to admit that some people in Japan agreed to see a beautiful Japan with him, so the book sold well here.

So far as is known, in his second term as prime minister, he has not yet strongly expressed his conservative ideas up front; he seems to exercise caution not to show a hawkish aspect. But if you look carefully, you will find some bad effects from the government.

Recently, Takeshima, a small island in Okinawa, the southern part of Japan, became a serious problem among the education board of the area and the Education Ministry on choosing a history textbook. Takeshima didn't want to choose the textbook called The New History Textbook, which has many problematic approaches to Japan's history, especially the descriptions about the invasion and occupation of nearby Asian countries. Shinzo Abe, who "denies the abduction of comfort women by Japanese troops, claims that a history textbook must contribute to the formation of national consciousness." (Wikipedia)

Perhaps "old history textbooks" will bother Abe about Japan's image as his "beautiful nation"; by old he means the post-war regime because another of his trademark phrases is "breakaway from the post-war regime" and it mainly means a constitutional amendment, especially Article 9, which is the basis of the peace constitution. Prime Minister Abe is going to change Article 96 in preparation for changing Article 9. Article 96 of the Japanese Constitution is a clause specifying the process for making amendments; changing it will make it easier for the government to change Article 9.

I don't know what he will show us next year, but he and his cabinet seem to be supported by quite a few people, so according to the cabinet approval rating, he will work for his "beautiful nation" with a great deal of confidence. That's a crying shame for me.

Finally, I'd like to tell you about his bestselling book, Toward a Beautiful Nation: My Vision For Japan. I visited Amazon.com while I was writing this article, and found this book (published by Vertical; October 23, 2007) with a one-star review. The reviewer writes, "No copies available... So I contacted the publisher and I got this reply." The reviewer quotes the publisher's letter: "Unfortunately, Mr. Abe's book while briefly listed was never published by Vertical and was quickly removed from our listings years ago. I do not believe it has never been translated into English, either."

Although the book was possibly translated into English, it has never been available??? I guess the book might have had some troublesome descriptions when it was translated into English, and it might have been judged as a controversial concept if it was read by the general public in the world. I think this book may fit only Japanese people who would like to believe "Japan as a beautiful nation" to be true.


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About the Author

Kazue Daikoku is the publisher and editor of a nonprofit Japanese Web Press, "Happa-no-Kofu," which means "leaf miner" in English (an insect larva that lives and feeds within a leaf). Happa-no-Kofu specializes on bilingual (Japanese-English) publications both on the Web and in print on demand. Daikoku writes in the site's about page, "We value the uniqueness of each individual's ideas. We support the individual's power and energy, and believe that our activity on the Internet helps international communication on an individual level." She is also a translator from English to Japanese. To learn more about her (and see a picture of her), please read the 2007 interview she gave for Červená Barva Press. Kazue Daikoku lives in Kawasaki, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan.   (back)


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published December 16, 2013