TV & Radio
安倍新政権にメディア戦々恐々？ (東京 2006/09/23)
こうした状況について、メディア訴訟に詳しい喜田村洋一弁護士は「米国では一九六四年にニューヨーク・タイムズを勝たせた最高裁判決(引用者注・NEW YORK TIMES CO. v. SULLIVAN, 376 U.S. 254 (1964) )以降、メディアが記事内容が虚偽であることを知っているか、真実性に関心を持たずに報じた場合を除けば、政治家のような公人はメディアに賠償を求められない(a federal rule that prohibits a public official from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves that the statement was made ... with "actual malice" - that is, with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.) 」と紹介する。
Koizumi's heir apparent worries Japan's neighbours with his hawkish agenda
By David McNeill in Tokyo
Published: 19 September 2006
Japan's most important election in years will not be especially democratic; it will be closed to the general public and we already know the winner. But, for better or worse, by the end of this month the world's second-largest economy will have a new leader, and he is already causing political waves.
Tomorrow, a million members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party select a new party head who will, thanks to the LDP's dominance of the Diet, step into the giant shoes of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi next week. The public will not have their say until a general election next year.
Although technically a three-way race, the clear election front-runner and the man anointed by Mr Koizumi as his heir apparent is Shinzo Abe. Unlike Mr Koizumi, who was once considered too much of an oddball to lead the country, nobody can call Mr Abe a dark horse. The 51-year-old Chief Cabinet Secretary is a well-known conservative with an impeccable political pedigree and a history of making provocative, right-wing statements.
With his droopy, teddy-bear eyes and weak chin, Mr Abe is an unlikely looking hawk. But since coming to national prominence in 2002 when he began a tough-talking campaign against North Korea, he has championed a staunchly conservative agenda that includes reviving the military, revving up patriotism and changing the 60-year-old pacifist constitution.
After five years of the unpredictable Mr Koizumi, who wound up his term with a valedictory visit to the Yasukuni Shrine war memorial, China and South Korea desperately want relations with Japan to improve. But with Mr Abe, there is little reason for optimism. Beijing's official mouthpiece, The China Daily, said last week: "Those who aspire for better Sino-Japanese ties feel nothing but ... worried."
Once again, it is the pall of history that drives these concerns. Mr Abe has kept quiet on whether he too will make a pilgrimage to Yasukuni, although he supports prime ministerial visits and went in secret in April. As a rising political star, Mr Abe chaired a group of right-wing LDP policymakers who backed a campaign to revise high school textbooks and delete references to Second World War war crimes by the Japanese military.
Last year, he was at the centre of a censorship scandal when he admitted leaning on Japan's state broadcaster, NHK, to change a 2001 documentary on wartime "comfort women": sex slaves abducted by the military from Korea and other countries.
Mr Abe's political colours have long been nailed to the mast, as have his twin policy obsessions: rewriting the 1947 constitution and reforming the education system. And although he is being hailed in some quarters as a political breath of fresh air, both policies have been on the LDP wish-list since 1955. Written while Japan was under US occupation, the constitution and its war-renouncing Article Nine, which allows Japan to maintain "self-defence forces" but not an "army", has always sat uneasily with conservatives. Parts of the document, such as Japan's expressed determination to "trust in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world" have caused particular ire; Mr Abe calls them a degrading "signed deed of apology" which he, backed by US hawks who want Japan to square up to China, is determined to change.
Even more worryingly, Mr Abe ducks the issue of whether he will abide by Tokyo's 1995 apology to the rest of Asia, issued on the 50th anniversary of Japan's official surrender. "Japan has already apologised [for the Pacific War] more than 20 times," Mr Abe said last year. "How long do we have to keep apologising?" As the Korean Times put it: "His political success stems from a hawkish, not conciliatory, approach to his Asian neighbours. Will he be able to swallow his pride for the sake of Japan's future?"
* 1954: Born into high-profile family. Father is Shintaro Abe, a former foreign minister, and grandfather former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi, a suspected war criminal.
* 1977: Graduates in political science from Seikei University before studying politics at the University of Southern California.
* 1982: Begins low-level political career.
* 1993: Wins first seat in Diet, representing home prefecture of Yamaguchi.
* 2003: Appointed secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
* 2005: Appointed Chief Cabinet Secretary.
The Japan Times: Sunday, Sept. 17, 2006
Japan's bid to host 2016 Olympic Games a pipe dream
By JACK GALLAGHER
"Yes means maybe. Maybe means difficult. Difficult means impossible."
