Japan’s Dangerous Tilt to The Right: a report from Hamburg, Germany

by Natalia Berner* 

HAMBURG

Japan is plunging to right, as voices of alarm start to rise, but most of German and Japanese society does not realize how serious the recent political situation has become. Reactions are similar to those of a paralyzed moose facing the headlamps of an upcoming truck. Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University (上智大学) is one of the very few outspoken critics still standing up and critiquing the Abe government. He recently lectured in Hamburg, Germany. He explained with great honesty and clarity, why in his opinion, Japan is shifting dangerously to the right. The lecture resonated in Germany in a way it may resonate nowhere else.

         “I can’t remember any time in postwar (Japan) when things looked this bad”.

If you heard the lecture about Japan’s drift to the right, ending with those words, held at the Hamburg University on December 9th,  you might seriously start to worry, if you’re not worried already.

In Germany, Japan's far shift to the right raises concerns. In Japan, the Vice Prime Minister makes remarks praising Nazis and Prime Minister Abe's cabinet appointees not only associate with Japan Nazi Party Members but lavishly praised this book "Hitler's Election Strategy" written by an LDP flack.
In Germany, Japan’s far shift to the right raises concerns. In Japan, the current Vice Prime Minister makes remarks praising Nazis and Prime Minister Abe’s cabinet appointees not only associate with Japan Nazi Party Members but lavishly praised this book “Hitler’s Election Strategy”,  written by an LDP flack. Prior to elections, the State Secrets Law, which muzzles reporting and whistle-blowing with odious punishments went into effect on December 10th. Elections are being held today December 14th, 2014.

 

I know you’re generally not supposed to start an article with the conclusion but it seems appropriate. Why? Because it is like in Lars von Triers film Melancholia: in the very first sequence, it is visualized how the earth is being irreparably destroyed by an enormous planet moving toward the earth. The viewer’s optimistic nature about the future during the movie is being nipped in the bud, it is certain you will feel no hope, because right from the start everyone knows how the story will end. And sadly, this bears a striking similarity to Japan’s recent political situation. Cherishing hope is what we should not do, especially with the elections today. It is very unlikely that Abe’s agenda will be stopped. A surprising failure of the LDP will not come true. The reason: there is no alternative. No opposition. No left left. Japan is in very dark and deep waters right now.

This situation seems not to make the Japanese people concerned and this is in a way, understandable. At first, if you just take a superficial glance, it might seem like nothing really will change or has changed. The LPD has ruled the parliament most of Japan’s post-war history, and it has always had some “nationalist lunatics” within their roster. For example Abe’s grandfather, Nobosuke Kishi, who had been imprisoned as a category A war criminal, was released without any consequences and become the 56th and 57th Prime Minister of Japan. Kishi was synonomous with corruption, shady deals, criminal influence and even put up bail for a Yamaguchi-gumi (yakuza) boss accused of murder in the 1970s.

But exactly this is the reason why it is getting menacing: Japan is drifting to the right and it looks like the society doesn’t really realize, react nor care.

Koichi Nakano is asking exactly this question: “Is Japan shifting to the right?”. In his opinion Japan is on it’s way further “right” and in an almost right-tilting death spiral.

“Oh, gosh, this is just the ‘normalization’of Japan,” some say.  This is one of the arguments used by many, many people to trivialize the changes.

“Oh, Japan is becoming normal. They still have Article 9 in the constitution which forbids wars. The people are pacifists. They’re becoming normal just like Germany become normal. Germany also participates in military action and it’s not like it’s the return of Hitler all over again. So don’t worry: Japan is just doing the same.”

Sure.

Japan could maybe do the same, if Japan’s process of coming to terms with their past existed like it does in Germany. Germany came to terms with the atrocities committed by the Nazis and the nation during WWII; Japan denies them. It doesn’t teach them to their children. The current administration wants to bury the past, whitewash it, but not come to terms with it.

Reputedly in recent years “nothing really changed”. This is such an unsustainable argument like Abe’s declaration that his visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where the masterminds of Japan’s war are enshrined, is just paying his respects to the spirits of the war dead. He even claims it’s to renew the pledge that Japan shall never again wage war.” Of course, he doesn’t mention his wish to revive militarism.

“New Right Transformation” is the term Koichi Nakasone is calling Japans political development within the last twenty to thirty years. He claims this change doesn’t start with Abe; things started to move from the 1980s. This change of the political system in Japan is a long-term development.

“During the cold war there was the 1955 system. The LDP was always in power, the socialists were always in opposition. It was like the Japanese political system was frozen. No change at all. Prime Ministers were coming and going, one corrupt man replaced by anothercorrupt man. It was impossible in the Cold War context for the socialists to gain power.”

