Saturday, June 26, 2010

Inherit the Wind

Ozawa Ichiro's keeping quiet -- so he is following Prime Minister Kan Naoto's suggestion that he do so for the good of the nation, the party and himself.

It is seems the Old Toad has read the fine print, though. He was asked to keep quiet, not stay silent.

Whilst campaigning in Yamanashi Prefecture on Thursday for his buddy Koshi'ishi Azuma (Doesn't Koshi'ishi's website make just hop on the Chuo Line and go to Yamanashi right now?) Ozawa made a rather public visit to the grave of Kanemaru Shin, a rather interesting and embarrassing choice of local worthies to honor with a visit at election time.

After a roadside speech to about 40 local residents, Ozawa also uttered his first words of criticism of the new DPJ regime since its installation three weeks ago. They were hardly hair-raising quotes: he told reporters he thought Kan's goal of leading the party to winning "54 seat plus alpha" too weak, saying that the goal of a ruling party is to win a majority (which in the case of this upcoming election means 60 or more seats - a goal that Kan yesterday declared he would "spare no effort in achieving"). Ozawa also said that in order to improve the Japan's fiscal position, raising the consumption tax should not be done soon -- that the party's stated goal is to get rid of as much wasteful spending as possible first.

On Friday, up in Aomori, Ozawa got a little bolder, playing the concern troll regarding the decision to talk about raising the consumption tax in the run up to an election. He dangerously chose to play the city/country dichotomy card --- shining a light on the truth that cannot speak its name, that following this election the DPJ intends to terminate the countryside's dependency on largess and support from the center, forcing the countryside to either pull itself up by its bootstraps or fail -- saying, "The prime minister seems to talk continuously about [raising the tax to 10%] but out here in the countryside, as compared to the city, the economic situation is severe. If you talk out [in the countryside] about a 10% consumptipon tax, for myself this gives me tremendous worries."

Just to throw salt in the wound, Ozawa reminded listeners that under the Hatoyama Administration (of which he, of course, was the string puller) the DPJ had issued a public promise to not raise the consumption tax for three to four years.

Way to be a team player when your party needs you, Ozawa-san.


For an explanation of the title, see Proverbs 11:29. For some photos of a few of Yamanashi's places to visit, check out a few selections from the Flickr site.


John Mock said...

Hmmm, back to the "countryside" needing to pull itself up by its bootstraps? This doesn't make much sense unless you define the "countryside" as the almost completely denuded rural areas where the young folks have been moved into the cities (along with almost all of the higher secondary and tertiary educational institutions and such). I suppose that the easy way to get out of this is just shoot the old folks who are left, it is probably easier than just leaving them to starve.

As you might note, I am not enthralled with the concept that the metropolitan centers have been "carrying" the countryside.

MTC said...

Dr. Mock -

Show me how the countryside of Japan is integrated into the global marketplace, how its products are exported worldwide and how its people are in daily interaction with their counterparts in other countries, neighboring or far away.

If one has no direct links with the global marketplace other than on the consumer end, then the metropoles are indeed probably carrying you.

I do not disagree that the relationship between the center, particularly Tokyo, is vampirish, draining the outlying prefectures of jobs and people -- or even Edo-like, drawing almost all the country's talent into orbits around country's center of administrative power. Nevertheless the intensity of the willing isolation of the outer prefectures from active interaction with the rest of the globe seems to deviate from "it's a small world after all" norm.

John Mock said...

Actually, we are not going to disagree all that much....we will disagree, possibly, on causation. Just as an anecdote, I worked, several years ago, on a project by a group of sake brewers in Akita who were trying (and are still trying) to do direct marketing of their products to New York and London. In order to do this, not only did they have to cope with the obvious problems of global exchange (language difficulties, tax differences and the like) but also with massive difficulties presented by various ministries. It wasn't that there was any objection to selling sake overseas (see JETRO and such), it was that they were (and are) trying to do it without major trading companies based in the metropolitan centers.

A broader example would be the struggle by regional centers, such as big cities like Sapporo and Fukuoka, to get direct international links for their airports. As of a couple of years ago (the last time I checked), Sapporo's Chitose airport still did not have a direct flight to the main part of the US, only to Alaska. And to jump to the obvious question, yes, there had been applications by airlines for such flights.

So, I would agree that the only major global links are with the metropoles but I think a large part of that is national policy, implemented by the same metropoles. Yes, there is a conservative (to put it mildly) component to the periphery but I would like to see some sort of explanatory mechanism as to why all of the various "countrysides" of Japan all decided not to have connections with the global marketplace. My "thought" would be that if it is extremely widespread, across the huge area (and various peoples) that make up peripheral Japan, then it is probably not just "chance" or being "conservative" but rather the result of national policy.

Actually, you suggest much the same thing with your use of the term "vampirish" which I take to mean something other then positive so I dont' think we are disagreeing much. I don't think that everyone in the periphery has chosen to be isolated, elderly, and poor.

Finally, an additional question, what is the policy you refer to in your original article. What form of "bootstraps" is the countryside going to be left with (if any)?

RMilner said...

Isn't the comment is more like a code for getting rid of the link between rice farming subsidies and gerrymandering which sustained the LDP in power for such a long time.

John Mock said...

Not sure which comment you refer to, mine or MTC's. Obviously, there has to be a more rational agricultural policy from MAFF (and from JA, for that matter) and the LDP gerrymandering is well on its way to being destroyed (losing the election last August appears to have broken that quite nicely) but there is a bunch more. What do you do with a completely out of control Ministry of Construction, with a demographic pattern which suggests explosive depopulation and so forth and so forth. This is, as I argue elsewhere, a "crisis in stasis". We all know it is happening but there is virtually no movement whatsoever, at least so far (one can always hope).