When I first moved to Japan, many years ago, someone imparted me with this wisdom and told me to remember it in my dealings here.
The advice has stayed with me ever since.
It came to mind again recently when I started thinking about the Japan Olympic Committee's selection of Tokyo over Fukuoka as the city to represent the nation's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The JOC's decision to enter into the race at all is a complete exercise in futility. Japan has absolutely no chance of winning this competition, which makes me wonder why the JOC is even trying.
The reasons why Japan's bid is doomed are plentiful:
Timing -- Coming just eight years after the 2008 Games in Beijing, the International Olympic Committee is highly unlikely to select another Asian city to host the Summer Games.
Competition -- With strong bids from the United States (San Francisco, Chicago or Los Angeles), Europe (Madrid) and South America (Rio de Janeiro) expected, Tokyo will be going up against formidable opposition.
Facilities -- One of the most flawed aspects of the Tokyo bid is the fact that organizers want to host some of the events in venues that were built for the 1964 Games.
I'm sure that IOC members aren't going to take very kindly to sites that will have been in existence for at least 52 years, by the time the 2016 Games roll around.
Television -- Let's face it, the IOC likes to put the Games in places where the time zones are more favorable to European and North American audiences, and larger rights fees can be garnered. Awarding the Games to an Asian city does not do this.
History -- IOC members have long memories. The trouble caused by the fallout from the awarding of the 1998 Nagano Games still resonates with many.
When Japan made its final presentation for the event, in June of 1991 in Birmingham, England, it was still enjoying the benefits of the economic bubble.
The Nagano organizers promised they would pay for the transportation of all of the athletes to the Games. The ploy worked, and Nagano won the bid.
However, by 1998, the economy in Japan had cooled off considerably and Nagano reneged on its offer, eventually providing only $ 1,000 to a limited number of athletes to cover transportation costs.
The damage from this was significant and had consequences.
When Osaka bid for the 2008 Games, it received only six votes -- after being told the night before that it had many more -- and was eliminated on the first ballot.
I am not one to usually complain about the use of taxpayer money when it comes to sporting endeavors, but in this case I think the issue is legitimate.
The projected cost for Tokyo just to campaign in the international bidding for the 2016 Games is 5.5 billion yen, with the metropolitan government to contribute 1.5 billion yen of that figure.
Those are staggering sums, and with some of the inferior venues the bid will have to utilize it just does not make sense.
A wiser course of action would be to begin building new venues now, which are sorely needed, then bid for the 2020 Games, when Japan would have a more legitimate chance of winning.
None other than JOC president Tsunekazu Takeda, who has done of fine job of trying to reform the organization, made the following statement at a Foreign Sportswriters Association of Japan meeting in November 2004, when asked about future Olympic bids.
"At this point, it is probably getting late to even try for 2016, so I would say that our best chance at hosting a future Summer Games would be in 2020," he said.
That was nearly two years ago.
Which begs the question, "Why is Japan bidding for the 2016 Games?"
Pressure from politicians and corporations is the likely answer.
The IOC will pick the finalists from the 2016 candidate cities in July 2008.
In February and March of 2009, the IOC will then conduct an inspection tour of those cities.
In October 2009, the IOC will select the winner at its meeting in Copenhagen.
A member of the JOC, who voted in the selection process to select Japan's host city for the 2016 bid, informed me that it would be difficult for Tokyo to win the overall competition.
Which takes us back to that old saying.
"Difficult means impossible."
You got that right.
The Japan Times: Sunday, Sept. 17, 2006
The Age, Australia
Shogun for past and present
Deborah Cameron, Tokyo
September 16, 2006
SHINZO Abe, at unbackable odds to be elected leader in a party vote next week, taps into a strong current.
Whether at Tokyo's "Electric Town" — a bonfire of neon, noise and nerds, where geeky men with no knack for conversation are served green tea by girls in frills — or rubbing shoulders with other silvertails, Mr Abe puts very little distance between the past and the future.
"Our nation, Japan, is blessed with beautiful nature and has a long history and a unique culture," writes Mr Abe, 51, in his new book, Towards a Beautiful Nation.
"And we still have great potential. I think it is our courage, wisdom and efforts that bring out this potential. Instead of disparaging ourselves, we should be proud of ourselves for being Japanese, and we should work hard to cultivate our future.
"Let's talk about what we should do for Japan's tomorrow, rather than concentrating on what is wrong with Japan."