Lost Opportunity

After the end of the cold war, after the end of the bubble economy in Japan, things came into flux. People are given more choices. Japan was more opening up, more self-concious . “The New Right Transformation” was built from this liberalization of the politics in Japan and these liberating moments also became the cause for the Japanese left to collapse.

“The socialists failed to adapted to the new liberalized open politics and they dug their own grave. The liberal opening is eventually ending today in illiberal politics.”

The Japanese have, of course, not become all of a sudden a horde of visible nationalistic maniacs, who go on the streets and spill hatred and blood. People like the Zaitoku-kai – an ordinary bunch of people, who are Japan’s version of neo-nazis—are still the minority, they have just become a little bit more “in your face” than before. But, they are a reaction to the right-leaning tendencies the elites in the politics are initiatin.

Professor Nakano points it out: it is not like Japanese society is outspoken and the government is following, it is exactly the opposite. It is an “elite-driven and not society-driven” process that pushed Japan to the right.

Nakano, explains Japans political development to the right within the last 20-30 years with waves and a pendulum: every time the pendulum (symbolizing the Japanese politicial front) swings to the right, the set-point is also shifting to the right. So the moment the pendulum is going back to the left, the left is more right than it was before.

The rightward tendencies can also be seen as waves, which are coming and going. The very first wave was with Nakasone Yasuhiro, the second wave with Ozawa Ichiro, the third with Hashimoto Ryutaro, the fourth with Koizumi Junichiro and now the rightist tidal wave with Abe Shinzo. So one thing is true: Japan’s right wing shift did not begin with Abe and probably it won’t end with him either.

The New Inequality

One indicator for Japan’s ultra-conservative shift can be also found in Japan’s social-economic conditions. Japan is a very unequal country. Japan used to be often referred to as a very equalitarian society. There was a semi-credible myth, that everybody in Japan was middle class. Now, relative poverty in Japan in according to OECD statistics is 4th from the bottom. A reason: the number of irregular, part-time, unstable jobs increased; decent, stable and regular jobs decreased. Thanks to Abe and his predecessors slowly crippling Japan’s labor laws and empowering temporary staffing companies and corporations over the common people.

Another indicator of a hard-shift right related to domestic politics is the Law and Order Issue. The Secret State Law, that came into effect on December 10th. The state now decides what is a secret, can keep anything secret up to 60 years, and can arrest and probably imprison anyone who is asking about a secret, even if they don’t know it is a secret. Nakano lambastes the law, saying, “It is absurd and makes Japan look more and more like Russia: the state knows everything and we do not know anything.”

Japan has become a very illiberal and undemocratic country in two short years. Japan isn’t just drifting right, it’s plunging into the right.

“I can’t remember any time in postwar Japan when things looked this bad.”

You don’t have to be an expert on Japan to see where things are heading. For those listening to Professor Nakano’s lecture in Hamburg, his words sent a chill up our spines.

History does repeat itself if you don’t know it—or you do know it and try to bury it.

The rulers of Japan seem to be learning a lot from the Nazis. That's not heartening.
The rulers of Japan seem to be learning a lot from the Nazis. That’s not heartening.

 

*Natalia Berner is the JSRC correspondent for Germany. A newbie journalist, we hope to hear more from her in the future. Jake Adelstein also contributed to this article. 

The First Victim of War is The Truth: Japan’s Journalists Protest The Secrets Law

The First Victim of War is The Truth

Tokyo Shimbun’s National News Chief (12/10/2014)

A few days after Japan lost the war, thick clouds of smoke spewed from government and military facilities as mass amounts of documents were burned. It was an organized cover-up to thwart investigations by the allied forces. Because of this more than half of Japan’s secret documents were lost, we lost our chance to get a handle on the full scope of the war. It’s a classic example of how the bureaucracy has no vision for making information public.

Politicians aren’t much different. When Prime Minister Eisaku Sato achieved the return of Okinawa, his profession of the three basic principles of non-nuclear arms won him the nobel peace prize. In the background, was a secret treaty that the Prime Minister had made with President Nixon. The former Prime Minister never informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about these secret negotiations and even kept the records of the agreement meeting hidden in his own home.

There’s an old Chinese saying, “It’s enough to make the people obey the law, there’s no need for them to understand it.” —That kind of though definitely permeates and is carried over into the State Secrets Act. There is no punishment for bureaucrats or politicians that unjustly hide information. There is no fair and balanced third party oversight group to check whether the release of information is justified or not. The only thing to determine what is a secret is the capricious decisions of the administration.

