Election reveals the sorry state of Japan’s political opposition

Members of Japan's House of Representatives shout ‘ banzai’, a traditional cheering gesture at the National Diet in Tokyo on 21 November 2014, as Prime Minister Abe dissolved the lower house. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Purnendra Jain, University of Adelaide

Last Sunday’s general election in Japan has returned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its ally, the New Komeito, with a two-thirds majority in the lower house of the Diet. That the LDP would get a majority of seats was expected, as various polls had shown since Abe unexpectedly announced snap elections in November. Read more…

A ‘beautiful’ Japan in the eye of the media beholder

Masataka Watanabe and Shinya Iida hold a press conference after becoming the new president and chairman, respectively, of Japanese daily The Asahi Shimbun, Osaka, Japan, 5 December 2014. They apologised for withdrawn articles on the Fukushima nuclear disaster and 'comfort women' issue. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Chris Perkins, University of Edinburgh

The Japanese media has been set alight by the debate on Japan’s use of ‘comfort women’ — a euphemism referring to the women used for sex by the Japanese Army in World War II. The furore began in August when Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s premier liberal newspaper, admitted that a source used in a number of articles it published on comfort women had fabricated his story. Read more…

The politics of Japan’s new aid charter

Workers on a Japan-funded aid project in Columbia. (Photo: Neil Palmer, Flickr).

Author: Purnendra Jain, University of Adelaide

2014 marks the 60th anniversary of Japan’s foreign aid program. The nation was still receiving World Bank aid when Tokyo began a modest foreign aid program through joining the Colombo Plan in 1954. Today, as one of the world’s largest donors, Japan is placing an increasingly explicit emphasis on foreign aid for the national interest. Read more…

Abe must raise taxes to save Abenomics

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks to voters during his election campaign tour in front of a local fishery association branch at a fishery port in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, 2 December 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Yukinobu Kitamura, Hitotsubashi University

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house of the Diet on 21 November and called a snap general election on 14 December. At the same time, Abe announced that he would postpone the second hike of the consumption tax rate from 1 October 2015 to 1 April 2017. Read more…

Japan’s demographic challenges are also an opportunity

Generations united by fashion: models young and old wait to strut the catwalk at a grandmother and granddaughter show in tokyo in 2014. Despite all the perceived problems, dealing with the challenge of ageing can also be a source of innovation. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hiroshi Yoshikawa, University of Tokyo

Japan’s ageing, shrinking population will cause serious problems for the country throughout the 21st century. Although the fertility rate has recovered to 1.39, this is still very low by international standards. Current official projections estimate that Japan’s present population of 120 million will decline to 40 million by 2110. Read more…

Abe takes his electoral ‘chance’

A man walks past posters of Japanese prime minister and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe displayed at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo on 4 December 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, East Asia Forum

As the official election campaign rolled out last week, the media are still trying to get a handle on what the upcoming Japanese election is all about. This is ‘the election Japan didn’t need to have’ or the election ‘that’s not about anything in particular’, except securing Prime Minister Abe’s and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) survival in the longer term. Read more…

Snap election belies Japan’s weak politics

Japan's Prime Minister and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe greets supporters after his election campaign speech for the 14 December lower house election. Abe's ruling party is on course for a landslide win in the upcoming general election, opinion polls showed. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ben Ascione, ANU

The incumbent Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) seems to be cruising towards a victory in the snap election to be held on 14 December. But beware of interpreting this as a ringing endorsement of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Instead, the likely result shows just how weak Japanese politics has become. Read more…

Tough times ahead for China–Japan–South Korea joint FTA

Chinese, Japanese and South Korean officials attend the Fifth Round of China-Japan-Korea FTA Negotiations in Beijing, China, 1 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jing Li, CASS

The fifth round of the China–Japan–South Korea Free Trade Agreement (CJK FTA) negotiations concluded in Beijing on 5 September. The three countries hope the negotiations will finish in 2015, but this partly depends on the progress of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Read more…

Why Asahi bashing reveals the weakness of the Japanese left

Asahi Shimbun President Tadakazu Kimura, bows in apology during a press conference at its head office in Chuo Ward, Tokyo on 11 Sept 2014. The Asahi Shimbun admitted that its May article on the so-called Yoshida file concerning the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was incorrect and retracted the article. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Katsuyuki Hidaka, Ritsumeikan University

One of Japan’s biggest left-leaning newspapers, Asahi Shimbun, has recently come under fire for having published erroneous reports about the wartime ‘comfort women’ and the Fukushima nuclear power plant. In a series of articles about the ‘comfort women’ issue Asahi Shimbun published the testimony of a former Japanese soldier, known as Seiji Yoshida, which was later found to be false. Read more…

Abe’s cabinet reshuffle reflects growing influence of the religious right


Author: Ernils Larsson, Uppsala University

With the snap election in Japan on 14 December looming, Japanese voters may not realise exactly what they are bargaining for if they re-elect an Abe-led Liberal Democratic Party government as expected. The extensive support for state sponsorship of Shinto in the Japanese Diet, and among members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, indicates that elements of State Shinto are returning to the centre of nationalist politics in Japan. This could have a serious influence on freedom of religion and foreign policy in Japan. Read more…

Abe’s fraught choice between China and the conservatives

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaches out to shake hands with China’s President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting held at the International Convention Center in Yanqi Lake, Beijing, 11 November 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Toshiya Takahashi, ANU

The meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping at the 2014 APEC summit was a temporary relief for both amid rising bilateral tensions over the last two years. This talk was the result of both governments’ efforts to repair the bilateral relationship, temporarily parking both the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute and the history issue. Both leaders agreed to resume their strategic relationship, starting talks over the creation of a maritime crisis management mechanism and the expansion of economic cooperation. Read more…

Liberal Japan needs to drown out revisionist voices

Japanese lawmakers visit the Yasukuni Shrine to pay respect to the war dead on the day of the 69th anniversary of the end of the World War II, in Tokyo , Friday, 15 August 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Benedikt Buechel, Seoul National University

Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s return to power in December 2012, Japan’s diplomatic relations with South Korea have continuously worsened. Abe’s persistent stance on the Yasukuni Shrine, the Dokdo/Takeshima territorial dispute and the ‘comfort women’ issue has elicited fierce opposition from the South Korean government. While no rapprochement on any of these conflicts has been achieved, the Japanese government should be aware that its hawkish and revisionist rhetoric is hurting Japan’s reputation and risks driving the country into international isolation. Read more…

Japan’s snap election won’t ease Abe’s woes


Author: Corey Wallace, ANU

When Abe dissolved the lower house on 21 November 2014 and called a snap election for December, top leaders in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and New Komeito identified keeping 270 seats as the low-water mark, which would represent a loss of 56 seats. Given current economic conditions and the state of public opinion, a unified and confident opposition would probably extract such losses and would challenge the LDP–New Komeito coalition’s majority. But the opposition is still struggling to unify, so Abe and the coalition look reasonably safe. Read more…