He sees nothing humbling in Japan's military past, and does not want it to wear history's black armband. Eight in 10 voters support him, say the opinion polls.
Mr Abe is a shogun for the new era, a lordly and powerful symbol in a clannish society. Just like the infant Prince Hisahito, born last week to the imperial family, Mr Abe is the heir to a dynasty in a society that has never quite left such notions behind.
His grandfather, whom he idolised, was a former prime minister, and his father was a foreign minister. He has "inherited political DNA", according to the editor-in-chief of the politically connected Tokyo Insideline, Takao Toshikawa.
After Wednesday, Mr Abe will head a highly successful country as it makes a crucial turn in its history.
There is an economic recovery to stabilise, a world role to finesse, trade pacts to make, possible constitutional change, and a diplomatic tightrope to walk that is crucial to the strategic and defence balance of Asia.
Japan's desperation for oil resources has pushed it closer to Iran, and a major Japanese company is being investigated over the illegal sale of equipment useful to nuclear bomb makers.
At the same time, relations with China and Korea are in a white-hot zone, and the US, worried about the nationalist tide in Japan, is wary.
US military bases remain to be realigned at great expense in defiance of local protest, and there are plans for a missile shield.
"Now the US side must, for the first time, make decisions about how it positions itself as an ally of Japan in the growing competition between Tokyo and Beijing," said a former White House co-ordinator of Asia policy, Michael Green, in December.
Dr Green has since "conveyed great concern" to Mr Abe about visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, the inflammatory Shinto memorial that deifies executed war criminals along with other war dead, according to Mr Toshikawa, of Tokyo Insideline.
Dr Green is a "mentor" for Mr Abe, he says, calling him a "realist" and a "pragmatist".
But it is still too early to declare Mr Abe a "pragmatist" or to say what he will do as prime minister, says Robyn Lim, an Australian, who is a professor of international relations at Nanzan University and a former analyst with the Office of National Assessments.
"Mr Abe seems to be a much more traditional kind of politician than Prime Minister Koizumi," she says.
His political power has grown because he has given staunch support to families campaigning for the return of relatives abducted by North Korea, according to Professor Lim.
And his support for an economic blockade on the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-il, and even a first strike if necessary, have only added lustre.
His political DNA explains only one side of him. Another strand comes from being a nationalist in a country that can be downright strange.
It is, after all, a place where the height of culinary adventure is fugu, a deadly poisonous fish. And though it is intensely debating the rise of the bludger, Japan has set the standard for wage slavery in the modern world. Not only that, it also gives legal recognition to overwork as a cause of death. "Although it seems incredible, 14 per cent of Japanese children live in poverty, which is above the OECD average of 11 per cent," wrote the chief economist at Merrill Lynch in Tokyo, Jesper Koll, in the Far Eastern Economic Review this month.
"For a country that also boasts 14 per cent of the world's millionaires, this is a shocking statistic."
Immigration, the women's movement, student radicalism, gay rights, AIDS activism, even vegetarianism and animal rights, have all passed by, leaving no visible impression.
Rather like the French in Europe, the Japanese are inclined to give the impression that they feel superior to their neighbours. Deep down in roots that connect to language, food and manners, Japan believes that it is special, if not unique.
Every evening, when Japan's next prime minister steps out of his loafers and treads noiselessly across his floor, he is honouring habit, etiquette and tradition.
Mr Abe eats at a low table, with his knees tucked under him, and has known only elegance and prosperity. His mother is a noted calligrapher and though he spent two years in the US as a student and young worker, Mr Abe has an air of aristocratic detachment.
"He is always exceedingly polite and he doesn't talk very much," say diplomats who have dealt with him.
Though he has no children of his own to drag him out and about, he is bristling with thoughts about where young people are going wrong. He thinks six months of volunteer work should be a prerequisite to university entrance, presumably because it would straighten them out, and he fervently believes that schools should teach an unquestioning love of Japan as part of the syllabus. The country's current reality is beyond his experience.
After five years of Junichiro Koizumi's reform-minded government, weariness has set in.
The main political opposition, humiliated at the last election, has lost its voice.
After a string of tough years, the common question among talk show hosts is: "Where has it got us?"
The news line-up is thick with reports of the emergence of an underclass, the decline of morals and respect, the low rate of marriage, the rise in HIV infections, and the combined effects of rapid ageing and a low birth rate that is looming as a national catastrophe.
Mr Abe believes he has the answers. Japan is about to have a DNA test.