In the ever growing number of secrets, the truth will be sucked up. From the bottom of our hearts we should fear the arrival of such a rigid and crushing society. Seven months after the State Secrets Act was passed, the Abe Cabinet approved the collective self-defense interpretation of the constitution.

The path to deboning Japan’s constitution of Article 9 (which prohibits war) and allows the self-defense forces to fight overseas with the US has been cleared. The more a wartime regime moves forward, the more powerful a weapon the State Secrets law will become for the Japanese government

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said, “If there is an example of reporting being suppressed, I’ll resign.”

However, if any reporter seeks to clarify the discussion around sending Japanese troops to war, or any other state secret, they must be ready for a merciless investigation to descend upon them. All journalists know the saying, “The first victim of war is the truth.”

The Manchurian Incident began with a Japanese Army plot. The Japanese people were only told the truth during the Tokyo War Crimes trials. We shouldn’t let history repeat itself. Against this evil law, we must not remain silent and we must continue to raise our voices in protest.

the scream

****

Tanaka Minoru, the journalist who almost sued into silence for pointing out past ties to organized crime in relation to Japan’s nuclear industry shadow shogun and ‘fixer), Shiro Shirakwa, summarizes the problems with law succinctly.

“The top of any government organization can determine special secrets in four areas. The top secret classification period can be stretched from 5 to 60 years. The violators of the law who can be punished for leaks are not just federal or prefectural employees, or those working in the defense industry. If citizens or journalists, gain knowledge of such secrets by ‘improper’ methods or plot to obtain those methods or encourage others to share secrets, they can be punished. The longest punishment is 10 years. The ‘Suitability Tests’ that will now be conducted on government workers who may handle state secrets is invasive and said to violate basic human rights.”

The Star Trek Conference In Beijing: Klingon Warlord Xi Disses Tanuga* IV Leader Abe

It may look like a costume party, but as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation shindig draws to a close, nobody is having a good time.
TOKYO—Imagine if you will, that this year’s APEC summit was set in the Star Trek Universe and China was the belligerent Klingon Empire; it’s not hard if you try. And things aren’t going so well for the United Federation of Planets.

Klingon Warlord Xi hosts UFP conference but not all goes well.
Klingon Warlord Xi hosts UFP conference but not all goes well.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum, held this year in Beijing, should have been an unchecked testament to the rising power of China’s influence but instead it seems to be going badly. From the matching smocks that all the participants are wearing, widely ridiculed as Star Trek uniforms, to the air pollution in Beijing that’s out of control, not to mention Hong Kong, which is also out of control, this year’s APEC isn’t another Beijing Olympics where China is at the top of its propaganda game.

In yet another sign that China is not maturing as a democracy, the Chinese government blocked access to U.S. websites showing the real measurements of pollution in the area—which are about six times the acceptable levels. The concentration of PM2.5, the smallest particulate matter, is at 153 micrograms per cubic meter. The World Health Organization (WHO) puts the safe daily level at 25 micrograms.

This year APEC seemed to stand for: Asian People Exasperated with China. President Xi Jinping and his government, which never has had much of a sense of humor, seem to be providing more comedy material to the world than they are comfortable doing.

This year APEC seems to stand for: Asian People Exasperated with China.
The Star Trek meme has taken off on the World Wide Web. If the APEC talks were set in the science fiction world of Gene Rodenberry, China would clearly be the Klingon Empire and the other unloved attendee, Russia’s Vladmir Putin would be the war-like Romulan envoy. President Barack Obama, presumably, would be Mr. Spock, emotionally distant with a cold logic all his own. It could be a great costume party. However, one thing is clear at APEC this year: nobody is having a good time. The events have been punctuated by multiple awkward world leader meeting moments.

Xi did not look like a happy man as hours before the APEC conference began, he awkwardly shook hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It was the first meeting for the two estranged leaders since 2012, after Abe’s decision to visit Yasukuni Shrine where Japan’s war dead—and war criminals—are enshrined. This was taken as a sign of Japan’s lack of repentance for the atrocious acts committed during its rule of China in the early 20th century. Yet, after months of backdoor negotiations there was Xi, stone-facedly shaking hands with a smirking Abe. According to Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs sources, before the meeting China demanded that Japan admit a territorial dispute exists over the Senkaku Islands, which it calls Diaoyu. China wasn’t demanding that Japan recognize the island as Chinese territory—it demanded that Japan recognized it as “an issue.” Japan has been like a territorial alcoholic for years previously wouldn’t even admit that there was a problem.

