News You Really Need To See: “Politics in Japan: Right Side Up”

“Politics in Japan: Right Side Up”

The Economist, June 6-12, 2015, p.33

“It is only 18 years old, and its name is innocuous—Nippon Kaigi simply means ‘Japan Conference’.  Yet as one of Japan’s most powerful lobby groups it has a shopping list of nationalist, indeed blatantly revisionist, causes: applaud Japan’s wartime ‘liberation’ of East Asia from Western colonialism; rebuild the armed forces; inculcate patriotism among students brainwashed by left-wing teachers; and revere the emperor as he was worshipped in the good old days before the war.  Far from crediting America’s post-war occupation for bringing democracy, Nippon Kaigi’s supporters say that the occupation, and the liberal constitution that sprang from it, has emasculated Japan.  Oddly, the group receives little attention from the media in Japan, despite its strong and growing influence at the heart of government.  Nippon Kaigi has backroom clout, with over 280 local chapters, 38,000 fee-paying members and a network that reaches deep into the political establishment.  A former chief justice was its last chairman.  About a third of the Diet (parliament) are members of the group’s parliamentary league, as are over half of the 19-strong cabinet of Shinzo Abe, the prime minister.  Mr Abe is the group’s ‘special adviser’. … The group says that the nation should rearm, stoutly defend disputed territories against China and scrap the constitution of 1946 which renounces war as a means for settling disputes.  It says its aim is to reflect Japan’s ‘true, original characteristics’.  Nippon Kaigi has a formidable ability to mobilise.  A decade ago it collected 3.6m signatures demanding reforms to the education law making it compulsory to teach children patriotism.  Enacting a law with this requirement was one of the few things that Mr Abe accomplished in his first, inglorious term as prime minister from 2006 to 2007.  Its members have consistently campaigned against anything that shows Japan’s wartime aggression in a bad light—bombarding exhibitions on war crimes, for example, with petitions and phone calls.  Most of the group’s current energies are aimed at getting signatories—10m is the target—calling for a national referendum on revising the constitution.  It wants the removal of the pacifist section, Article 9, and supposedly traditional family values to be enshrined in it.  A draft of a new constitution drawn up by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 2012 reflects much of Nippon Kaigi’s agenda. …  It also rejects what its supporters call Japan’s apology diplomacy.  Nippon Kaigi is lobbying for Japan’s admissions of war guilt to be reversed this year, the 70th anniversary of the country’s surrender.”

Quickie analysis:  I hate to mention it, but Japan’s last dalliance with militant nationalism ended with two mushroom clouds.  It’s hard to see how Nippon Kaigi’s goals will lead anywhere productive.

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