Censorship issues hang over Japan
By Takehiko Kambayashi
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published September 15, 2006
TOKYO -- Supported by a majority of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe is expected to win the ruling party's presidential race Wednesday -- which is tantamount to winning the prime ministership.
Mr. Abe, however, has been a center of controversy since the mass-circulation daily Asahi Shimbun reported last year that he and Shoichi Nakagawa, the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, pressured NHK, Japan's public television network, to censor a documentary about the use of sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. Most of the victims were Koreans, Chinese and Indonesians.
Mr. Abe repeatedly called the article "fabricated." But after the Asahi article, an NHK producer responsible for the documentary conceded tearfully that the TV network was forced to remove key footage, including the heart-wrenching testimony of survivors.
"NHK sabotaged the program," said Rumiko Nishino, co-chairperson of Violence Against Women in War-Network Japan (VAWW-NET Japan), a group formed to eliminate violence against women in war and armed conflicts. "Its top officials pre-screened a program with a very low rating and ordered their staff twice to change the content. Their pre-screening itself is an anomaly," she added.
Soon after the documentary's broadcast in January 2001, the Tokyo-based group filed a defamation lawsuit against NHK, one of the world's largest television networks.
Mr. Abe and Mr. Nakagawa of NHK repeatedly denied doctoring the anti-war program. But after the report and a series of embezzlement scandals at NHK, Katsuji Ebisawa, its president, resigned "to take responsibility." Though Mr. Abe was given much TV air time to deny the censorship report and discredit the unofficial tribunal, its organizers were not invited to tell their side.
"Mr. Abe distorted the tribunal's revelations and gave incorrect information on national TV, but journalists who knew little about the event failed to point that out," Mrs. Nishino said.
For instance, though Mr. Abe said the tribunal had no defense team, VAWW-NET Japan had asked then-Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to have a defense counsel attend the unofficial trial, but since he never responded, "friends of the court" explained the Japanese government's position and point of views, she said.
Mr. Abe could not be reached for comment.
Critics say the media shifted the attention away from the involvement of ruling party members by focusing more on a battle between Asahi and NHK.
"LDP members started complaining about NHK producing a biased program, and the network changed its content. That's the only problem. But that's the only thing the media apparently agreed never to make the issue of," said Kenichi Asano, a journalism professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto.
Major newspapers criticized Asahi's coverage, and magazines made personal attacks on an Asahi reporter who wrote about the issue, some calling him "ultraleft."
The public relations department of the Sankei Shimbun, another major newspaper, declared: "The reason we couldn't help being critical of Asahi Shimbun is that it is a matter affecting the whole news media. ... Since NHK is a public broadcasting system, the essential problem is whether the content of the program [wartime sex slavery] was appropriate," it added.
Public relations departments of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun declined to comment, and the editorial desk of the Mainichi Shimbun said it did not devote much coverage to criticizing the Asahi newspaper.
Last summer, however, the monthly magazine Gendai ran a transcript of the Asahi reporter's tape of his conversations with Mr. Abe, Mr. Nakagawa and Takeshi Matsuo, a top NHK official. The article made clear that they repeatedly lied about the report of censorship, critics said.
In the end, Asahi Shimbun ran articles on Oct. 1 saying the articles regarding the NHK documentary contained "uncertain" information.
"Asahi Shimbun, which became popular as a major news organization, knelt in total surrender to Mr. Abe," said Yasushi Kawasaki, a former NHK political reporter. "Other news organizations also go along with Mr. Abe. Journalism is as good as dead."
With media attention focused on the LDP presidential race, Mr. Abe, who became popular by taking a strong stance against North Korea, seems to be on a triumphal march.
Since only LDP members can vote in the party's elections next Wednesday, critics ask why the major media excessively cover the race, which experts and even some LDP members call "boring." Moreover, despite Mr. Koizumi's popularity, the number of LDP members has dwindled almost by half from about 2.37 million in the year 2000 to about 1.22 million at the end of 2005.
The massive coverage of Mr. Abe has helped this hawkish political leader, who critics say has suppressed freedom of speech. Most of the coverage, however, focuses on LDP candidates, not on the public or issues.
"Since their talks are preoccupied with party logic, the scope of their debate is inevitably limited," said Ken Takeuchi, chief executive officer of Japan Internet News and a former Asahi Newspaper editorial board member.
"Mr. Abe is all over," said Mr. Kawasaki, who taught journalism at Sugiyama Women's College in Nagoya. "Not only opposition parties but the ruling coalition was not covered. All they got is just Mr. Abe."