Beijing also demanded that Abe declare he will no longer pay visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. Abe didn’t give in to that request, holding to the line that it’s a “personal” thing.
The incredibly vague agreement they reached admits that China thinks there is, indeed, a problem about the territorial rights of Senkaku. And that small concession by Abe inflamed critics in Japan, who called it “a losing strategy.”

Grant Newsham, an expert on Asia Pacific security issues and former U.S. Marine Corps Liaison Officer to the Japanese military, sees the meeting as a strategic mistake by Abe: “Is it even worth considering whether China is willing to change its position regarding territorial disputes and its desire to dominate Asia? It’s not. Thus, Japan has just conceded a main point—that a dispute exists and its willing to discuss it—even if the government of Japan claims it said no such thing in its statement. The PRC (China) has therefore gotten something important. And what did Japan get? A grudging handshake and a short meeting. Who looks like the supplicant?”

Koichi Nakano, a professor of Political Science at Sophia University, sees the meeting as a minor victory for Japan’s increasingly unpopular leader, “I think that a meeting was better than no meeting at all, so that’s a plus for Abe. Having said that, he is still on probation as far as the Chinese government is concerned, so it remains to be seen whether a substantial improvement is to be made in future meetings.” Nakano suggests that Abe “still has to play a delicate balancing act for the foreseeable future, and the thorny issues are all left unresolved as yet.”

One political observer summed up the atmospherics: “It looks like two guys drinking lemonade with the sugar left out.”

By contrast, if body language is any indication, Obama and Xi were getting along rather well. Xi welcomed Obama with a smile and a warm handshake. As Russia ramps up the conflict in the Ukraine, Obama appears to be appealing for China’s help to maintain world order. for the rest of the story at the Daily Beast click here 

Note: Japan is referred to as Tanuga* IV due to it’s harsh justice system, where you are presumed guilty until proven guilty.

vulcan
(by Bucky)
Live long and prosper. Try to stay calm and negotiate on.
Live long and prosper. Try to stay calm and negotiate on.

Japan’s Female Police Commissioner worked with racist & sexist newspaper?

NOTE: This article has been corrected after a reader pointed out that the Eriko Yamatani corner was written by a Zaitokukai  former executive and associate Shigeo Masuki and not Ms. Yamatani herself.

Recently appointed head of Japan’s Public Safety Commission, Eriko Yamatani 山谷えり子, who oversees all of Japan’s police forces, may be inappropriate to deal with Japan’s domestic violence issues—among other things. She has been in the news recently for her alleged ties to the Zaitokukai, a hate speech group that the UN, the United States, and even Japan’s National Police Agency have condemned. Prime Minister Abe has had his photo taken with one of the members as well, but that’s probably just a coincidence. Ahem.

Today at JSRC, we came across this newsletter, run by a member of the Zaitokukai (that Ms. Yamatani can’t remember meeting), to which she seems to have contributed materials. *

 

Eriko Yamatani, the head of Japan's Public Safety Commission, posing with a member of the hate group, Zaitokukai. She contributed an essay to his newsletter in which she derides Japan's democratic constitutions and suggests women should not be allowed to divorce.
Eriko Yamatani, the head of Japan’s Public Safety Commission, posing with a member of the hate group, Zaitokukai. She contributed an essay to his newsletter in which her associate derides Japan’s democratic constitutions and suggests women should not be allowed to divorce.

In a section of the newsletter, called, Yamatani Eriko’s Report From The Diet, Her right wing supporter explains in witty prose that women in Japan should have their right to divorce taken away from them as part of promoting gender equality. And of course, let’s do something about those tax dollars stolen by capricious single mothers. It’s as if to say, “once you’re married, a woman should have no rights.”

Not only is this newsletter one more link to Yamatani and the racist she says that she doesn’t know, it makes us think she isn’t a person who will really want to ensure the police crack down on domestic violence or stalkers—if she really agrees with this guy. Who she doesn’t remember.

You can download the full PDF of the newsletter here, which also has a nice picture of her with the Zaitokukai right wing racist she claims not to know.

*We were unable to get a comment from Ms. Yamatani on the contents of this essay at present.

Ninkyodo, dude! Even The Yakuza Are Speaking English Now

You may remember this this year, Japan’s largest organized crime group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, launched its own website in Japan. But as I wrote in the article on April 1st for VICE News, if you were hoping to see guys covered in tattoos, epic gun battles, bloody sword fights, and fingers being chopped off — as one might— it wasn’t so exciting. And it was in Japanese only. There were other minor problems with the initial effort.

Learn the way of the Yakuza. In English! !
Learn the way of the Yakuza. In English! !

