Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hisashiburi ne!

Wow, I've been gone for a long time. I'm sorry, a lot has happened over the last few weeks. I got deferred by Harvard, began a counter student government/movement at school, while I also received my acceptance letter for going to school in Japan next year. At the same time a lot important news has come out of Japan.

The three most important events to have occurred are the changing of the clause on education in the Japanese Constitution, scripted questions in town hall style meetings, and the all time low popularity rating of Shinzo Abe. ( Go to this excellent article to get a good understanding of the issue: Beginning with the first piece. Abe and the LDP finally made their move. After speaking about carrying out "reforms" to the education system, they have finally done so by passing legislation that will have students be taught to love their country. The language that I've used, is just as harmless and vague as used in the new bill passed. But this is the point. By making the language as vague as possible Abe and his far right wing allies in government have the ability to carry out more reactionary legislation that will bring education more into line with what it was before 1945. Abe's allies, more willing to speak their minds, insist on teaching reverence of the imperial family to Japan's youth, and instilling a strong patriotic sentiment. What we are seeing here is a blatant takeover of Japanese politics by quiet and not so quiet nationalists who wish to impose their own agenda and views of history on Japan's citizens.
Abe did all of this with much consequence. He his popularity has gone down from 65% in September, when he took office, to 45% in a matter of weeks. The majority of the nation has voiced anger at the change to the constitution. Academics, and most importantly of all the academics that Abe's government hired from Waseda University to vouch for the change to the education clause in the constitution came out and said that the changes 'were not necessary at all.' There is a clear divide between the people and the prime minister.
The last of the three news bits is the newly revealed scripted realities of the LDP's town hall meetings. In an effort to raise support for the new policy towards education, Abe and ministers held town hall style meetings. The catch, revealed by investigative reporters, was that normal day people were being approached before the meetings and being paid money to ask certain questions at a certain moment. All of this has been very embarrassing for Abe and co. Trust in the honesty of the prime minister's office has ebbed even lower, contributing to the marked decrease in Abe's popularity numbers. What is clear here is that Abe is more hawkish than Koizumi, (in process of taking down barriers to use of JSDF), very confrontational with North Korea over the abduction issue, and is certainly intent on redefining what education is in Japan while not taking action to curb the problems of bullying that have been the source for numerous suicides this past fall. I wish Japan good luck. It's going to need it. If there is one thing that remarkable for Japanese politics, then that is how unremarkable its most powerful LDP politicians are.

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