The Japanese government likes to lives in a little bubble world all their own. It’s as if they don’t realize that the choices and decisions they make influence an entire country of people under them.
Equally, most Japanese people have become disinterested in the whole governmental process. They don’t seem to care who leads them, and realize that their government failed long ago They lack all hope for change and care little for politics.
While I enjoy my life in Japan, the good comes with a healthy dose of bad. Much of this bad comes from the political sphere.
Here’s the laundry list of a primer. I hope it encourages further exploration on the issues presented.
Hereditary Positions: The majority of lawmakers are able to hand down their positions to sons upon retirement. If you thought the Bush, Clinton, and Kennedy dynasties were a problem in America, you’d go nuts here. According to the excellent article mentioned above, some 40% of the LDP benefits from this practice. With Japan’s strong sense of duty towards parents, grandparents, and so on, policies way past their prime are perpetuated via a sense of duty. People continue to vote for candidates because they recognize the name and the platform. Recent events to change this practice seem to have stalled out when politicians realized they wouldn’t be able to easily nominate their kids anymore.
Ministries of Uselessness: The former Health Minister calls women “baby-making machines,” the foreign ministry advocates sending schoolgirl stereotypes and french maid outfitted girls abroad to promote culture, and with rampant resignations and even suicides, the various ministries exist in absolute chaos. The Prime Ministers quickly fire and change staff as their platforms sink and the PMs themselves flip yearly now so your time as a Minister of _____ is usually about as long as that of a Spinal Tap drummer.
Foreign Descendants: It’s a Xenophobic country in a global world. The recent economy has heightened peoples’ fears regarding outsiders. The government, in their shortsighted ignorance has decided to pay Latin American guest workers to leave the country and never return. These ‘guest workers’ are of Japanese descent, mostly Peruvians and Brazilians whose family lines comes from the Japanese who settled in those areas during Japan’s drive to expand. When they were finally allowed back in country in the 1990s, they found themselves limited to the most menial and dangerous jobs. Now they’re being primed to leave. Not only is this a horrible slight to people that share history and blood with Japan, but it’s a horribly shortsighted idea in a country where the workforce is shrinking drastically because of the falling birthrate.
Gaijin: For those of us without the luck of being a foreigner of Japanese descent, The Ministry of Justice is looking to take over management of the “Alien Registration Card” system, AKA: Gaijin Card to better watch for us pesky foreigners. The centralization of the process away from local governments will lead to a slew of new checks and balances, allowing for more monitoring of our whereabouts and changes. It seems like the country really doesn’t want anyone here.
Child Pornography: You can read my rant on this issue here, but needless to say, Japan’s current stance on child pornography laws is far below the International norm. This is somewhat disgusting, but because of partisan politics, the LDP and DPJ can’t even seem to agree on a bill to bring the laws up to standard. When a government is sitting around debating child pornography, it’s officially hit rock bottom.
Wartime Past: A huge problem with Japan is that they’ve adopted this extremely peaceful mentality, but have never actually come to grips with what happened in WW II. The country just collectively forgot the entire chapter. It’s as if a guy cheated on his gf, she found out, and he just told her “I’ll never do it again, let’s not talk about it any further.” The rest of the world is the gf, they’d like to talk it over are eagerly awaiting, lists in hand, to hear them. It shouldn’t take 67 years to apologize for the Bataan Death March. It’s great that you’ve adopted such a peaceful little world, but if you don’t accept what happened and educate people, history is bound to repeat itself.
Bridges to Nowhere: In America, a big issue of the recent campaign was Governor Palin’s ‘Bridge to Nowhere.” In Japan, everywhere is a bridge to nowhere. The Central Government’s big idea to keep the economy going is to constantly fund public works projects, no matter how useless. Driving through the countryside yields reinforced mountainsides, kilometers away from any forms of civilization, grand roads and tunnels that connect farming villages, and tetrapods covering the entire coastline. Local governments have become akin to beggars or perhaps even little mafias, grabbing money from their central daddy and inventing useless projects and inflating costs to skim money for other things. Congratulations, the whole country is run like a mafia!
No Clear Choice: I sometimes ask my students questions when things are bugging me. I’ve followed the two parties of Japan, the LDP and DPJ, for some time now. In all that time, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the difference. It just seems like a bunch of people that couldn’t hack it in the hierarchy broke away with the same platforms in order to be higher up in a new hierarchy with a different name. My students have failed to explain any differences to me as well. Some have said it’s like a choice between Coke and Pepsi. I’d say it’s more like a choice between last year’s Coca Cola can design and this year’s Coca Cola can.
Whales: I’m not anti-whaling at all. I’m not exactly pro-whaling either, but if you can find me some concrete examples of how whaling is an integral part of the culture, than so be it. From what I’ve seen in Japan, no one really likes the taste and the stockpile of whale meat is currently far outstripping demand to the point where the government has made overtures to the population to get more into eating the stuff so they can get rid of it and have better reason for killing more whales. Their entire platform on whaling seems to stand on others telling them they shouldn’t. Children also practice this annoying habit of doing the opposite of what’s suggested in the face of reason. You’re not children, you’re the government of the second most powerful economy in the world.
Indigenous/Captured People/Burakumin: The Diet only recently recognized the Ainu people as an indigenous people of the country. That’s progressive by Japanese standards. Korean-blooded people, many brought to Japan as laborers against their will or as slaves in past wars still lack the rights of normal Japanese citizens even though they’ve often lost complete connection to their original lands. Congrats, you just recognized the Ainu, refuse to recognize people that were brought here against their will, and won’t recognize Japanese people that settled in other lands. Also, people with past family histories of being leather workers or butchers still can’t get a good job. Awesome!
General Stupidity: Taro Aso is a moron who can’t even read. Listen, I come from a country that knows idiot leaders too, we can smell one of our own. The guy fails at reading Kanji, gaffes a mile a minute, comes from his little bubble land of hereditary politicians, and ran a family company that literally rode its way to the top on the backs of Korean workers and POWs. I could go on and on about him, but by and large, you could say this about everyone currently in the Japanese Government. They’re so backwards that they seem to exist solely to maintain their grips on the little political bubble world they live in. Any attempts to shatter it, via a modernization of the election process, fund-raising, or progressive laws are met with hostility, and again, more stupidity.
I hope you enjoyed this primer on some of the major issues currently plaguing the Japanese Government. It’s my hope that it’ll send folks off researching some of these topics in further detail.
For the record, I’m not really much of a grumpy hater, and I do enjoy my daily life in Japan. The country still manages to soldier on quite efficiently and if the gov has anything to do with train times, I applaud them.
What do yall think? What gets under your skin the most?