For starters, the site looks like it was created in the late 1990s. Still, the criminal syndicate is hoping it’ll serve as a recruitment tool as the membership of yakuza organizations shrink and public support for them falls. And the branding reflects this; the site at first appears to be for an organization known as the Banish Drugs and Purify The Nation League — or Drug Expulsion of Land Purification Alliance, as Google translates it. The “purify the nation” thing is potentially unsettling, but it still doesn’t sound like a criminal organization.

But it was founded by one. The then-leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi founded it in 1963 as a group “dedicated to the eradication of amphetamine abuse.” Sources familiar with the syndicate told VICE News that the site was launched under the Banish Drugs… monicker to, one, remind Yamaguchi-gumi members to behave themselves, and two, to convince people that the Yamaguchi-gumi is not “an anti-social force,” as they’re called by police, and are instead a “humanitarian organization.”

However, veteran police detective told us that they suspect the site may be a signal that the Yamaguchi-gumi plans to expand their operations. (for the rest of the article click here: Japan’s Biggest Organized Crime Syndicate Now Has Its Own Web Site and Theme Song

Maybe the detective was right, because while the Yamaguchi-gumi may not have substantially expanded their operations, they are certainly trying to expand their appeal internationally. Recently, they debuted their own English version of the website, NINKYOUDOU (任侠道). Ninkyodo is the supposed to be the philosophy of the yakuza, an ethical code and way of life which places importance on helping the weak and self-sacrifice. The old-school yakuza, while still being essentially criminals, but mostly professional gamblers or street merchants–also maintained a code of honor which forbid theft, robbery, sexual assault, fraud and dealing in drugs. (Of course, racketeering, extortion, and other money-making ventures were not off-limits. Even a noble semi-samurai has to earn a living, right.)

The website contains footage of the yakuza distributing supplies to victims of natural disasters and a history of the yakuza written in slightly awkward English. The main point of the website seems to be to hammer in this simple point–all yakuza are not bad. And in perhaps one of the most surprising pieces of rhetoric I’ve ever seen put out by the yakuza—they also suggest that the yakuza may be one of the last things to prevent Japan from descending into a fascist police state, where no one is free.

“”Yakuza is bad” “Everyone else who is associated with this practice is wrong” This thought is not only oppressive but also dangerous. If people presumably believe this type of discrimination is allowed under the name of equality and human rights, it is possible that pre-World War II way of thinking can get out of control in today’s society. Prime Minister Abe’s recent comments suggest that Japan is leaning towards nationalism. Therefore, we are facing the reality that our citizens’ equality is on jeopardy. Moreover, we need to realize that this nation is heading towards to fascism.”

If you’ve been tracking how the Abe administration has passed one of the most oppressive state secret laws in the Western world, which makes it a crime to ask the wrong question, and threatens press freedomor how it has reinterpreted the constitution to allow Japan to remilitarize itself–suddenly the yakuza don’t seem quite as bad. Of course, it’s mostly a pose but who’d expect gangsters to make complaints like this:

“The number of vicious crimes has increased in this country; people generally are devastated. No one notices if an elderly from his or her neighborhood has passed because there is no communication, not even greetings exchanged any more. No one is interested or cares enough about what is going on around them except about his or herself. Unfortunately, this sensation has become normal in today’s generation.”

These are strange times indeed when the voice of reason, press freedom, humanitarianism and anti-discrimination are being spoken by tattooed gangsters. Well, sometimes even the bad guys say good things. And in English as well. Maybe they’re taking a hint from Rakuten? In any event, if you’re interested in Japan’s tattooed outlaws, it’s worth a read.

 

TEPCO makes $4.3 Billion in 2013 despite meltdown. Crime doesn’t pay, criminal negligence does

TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) announced a profit of ¥43.2 billion ($4.3 billion) for the 2013 fiscal year. It is the first time the company moved into the black since an earthquake and tsunami crippled the reactors, leading to a nuclear meltdown in March of 2011.

Despite a drop in electricity sales due to higher than usual winter temperatures, overall sales increased 11 percent from the previous fiscal year due to a rate increase and fuel cost adjustments. Out of ten electric companies, TEPCO was one of the four that posted a profit. The remaining six, which includes power companies in Kansai and Kyushu, recorded a deficit due to relying on fossil fuels to offset the shut down nuclear plants, according to Asahi Shimbun.

Last September, the Abe administration announced that it would give ¥47 billion of taxpayer money to prevent further contaminated water from leaking from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. That amount is far greater than the profits that TEPCO posted on April 30th, meaning that if the government had not given them any money last year, the company would have announced another year of losses.