NHK, the Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, Nihon Keizai Shimbun and Sankei Shimbun all agree that since whoever wins the leadership of the ruling party is expected to win the prime ministership, it is natural that they should cover it. The Yomiuri Shimbun declined to comment.
U.S. Lawmakers Urge Next Japan PM to Avoid Yasukuni (Update1)
By Aaron Sheldrick
Sept. 15 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. lawmakers on a congressional committee on foreign relations called for Japan's next leader to stop visiting Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which includes convicted war criminals among the dead it honors.
Two senior members of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee criticized Japanese leaders for the shrine visits and for the treatment of World War II in the shrine's museum and some school textbooks that they say downplays atrocities committed by Japan.
``Paying one's respect to war criminals is morally bankrupt and unworthy of a great nation such as Japan,'' Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said according to a transcript. ``This practice must end.''
Relations between Japan and its biggest trading partner, China, have slumped to their worst in three decades because of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to Yasukuni. Japan's differences with its neighbors make it harder to resolve regional issues like North Korea's nuclear weapons program, the congressional committee's chairman said.
``North Korea, as it reminded all Americans with its Fourth of July missile launches, remains a major source of regional instability, and maintaining the peace in the Taiwan Strait is a constant challenge for us,'' Henry Hyde, a Republican, said. ``All of these sources of tension in the Asia Pacific region require that we and our allies forge a united front. However, sadly, history keeps getting in the way.''
Koizumi steps down as president of the ruling Liberal Party later this month and is expected to replaced by Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who is the frontrunner, according to polls.
The president of the LDP automatically becomes prime minister because of its parliamentary majority.
Abe has endorsed Koizumi's visits and indicated he may go should he become prime minister.
Yasukuni has soured relations between Japan and its neighbors for decades despite repeated official apologies for Japan's aggression last century, when its Imperial Army invaded and occupied much of the region until its defeat.
Among the 2.5 million people enshrined at Yasukuni are 14 men convicted of war crimes, including World War II leader Hideki Tojo, who was hanged for crimes against humanity. The shrine's museum, called Yushukan, says Japan's invasion of Asia was to liberate the region from colonial rule and that it was forced into war with the U.S.
``It's troubling to those of my generation to learn that Yushukan Museum in Tokyo is teaching younger generations of Japanese that the Second World War in Asia was launched by Tokyo to free the peoples of Asia and the Pacific from the yoke of Western imperialism,'' Hyde said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Last Updated: September 15, 2006 01:24 EDT
SPIEGEL ONLINE - September 6, 2006, 03:31 PM
Koizumi's Patriotism Isolating Japan
Pilgrimages to the Shrine
By Wieland Wagner
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whose term runs out this month, has been feted for his reform program which hauled the country's economy out of stagnation. But his patriotic stance has isolated Japan among its Asian neighbors and his successor is likely to adopt an equally nationalistic tone.
The attacker came shortly after dusk. First he set fire to the house and office of Koichi Kato, 67, a member of the shrinking liberal minority in the lower house of Japan's parliament. As the flames consumed the building, he plunged a long knife into his stomach, committing ritual suicide in the bloody tradition of the Samurai.
The politician and his family weren't home, so the house burned to the ground without harming the intended victims. The attacker, a member of an extreme right-wing organization in Tokyo, also survived his attempted hara-kiri.
Nonetheless, the incident caused uproar in Japan, largely because of the symbolism of a right-wing fanatic committing an especially brutal attack on a liberal political.
Even more astonishing was the reaction of the establishment. For days there was no outcry, no expression of outrage, no statement from the government. The political elite chose to remain silent on the matter, at least initially. It wasn't until two weeks later that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 64, condemned the attack on a man who is considered an outsider in Japanese politics.
Though a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has ruled Japan for decades, Kato has been almost alone in resisting the trend toward nationalism. He has even dared to criticize the prime minister who has made regular visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to Japan's war dead where war criminals from World War Two are revered as Shinto deities.
The rest of the world is also having trouble understanding this backward-oriented, nationalistic Japan and its odd penchant for keeping the past alive. This is the flipside of Koizumi's much-admired era of reforms. The prime minister rescued his faltering nation from its deepest recession since the war and forced the country, long resistant to reforms, to accept change. And yet at the same time his patriotic behavior helped the nationalists achieve an unexpected comeback.
