Monday, August 19, 2013

And Everything Under The Sun

All that you eat
And everyone you meet...

- Roger Waters, "Eclipse" (1973)
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has been on vacation since his appearance at the commemorative events on the August 9 anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. He purportedly most definitely needed a vacation after seven frenetic months where he visited 12 (?) foreign countries, took one day off per month and led a leave-no-stone-unturned effort to win the July 21 House of Councillors election.

The PM's dedication to rest and recuperation has been only nominal. Looking at his schedule, it would scarcely count as a vacation.

Mr. Abe has had some days when the only items on his schedule have been a round of golf and a dinner at an eatery close by his second home in the Fuji Lakes area. However, he has all been away from the villa almost as much as in it. He had a two day trip to Yamaguchi Prefecture for grave visits and political support network meetings on August 12 -13 where he tucked in sympathy calls at locales damaged by recent torrential rains (since these were in his and right hand man and fellow Choshu Mafia member Kawamura Takeo's districts, the pair had good local support reasons for the special sympathy tour). He had his public duties in Tokyo on August 15, which included a cabinet meeting, receiving the chairman of the U.S. Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, laying a wreath on the tomb of the unknowns at Chidorigafuchi, co-presiding with the Emperor at the official end-of-war service and an hour-long visit to the salon to get his hair done.

No, I am not making that last one up.

Even when he has restricted himself to eating and playing golf, he has been power lunching, power dining and power putting.

On Saturday, for example, the PM played golf with former Nippon Keidanren chairman and the current chairman and CEO of Canon Mitarai Fujio and former Nippon Keidanren vice chairman and JX Holdings advisor Watari Fumiaki -- an activity which lasted from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon. For dinner, the PM went to the Hotel Mount Fuji for a meal with Japan Restoration Party co-chairman Ishihara Shintaro and Environment Minister and I. Shintaro’s second oldest child Ishihara Nobuteru. After a spell Hieda Hisashi, the CEO of the right-leaning Fuji Television Network and the PM’s wife Akie joined the group.

The day before, on Friday, the PM and Akie played a round of golf with Komori Shigetaka, the CEO of the Fuji Film group and Mrs. Komori from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. (when did they eat lunch?). Dinner was at the not hideously expensive but not shabby either Oshino Yashima with Watari Fumiaki and Special Advisor the Prime Minister Hasegawa Ei’ichi (Link - J). Akie-sama again was the hostess.

The day before that (Thursday) the PM played golf (sense a pattern here?) with former Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro (one would think that after the Ehime Maru Incident former PM Mori would have learned to stay away from the golf course...but obviously no), Minister of Economics, Trade and Industry Motegi Toshimitsu, Ishihara Nobuteru and Yasukuni cash envelope delivery man and member of the House of Representatives Hagiuda Ko'ichi. Their play began before 7 am and lasted until 2 pm. In the late afternoon the PM was the host of a barbecue at the villa where the main guests were Komori Shigetaka and Hieda Hisashi.

For the record, Hagiuda seems to have been well rewarded for the task of being the PM's envoy to Yasukuni on the morning of the 15th. He not only scored a round of golf with his betters on the 16th but had dinner on the night of the 15th at the villa with the PM, Mori, Ishihara, Motegi and Sasakawa Yohei, the chairman of the Nippon Foundation. (Link - J)

On the 14th, after a morning at an exercise fair in Yokohama the PM was at his home in Tokyo. However, in the evening, after a paying his respects at the wake for a relative of his personal secretary, he had dinner at the Hotel New Otani with Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide, former Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Nakagawa Hidenao (a.k.a., Big Nakagawa, a.k.a. Nakagawa the Sane) and Shida Tsutomu, the supreme advisor and former chairman and CEO of the Shidax food and entertainment conglomerate.

This is relaxing?

There are days in the schedule since this holiday began where the PM's schedule has listed only "played golf with friends" and "ate dinner with friends." For the most part, though, the PM's daily activities seem to have been organized around lining up key allies and advocates among the movers and shakers in Big Business, the Cabinet, free marketers (Nakagawa), the LDP, former bureaucrats and even the opposition before the fall extraordinary session of the Diet. Huge decisions loom as regards the constitution and education reform, revisions to Japan’s security policies, the Trans Pacific Partnership, greentlighting the 3% rise in the consumption tax and the heretofore unannounced parts of the Third Arrow of Abenomics -- and Abe seems to spending his purported rest period smoothing whatever edges he can prior to the session's start.

Even the deeply personal trips, like the one to Yamaguchi to pay respects at his father's grave -- a seasonal and filial duty he neglected in 2007 in the chaos after the defeat in the House of Councillors election, a botched selection of a new Cabinet and ill-timed official trips abroad -- provided an opening for political box checking. The family grave in Nagato was not the only pilgrimage site. The PM also traveled a few kilometres further up the coast to Hagi to pay his respects at the grave site of martyr to the Restoration movement Yoshida Shoin (Link - J -- for those less mobile than the PM, Yoshida has another grave marker in Setagaya -- Link - J). As "a son of Choshu" a visit to Yoshida's school and grave marker represents an understandable nod to historical geography and hometown sensitivities (the PM, while nominally from Nagato, is really from Tokyo).

An aside...but Yoshida worship seems to have, in recent years, been in something of an eclipse. Other figures from the age have enjoyed greater study and exposure. Perhaps the PM is trying to jump start a Yoshida boom. Whether or not the Yoshida boom ensues, visiting the gravesite of the spiritual father of the Meiji Restoration does the PM no harm in the more nationalist patriot segments of the electorate.

How do I know what the PM has been doing in so much detail? I read it in the newspaper, of course. To get the PM's schedule of where he went, who he met and where he ate (if not exactly what he ate) just copy 首相動静 into the search window of the Japanese news aggregator you like best. If you are language challenged but willing to wait for a while, Asia Policy Point has been doing the yeoman's duty of translating Abe's published schedule into English (Link - J). The APP translations are a great complement to the pretty decent job the Prime Minister's Residence is doing keeping the public abreast of highlights in the PM's day (Link), some of which are downright bizarre (taking part in this art exhibition, for example). The PM and his staff fill in further information via the famous/infamous postings to his Facebook page.

There are so many windows allowing us to peer into the PM's life. T'is a thing of wonder he still so enjoys throwing the occasional stone.

Top image courtesy: MTC
Original image by Storm Thorgerson

Photo courtesy: Mainichi Shimbun


wataru said...

One evening when I was at a favorite little spot near Mitaka Station, I happened to meet the young man responsible for writing up these 首相動静 reports every night. He is a reporter for Jiji News but pools the reports with other news agencies. He actually follows Abe around wherever he goes, and at the end of the day puts together the reports, which he said is the hardest part of the job. (I learned much more that evening than I can share with you all here.)

MTC said...

wataru -

I would think the hardest part of producing the reports is determining whose presence should be demoted to "ra" status -- and that choice would strike me as being an editor's job.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post. I hear that the nationalists are unhappy, some feel betrayed by their ex favourite PMJ who did not bow to the Yasukuni Aug 15. They ignored his busy schedule on the golf courses.