The company has not made it clear what the profits will be used for and whether any of the money will be used to support supplement the taxpayer funds allocated to clean up the disaster or compensate those who in Fukushima whose homes fell under the evacuation zone. However, TEPCO’s stockholders, which include LDP politicians such as Masahiro Imamura and LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba have a cause to celebrate. Both hold 6000 and 4813 shares in the company respectively.

As nuclear waste continues to leak into the ocean surrounding Fukushima Prefecture, pro-nuclear advocate Shigeru Ishiba who resembles the Japanese anime hero, Anpanman, seems less like a hero, and more like the arch-villain of the series, Baikinman (Germ Man.) Or maybe in the eyes of the LDP, the general public, 80% of which oppose nuclear power are just like “germs.” In any event, for the large number of ruling party members with stock shares in TEPCO, the profits are good news; the losers are everyone else.

石破マン
Ishiba-man gives an atomic punch to the people of Japan and the clean energy fans in a dramatic fight to save the profitability of TEPCO–in which he owned at least 6,000 shares.

 

Japan’s Designated Secrets Law: All you ever wanted to know but should be afraid to ask. (LOL)

On December 7th, the ruling bloc of the Japanese government passed into law a Secrecy bill which many feel threatens freedom of the speech and the freedom of the press.

For those who are interested in finding more about Japan’s Designated Secrets Law, here are source materials that you may find useful.  These are material distributed to the foreign press by the Cabinet Office last week before the bill became law. The Abe cabinet promised to set up an oversight committee to oversee the use of the ability to classify information a “specially designated secret” but the law itself does not mandate such restraints. The proposed oversight agency or oversight office will have no independence from the government.

When we have a complete Japanese draft of the law, we will post it. Any comments on the materials or suggestions for other reference materials that should be posted are welcome.

2. Overview Cover

This a summary of the secrecy law. Although the categories for which secrets can be designated are limited to four areas, there is no oversight to determine whether or not the designation is properly applies. Note the + "Requires special need for secrecy" which is a clause so wide that conceivably anything could be fit into that heading.
This a summary of the secrecy law. Although the categories for which secrets can be designated are limited to four areas, there is no oversight to determine whether or not the designation is properly applies. Note the + “Requires special need for secrecy” which is a clause so wide that conceivably anything could be fit into that heading.
3. Overview Page 1
The actual text of the law defines terrorism as also “forcing one’s opinions on others.” This is the basis of Shigeru Ishiba, Secretary General of the LDP (ruling party) stating that those noisily protesting the bill were committing acts tantamount to terrorism.
6. Overview Page 4
The Lawyer’s Federation of Japan points out that if a journalist or citizen were to stubbornly ask about SDS (specially designated secrets) to a government official that this could be construed as “instigation of leakage” and result in him/her being called in for questioning, their laptops and phones seized, possible arrest and conviction. Even when acting in the public interest, and without knowing they were seeking information about a “specially designated secret” an individual would still face up a year in prison or a fine under 300,000 yen.

4. Overview Page 2 5. Overview Page 3

 

Japan: Even The Secrecy Bill Briefing Is Secret; Abe-gumi Pushes Ominous Secrecy Bill Towards Law

December 5th, Tokyo

We’re late, We’re late for a very important date

We have no time for reasoned debate

We’re late, We’re late…

 

The Japanese government came very close to passing the ominous new Designated Secrets Bill today, when the Upper House Committee cut off debate around 4pm and forced a vote. The law punishes journalists and whistleblowers who divulge government secrets with up to ten years in prison, and up to five years for those who “instigate leaks.”

The tally yesterday came amongst cries of “This government has no conscience”, “Don’t make fools of the Japanese people” in a shouting match that was very close to a brawl. Meanwhile outside the Diet building over 1,000 protestors chanted opposition. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Liberal Democrat Party) is pushing the bill forward, despite a sudden dip in his support rates to below 50%. Earlier this week, the LDP Secretary General, Shigeru Ishiba, labeled the growing protests “tantamount to terrorism” which prompted more public outcry.

Thousands of Japanese citizens have been protesting the Secrecy Bill since last week. The response of the ruling party's Shigeru Ishiba was to label them as "terrorists."  (photo by Alissa Toyosaki)
Thousands of Japanese citizens have been protesting the Secrecy Bill since last week. The response of the ruling party’s Shigeru Ishiba was to label them”terrorists.” (photo by Alissa Toyosaki)

The ruling parties had planned to hold an emergency vote on the bill in the middle of the night the same day, and make it law. They were forced to back down for another day by time stalling motions from the opposing Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

If as part of their information gathering, a reporter or individual asks the wrong question about a designated secret to a public official, the police could call them in for voluntary questioning, and seize their laptop or smart phone. If they arrested him or her, the suspect could be held in detention for more than twenty days. It wouldn’t matter whether the individual knew they were asking about a secret or not.