Just how far Japan has drifted into nationalism in its five and half years under Koizumi will become evident on Sept. 20, when his term as president of the LDP and as prime minister comes to an end. His expected successor is just as popular as Koizumi and gives the impression that he is even more determined to promote Japan's claim to greatness, a claim it derives from the past. His name is Shinzo Abe, he is 51 and he is currently the chief cabinet secretary. Abe announced his candidacy last Friday.
Refusing to condemn Japan's wartime aggression
As prime minister, Abe plans to rewrite the constitution the United States forced on Japan in 1946 as a condition for peace, as well as upgrade Japan's military role as the US's ally in the region to enable the island nation to support the Americans militarily in the event of a war. Abe's plans are in keeping with Washington's aims to develop a new strategy to counter China as it grows into a world power, a strategy that includes a strengthened alliance with Japan and India as a counterbalance to Beijing's influence in the region.
Like Koizumi, Abe is also fond of visiting the Yasukuni Shrine. But unlike Koizumi, Abe is unwilling to unmistakably brand the generals and admirals of the former Japanese Empire as war criminals, and he also refuses to condemn Japan's aggression against China and Korea before and during the war in the Pacific. When asked about the sentences handed down in the Tokyo war crimes trials after World War II, Abe says that the jury is still out among historians. In this respect, he resembles Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who says he wants to hire "experts" to investigate the Holocaust, as if there were a need to reexamine and clarify the issue.
Abe's stance is likely rooted in his own family's history. His grandfather was Nobusuke Kishi (1896 to 1987), a kind of Japanese version of Albert Speer, Hitler's chief architect in Nazi Germany and later his minister for armaments. Kishi was one of the so-called reform bureaucrats who prepared China's subjugation in the 1930s and helped boost the defense industry during the war.
Kishi was arrested in 1945 but was not charged as a war criminal. He was elected prime minister in 1957 and pursued a foreign policy that in some ways anticipated Koizumi's -- blocking attempts at reconciliation with China and helping Japan assume the role of the US's principal anti-communist ally in Asia.
Koizumi has come to terms with his potential successor. The prime minister recently visited the town of Hagi in Abe's electoral district in southwestern Japan. It was in the shingle-roofed wooden huts of Hagi, in the mid-19th century, that Samurai ideologue Shoin Yoshida incited a generation of future statesmen to topple the unprogressive central government. Executed in 1859, this patriot and rebel taught his followers that the nation could only be saved from the West through radical reform, and that such reform would ultimately enable the country to "defeat America, Russia, England and France and expand the authority of the emperor over all nations."
Yoshida was the ideological ancestor of the reforms that allowed Japan to become Asia's dominant power in the late 19th century -- and that led to its decline as a hegemonic Empire in 1945.
Like a man returning to his ancestral home, Koizumi toured the town where Yoshida, whose bust he displays in his office, taught. The prime minister with the impetuous gray mane and shirt collar opened wide at the neck came to Hagi as an equal, as a reforming Samurai who managed to whip into shape the world's second-largest industrialized nation, a nation that had become stagnant in its complacency. This is the way Koizumi sees it, and so do the Japanese.
Koizumi's standing among post-war prime ministers is undisputed in his own country. He dominated his LDP party and pursued an autocratic style of government. Japan's economy is growing again, the banks have largely eliminated mountains of bad debt and Koizumi has banished deflation. He managed to push through his reforms against a phalanx of lobbyists. But amid all the applause for Koizumi the nation has overlooked the fact that the reformer has put off a number of painful decisions. He hasn't raised Japan's consumption tax which stands at just five percent. At about 841 trillion yen (€5.6 trillion), the national debt is more than one and a half times the gross domestic product. As an ageing nation, Japan will only be able to reduce its debt burden by taking the unpopular step of raising taxes, a thankless task Koizumi's successor will inherit.
In his rural electoral district, Abe can see how the losers of Koizumi's reforms are faring. Many shops are closed and young people are migrating to the big cities. In a pragmatic move to alleviate the harsher aspects of the reforms, Abe plans to introduce a government program to help bankrupt companies get a fresh start.
Abe's foreign policy is unlikely to be successful if he derives too much inspiration from his grandfather's legacy. Japan lost a great deal of its influence in Asia under Koizumi. As a result of his pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine, China and South Korea now refuse to attend summit meetings with the prime minister.
If Abe intends to lead his country out of its isolation, he'll have to make symbolic overtures to its neighbors, which are of considerable economic importance to Japan. The Chinese and the Koreans will be paying close attention to the frequency of the new prime minister's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine -- and to how he behaves when he's there.
