A Hiatus

I am coming to a crucial part of my PhD studies (the end) and I don’t have as much time to pay attention to the comings and goings of Japanese domestic politics right now. I will attempt to post something (or some things) just before the election later this year in July, but don’t be too surprised if there is little other than that.

I have jotted down a few thoughts at JSW regarding a recent NY Times article which had the rather unnecessary headline of “Japan Moving Further Away from Pacifism.”

It isn’t short, but if you have the time and interest, then by all means.

Freedom Achieved

I have now settled down in my ivory tower (odd slanty wooden building) to commence research. I no longer have to indulge my politics fetish covertly from within the confines of the governmental institution and I have to say, I do like it!

I must say however, International Relations has changed a lot since 2004 when I finished my MA. Between Google going to battle with China, and France, Germany and Australia taking a rather public piss all over IE and Microsoft, things certainly do seem to have changed!
I have not much to add on the Japan front – There is some talk of Hatoyama stepping down before the House of Councillors election this year but I personally do not think, barring any further indiscretions, that this is a viable choice. While one motivation for the public to vote in the DPJ might have been to clean up politics, I think the electorate is a bit more realistic than that – especially when you have a party that draws personnel from the ancien regime. That is not to say that the latest revelations are acceptable but my impression would be that the real change the public wanted was for actual policy changes to be made and this requires stability. I think if Hatoyama was to push on beyond this current crisis, perhaps extracted a few concessions from the US on Futenma (ie anything that does not look like what the status quo would have been and thus look like Japan actually engaged competently in a game of Real Politik with the US), and actually implemented a few manifesto promises, then the public would be rather more forgiving. More importantly for the DPJ I feel that they have little choice – nothing short of further criminal activities or the DPJ losing seats at the House of Councillors election would, given the recent political history of the role of the PM, justify a change in replacement.
Of course how the Ozawa problem is dealt with is a wild card here – it appears as if the DPJ senses that something is up*and is not looking to quitely extricate Ozawa from the party – one hopes for their sake that the prosecutor’s office has overstepped the mark or else this could look rather messy.
If some of these challenges pan out positively and there is at least one substantial policy win before the HoC election later this year, Hatoyama might well be looking very different (Queue in one hour a shock announcement of his stepping down from the PM post).
Update – The latest NHK survey of the Cabinet seems to suggest that the public’s expectation is per the above post – especially amongst those unaffiliated voters:
Asked about why they did not support the Hatoyama Cabinet, 46% of that segment of the public cited the lack of capability of implementing policy, and another 26% said they did not have any expectations about its policies. On the question of what they hoped to see tackled by the cabinet, 23% of the public listed social security, such as pensions and health care, 23% wanted elimination of waste of tax money, and 21% said jobs and the economy.

48 days to freedom

Days like today just confirm my decision that the “Public Service” is not for me. Serving the public per se is not the problem- that part I enjoy, and depending on the topic the intellectual policy analysis process itself can be satisfying. However, the constrained ability for committed and not-stupid people to actually apply themselves due to pathetic personal politics just will not gel with my character. I also fear if I hang around long enough I may become one of those people whose own eccentricities get in the way of the “public service”.

The one saving grace is that my new boss who is excellent has given me a nice, meaty, intellectual single project to round out my time, a project which will also involve some practical learning.

In regards to the reason why this blog was set up, all I can say from my point of view I am secretly enjoying seeing the US Japan “managers”, to borrow a term from here, flap around in disbelief and engage in rather derisive discourse around the Futenma and other issues – its like the Japanese are actually able to think through and articulate a foreign policy position for themselves – even more shocking that they should want to do this!! One might even suggest that the Japanese have the capacity to be….”normal”?

Anyway, in practical terms I believe it would very important to change the tone very soon least an important Asian actor lose the will to continue to push for the US inclusion in any official East Asia community initiative. As this article suggests, while Hatoyama has been making overtures in this area, there are members of the party (potential next PMs if the current scandal becomes more of an issue) who perhaps may not be quite as concerned about the mutual Japan-US interest. There is of course a debate as to whether official inclusion or more so, exclusion of the US from any regional construct would radically change geopolitics in the short-term – such a construct is not going to be an EU. But I do get the impression right now that a couple of english speaking countries in the Asia Pacific area are coming across in the Japanese media as rather arrogant – and if the Japanese citizenry did not vote for realignment in the international relations domain at the last election, they may feel compelled to in future ones.

On the other hand, these conflicts are valuable fodder for my own PhD topic – long may they continue! (mostly, but not completely being facetious here)

帰国

My last days of my second trip to Japan were a brilliant dichotomy – between the typhoon in Tokyo and the brilliant weather that succeeded it in Yokohama afterwards. The Park Royal in Yokohama and the view also helped cement my feeling that Yokohama is quite a city. Anyone out there who lives there keen to comment?

My brief trip back has reinvigorated my enthusiasm for taking my studies, both political and linguistic, to the next level. Geeked out a bit on Japan TV both asinine, political and the asininenly political (or perhaps politically asinine?).

2 months and counting to PhD initiation.

Big day

Problem with living in a small country with low levels of corruption, high degrees of political transparency, a reasonably moderate electorate and a political system dedicated to forming consensus on key issues that everyone already knows 90 percent of the populace agrees upon within some reasonable bounds, is that elections tend to be dull – in terms of both controversy and debate, but also in terms of the actual real outcome. So I love nothing more than sitting down and watching democracy in action in countries of say, 100 million or more. As a “Political Scientist” in NZ I am starved of the excitement that any analysis you can offer on elections etc might be meaningful, no matter how nuanced or insightful it is. Opportunities like this provide an opportunity for me to at least pretend for a moment that my pet hobby is, after all, meaningful and important. Too bad it will not be covered on NZ TV like the US election was – cannot really justify ordering in pizza and sitting around with the computer next to me checking results/exit polls every three seconds. May have to be content with intermittent internet updates and looking at some rudimentary materials on East-Asian regionalism…..