 Kiss, Kiss, Hush-Hush, Abe Tries Damage Control With The Foreign Media

As the bill meets increasing opposition at home and abroad, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coalition government moved earlier this week to do damage control with the foreign media, by holding a “secret” meeting on the Secrecy Bill. JSRC and the FCCJ (Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan) were not formally notified of the briefing, which was sent out to select members of the press by the Prime Minister’s Office of Global Communications.*

Prime Minister Abe’s Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office held the “background briefing on Special Intelligence Protection Bill” at 3pm Wednesday at the Central Government Offices in Tokyo.

The press who were invited and attended were told in advance: “Ground rules: Comments from the briefing can be attributed to a Japanese Government Official. The briefing will in principle be in English. The briefing is for pen reporters only (no still or movie cameras allowed). Journalists are required to observe relevant rules, ethics and standards of propriety.”

It is slightly unusual for the Abe administration to pay much attention to the views of the foreign press, yet the hard-hitting criticism of the foreign media has become hard for them to ignore. However, like Ishiba’s comments equating protestors with terrorists, the slightly menacing tone of the briefing announcement echoes the problems with the bill.

Ironically, according to Japanese legal experts, under the current draft of the legislation, “impropriety” in newsgathering techniques involving state secrets can result in jail time. In theory, under the secrecy law, if the briefing had been declared a state secret, any unauthorized journalist writing about it could be found guilty of violations and sentenced up to ten years in prison. Any journalist who asked pointed and repeated questions about such a secret briefing, could also be arrested and tried for “instigating leaks” and sentenced up to five years in prison.

Tsutomu Shimizu, a criminal defense lawyer and representative of the Japan Federation of Bar Association, explains the problems with the bill as follows. “If as part of their information gathering, a reporter or individual asks the wrong question about a designated secret to a public official, the police could call them in for voluntary questioning, and seize their laptop or smart phone. If they arrested him or her, the suspect could be held in detention for more than twenty days. It wouldn’t matter whether the individual knew they were asking about a secret or not. Eventually, a judge would decided whether the information gathering was ‘grossly inappropriate’…The judge would not have the right to know what ‘secret’ was leaked and the same might also be true for the defendant. This would make a legal defense difficult.”

Shimizu noticed that simply having their laptop seized or being called in for voluntary questioning would greatly intimidate most journalists. Cabinet officials have also stated that police raids on media outlets suspected to be involved in the leaking of secrets would be possible.

It is not hard to see why the Abe cabinet is rushing to get the bill into law, even under the cover of night. The opposition continues to grow within Japan and overseas. Even the director of classics like Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki—the Walt Disney of Japan—came forward to express his concerns. The list of organizations and individuals expressing concern over the bill is far-reaching. They include Gakusha-no-kai, which is led by Nobel Prize laureate Hideki Shirakawa and Toshihide Masukawa plus 2000 scholars. There are also Japan’s: Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association, Commercial Broadcasters Association, Magazine Publishers Association, Book Publishers Association, Federation of Bar Associations. Even Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed her fears.

Abe when questioned about Ms. Pillay’s concerns retorted, “The law says we have to give sufficient consideration to freedom of the press. There is nothing to worry about.” It was very similar to a statement he made concerning the state of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, in which he famously declared that everything was “completely under control.”

The bill is expected to be voted into law as early as tomorrow (December 6th). Over 50% of the Japanese population opposes the legislation and only 25% support it, according to the latest opinion polls.

 

Designed by Kafka, Inspired by Hitler?

  Kafka would seem the most likely inspiration for this perplexing legislation but ruling coalition members acknowledge that another famous white man from the past may have provided the real inspiration for the bill and its implementation.

An Upper House member of the Diet said on background to JSRC, “Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro sort of telegraphed the punches of the administration by expressing his admiration for how the Nazi Party forcefully changed the German constitution this summer. Obviously, we’re not Nazis in Japan–because we hardly have any Jews, but we are like the defeated post World War I Germany in that we do not have the right to wage war to defend ourselves from our enemies. Just as Germany needed a strong man like Hitler to revive defeated Germany, Japan needs people like Abe to dynamically induce change.”

The hawkish Prime Minister Abe has publicly stated his ambition to revise Japan’s constitution to rid it of Article 9, which forbids Japan from waging war. Upper house Diet member, Taro Yamamoto and others have publicly stated they believe the current bill is a stepping-stone to recreate a fascist Japan, as it existed prior to the Second World War.

It might all seems like a bad joke, except for the Orwellian nature of the bill being proposed and a key Cabinet member expressing his admiration for the Nazis.