Translated from German by Christopher Sultan
In the hearts of leaders
The New York Times
Published: July 22, 2006
For years, the prime minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi, has been making a pilgrimage to a shrine to the war dead that includes 14 Class A war criminals from World War II, seven of whom were hanged.
This shameless pandering to the right outrages China and other victims of Japanese imperialism and makes many Japanese fear that Koizumi is embracing the old militarism. Yet Koizumi is believed to be planning another of these visits to Yasukuni Shrine before he steps down in September. And his likely successor, Shinzo Abe, has said he would do the same. (Abe also recently suggested that Japan should attack North Korea's missiles on the launch pad.)
Last week, a Japanese newspaper added to the national anxiety over this issue by publishing portions of a diary of a former member of the imperial household. He revealed that Hirohito, the emperor who led Japan into a Nazi alliance and a drive to rule Asia, stopped going to the shrine in 1978 after it added the war criminals to the list of thousands of souls lost in Japan's wars. "This is from my heart," Hirohito was quoted as saying.
One would think this would have some effect on Koizumi and his supporters. But he told reporters dismissively that "everyone has their own feelings" and that the emperor's remorse would have no effect on him.
The emperor almost certainly committed war crimes himself, which were ignored only because of the exigencies of the postwar era. But apparently this elderly product of an imperial age had more room in his heart for doing the right thing than a self-styled modern reformer, international leader and Elvis lover.
THE AMERICAS: Graceland and Yasukuni: two shrines and two national myths They do not tell the full story of the rock legend and the war heroes, says David Pilling
By DAVID PILLING
Financial Times Asia , Asia Ed1 ed , p6 , Friday , June 30, 2006
It is oddly fitting that Junichiro Koizumi, a prime minister whose five-year term has been shaped by his annual pilgrimage to a controversial shrine dedicated to Japan's war dead, should end his farewell US trip worshipping at the shrine of an American fallen hero: Elvis Presley.
When George and Laura Bush walk side by side with Japan's most famous Elvis fan today through the ornate front porch at Graceland and into a house full of green shag-pile carpet (some of it on the ceiling), the understated Japanese beauty of Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine will be far from their minds.
Indeed, there is little obvious connection between a garish mansion where America's most famous rock star died of a drugs overdose after a life of unrivalled fame, and a sacred Shinto shrine where the souls of 2.5m, mostly obscure, Japanese soldiers are said to gather. Yet the similarities between Graceland and Yasukuni are not as absurd as they appear.
Both are monuments to the eternal spirit, and both present an idealisation of the national essence, says Jeff Kingston, professor of international studies at Tokyo's Temple University. "They both beautify history."
At Graceland, we get the rags-to-riches story of the American dream shorn of its darker side, in this case the tragic descent into obesity, drug-dependence and untimely death.
At Yasukuni, particularly at the adjacent Yushukan museum, visitors are presented with a whitewashed view of history in which Japanese soldiers, like fleetingly beautiful cherry blossoms, were glorious liberators and victims but never aggressors.
"The two museums represent degrees of revisionism," says one Washington observer.
The leaders of the world's two biggest economies, who fly down to Memphis on Air Force One today, will not get special treatment at Graceland. As always, the upstairs of the house, including the bathroom where Elvis died, will be discreetly cordoned off.
Jack Soden, the thoughtful chief executive of Elvis Presley Enterprises, defends the partial view of Elvis's home, saying: "There is no respectful or dignified way to include it in a tour of the house."
The official Graceland version of events has Elvis dying, at 42, of cardiac arrhythmia, shortly after he played two of his favourite songs on one of the mansion's several pianos. Or, as it says on Elvis's gravestone in a phrase that would not be entirely out of place at Yasukuni: "God saw that he needed some rest and called him home to be with him."
Elisa Brewer, who has visited Graceland, says: "I think he fell off the toilet and suffocated in vomit, or in the shag carpet."
The receptionist at Graceland's corporate office will only say: "They say he died of a heart attack. So that's what we go by."
So far as airbrushing history goes, this is mild stuff. The same, say critics, cannot be said for the Yushukan museum, with its proud displays of Zero fighter aircraft and glorification of war. The museum, updated in 2002, presents a view of history that most Chinese, South Koreans and (sotto voce) American officials find entirely distasteful.
The Nanjing massacre, for example, is presented as a liberation, while all mention of Japan's use of chemical weapons, human vivisection and Korean sex slaves is omitted. The bombing of Pearl Harbor, where Elvis spent Dollars 65,000 constructing a memorial, is presented as forced by the allied blockade.