*This reporter did not attend the background briefing, which would have been an agreement to abide by its terms and credit the party line as “from a government official.”

 

ABEGNOMICS: The Most Magical And Mysterious Economic Policy In The World!

Japan is populated by magical creatures. There are the leprechauns that stole millions from Olympus , Lehman Brothers Japan, a billion dollars from AIJ and MRI and then vanished and there are the alchemist gnomes like Abe and Horie that manage to make money out of thin air (or hot air). Follow the rainbow kids!
Japan is populated by magical creatures. There are the leprechauns that stole millions from Olympus, Lehman Brothers Japan–then a billion dollars from AIJ and MRI and then vanished. There are also the alchemist gnomes like Abe and Horie that manage to make money out of thin air (or hot air). Follow the rainbow, kids! A pot of platinum yen coins is waiting for you.

 

We’ll admit it. We  just don’t understand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s much vaunted economic policy known as Abenomics.  Spend public funds that Japan doesn’t have, increase inflation, but not raise minimum wages?  How is this supposed to improve the economy? We know we’re missing something. Secretly, we feel like it only works because people believe it works. Sort of like fairies. If you believe in fairies, gnomes, and Abegnomics–than clap your hands! If you know how to explain, Abenomics–we welcome your article! And we’ll pay you top  Abegnomic yen for it! (It’s imaginary but it will feel like a lot when you imagine you have it.)  Contributions welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Abe & Adult Diapers Make Shorting Japanese Yen A Sweet-Smelling Deal! (Op-Ed)

As many of you know, the lower hours elections were held in Japan today and the LDP and New Komeito Alliance scored a clear victory. It means the likely return of Shinzo Abe aka Mr. Bond, Japan Bond, to his starring role as prime minister of the country. Financial blogger and twitterdachi, Finansakrobat has a piece on the economic repercussions worth reading (while at your desk or in the bathroom.)  Reprinted with his kind permission.

WHY ADULT DIAPERS MAKES SHORTING JAPANESE YEN THE TRADE OF THE CENTURY

by finansakrobat


The core to Japan and its future problems is embedded in its demographics.

In many developed countries, the average age of its population is rising. But nowhere is this happening as quick as in Japan. This was succinctly exemplified last May, when the Japanese diaper producer Unicharm said that soon they will be selling more adult diapers than regular diapers:

 

At Unicharm, said Takahara, who is also president, the adult diapers business is becoming increasingly important to the company.

“Domestic sales of diapers for the elderly are growing by double digits,” Takahara told reporters last month. “It’s an extremely important business in terms of both sales and profit margin.”

This story was largely ignored in May, but as hedge funds and banks started honing their sights on Japan this fall, the story resurfaced. It was Morgan Stanley that made many people, myself included, aware of the large demographic shift, in a presentation with the lovely title: “Shorting Japan is the trade of the decade. But which decade?”.

Other than a less than optimal demographic, there are three things you need to know about Japan’s economy; they have the worst looking balance sheet of any country (including Greece and Ireland), the country has been in deep financial trouble for a whole generation and somehow the economy has failed to blow up .

 

As I am writing this, Shinzo Abe has just won reelection. He first served only one year and is making his comeback on two issues: boosting the economy and nuclear energy.

 

When Abe left the position as prime minister,  due to “Crippling Diarrhea“, he was known as the worst prime minister since 1994 for Japanese bonds. Based on this, and the fact that he publically said he wants to make sure the Yen weakens, it could be a blessing for the Japanese export sector.

 

That’s probably the reason why the smartest investors in the world are betting heavly against Japan. Both the bonds and the Yen. But that could be great news for Japanese exporters.

Albeit Abe is walking a tight rope, since even a 2 percentage point increase in interest rates, could be enough to crush the Japanese economy. In theory.

The final thing you have to consider, is the way Japanese debt is structured. On the face of it, the country has a debt 195% of their GBP. Meaning the economy is almost half as small as the debt. But who are these creditors? 3 out of every 4 Yen owed, is to Japanese banks, individuals and institutions. That means that Japan has control over its creditors, which gives them significant leverage. (In contrast we can look at Greece, which has almost all of its creditors abroad and no control over its own currency).

Secondly if Abe manages to do what he has pledged to do, to destroy the value of the Yen through “unlimited easing”, the Japanese export sector could be in line for the biggest boost in history. If the value of the Yen drops 20%, that money hits Japanese companies straight on the bottom line. Instant profit.

Now finally we have to consider that investors have been betting against the Yen about once a year for the last four years. Massive losses have built up so far.

But this time, it could be different.