Thomas Schieffer, the US ambassador to Tokyo, concedes he dislikes the museum. But he refrains from criticising Mr Koizumi's pilgrimages to Yasukuni, even though war criminals convicted by the Americans are honoured there. "I think the museum is very disturbing, but I think the museum and the prime minister's visit to Yasukuni are separate issues," he says.
Mr Koizumi is widely expected to make his final pilgrimage to Yasukuni as prime minister on August 15, the anniversary of the war's end and the most controversial possible day for a visit.
Mr Bush will certainly not be accompanying him. But the US ambassador is delighted that Mr Koizumi is going to Graceland.
"It's a part of America, and to have the prime minister get a feel for it will be fun. It will also give him a better idea of what America is all about."
Copyright (c) 2006 Financial Times Ltd.
Japan and America: Don't leave me now
The Economist , n950 , The Economist ed , p79 , Saturday , July 1, 2006
George Bush's best Asian buddy is retiring
WITH the only world leader to have serenaded him with the Elvis Presley song "I want you, I need you, I love you" retiring in a couple of months, President George Bush may soon feel a bit lonesome. For his friendship with Junichiro Koizumi was based on more than just tender words. After the attacks of September 11th, Mr Koizumi threw his country behind America. Stretching Japan's pacifist constitution to its limits, he sent refuelling ships to the Indian Ocean to help America against the Taliban and troops to help reconstruction in Iraq. By inviting Mr Koizumi to Washington on June 29th, Mr Bush wanted to say goodbye and thank you.
The alliance is in far better health than during the 1980s, when American politicians complained of a Japanese economic invasion and a few alarmists even predicted conflict. Mr Koizumi has long looked forward to this trip as his swansong, say aides. Yet something is not quite right. A few weeks ago, Mr Koizumi looked set to be accorded that rarest honour, an address to a joint session of Congress. Now, it transpires, the highlight of the trip will be a pilgrimage with Mr Bush to Graceland, Elvis's home outside Memphis.
Fair enough: Mr Koizumi is an ardent Elvis fan. But the change of venue may spring from worries at the five visits he has made as prime minister to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, which honours Japan's war dead, including 14 Class A war criminals. Suspicion of Japan is strongest in Asia, but there's a bit about in America too. Many servicemen were brutally treated by the Japanese during the war. And American policymakers sometimes fret that Japan's insensitivity makes engaging with a rising China harder.
So, when the possibility of an address to Congress was mooted, Henry Hyde, the chairman of the House International Relations Committee and a war veteran, wrote to the speaker, Dennis Hastert. It would, said Mr Hyde, not be appropriate for Mr Koizumi to use the podium used by Roosevelt to denounce the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour if he then made his annual visit to Yasukuni on August 15th, the anniversary of Japan's defeat in 1945. The idea of an address to Congress melted away.
Still, he and Mr Bush have substantial issues to discuss. Most recently, the importance of America's alliance with Japan has been underlined by North Korea's preparations to test a long-range missile. America and Japan share an obvious interest in persuading Kim Jong Il not to lob missiles in their direction. Japan feels less threatened, however, by Iran's apparent intention to build nuclear weapons. Urged by America to help it isolate Iran, it fears that this would cut off one of its main sources of oil.
Japan's interests were not exactly the same as America's in Iraq, either, but Mr Koizumi backed Mr Bush in part because the stakes, for Japan, were lower. Its oil supply was not threatened, and its commitment of troops was largely symbolic. For America, however, preventing Iran from going nuclear is of paramount importance, and doing so peacefully depends in part on Japan supporting any sanctions regime. Japanese officials, however, are very keen to see agreement at the UN Security Council--unlikely, given China's reluctance to let the issue interfere with its own quest for oil.
A final tension between America and Japan concerns trade. If the Doha trade talks are not to collapse, both countries must open their farm markets more. Japan is especially reluctant to do so, as was illustrated by a recent spat over American beef, in which fears of mad-cow disease strengthened the hands of protectionists.
What of the future? Given Mr Koizumi's friendship with Mr Bush, many worry that relations between America and Japan may cool after he goes. That will depend on Mr Koizumi's successor. Of the two main contenders, Yasuo Fukuda wants to mend relations with China by, among other things, drawing the Yasukuni sting. The favourite, Shinzo Abe, is more overtly hawkish. But either will surely find that, whatever they feel about America, they need it.