Read James Przystup in Comparative Connections -- on the hopeless back-and-forth between the governments of Japan and China since March, with some informative detours along the ways. (Link)
A tragi-comedy in all its glory.
Przystup highlights Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's declaration on August 12 that revision of the Constitution remains his historical mission (Link - J). For those keeping score August 12 was my guestimate of the date Abe would pay a private visit to Yasukuni. It was also the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Friendship.
Abe's declaration of a continued, unshakable commitment to constitutional reform ("Facing the future, facing the revision of the Constitution, I go onward. Revision of the constitution is my historic mission...") flies in the face of the conventional wisdom, which was and is that constitution revision is off the table, replaced by a near-term program of gradual expansion of the activities judged constitutional by the Cabinet Legislative Bureau. The announcement of the appointment of Komatsu Ichiro, the new more malleable head of the CLB, had indeed been announced a week before Abe's declaration. (Link)
One has to discount the seriousness of Abe's words, at least in terms of the PM's schedule for the rest of the year. According to reports, the vow was made at a private dinner at an inn in the PM's nominal hometown of Nagato, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Attending the dinner were top members of his support group (koenkai). Abe probably felt he had to provide, along with actual food and drink, some political red meat. Pledging loyalty to the cause of constitution revision has been one constant in Abe's limited repertoire of political tricks. It is not surprising he dragged the magic act out one more time for his most loyal and biggest fans.
The article ends with a calendar of significant days. One crucial date that is not mentioned, either in Prystrup's article or in Michael J. Green and Nicholas Szechenyi's update on Japan-U.S. relations, is April 28, 2013 -- the first official Return Of Sovereignty Day (Do not bother looking for the event in the previous edition's Green & Szechenyi -- it is not listed there either). At the official ceremony, the first ever, the prime minister intoned portentous piffle of the purest, highest incoherence (Link). The speech was eclipsed, however, by the incident at the end when the Imperial Couple were making their departure from the stage. An impromptu and jubilant chorus of "Long Live The Emperor" (Tenno heika banzai!) froze their Imperial Highnesses in mid-step like two jacked deer.
April 28 seems to mark both the zenith and terminus of Abe's dalliance with history issues. A week later, when asked to clarify his remarks about the definition of shinryaku (invasion, aggression) in Diet session, Abe demurred. When a week later still Liberal Democratic Party policy affairs chief Taka'ichi Sanae claimed that Abe rejects the judgments of the International Military Tribunal of the Far East and the Murayama Statement, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide rubbished her statements, saying she was jawboning her own views, not those of the Abe Government.
After the provocative ceremony and the banzais, something snapped.
Later - As regards the prospects for reinterpreting the constitution, Yuka Hayashi has just posted an interview with a frank Komatsu-san on JapanRealTime. (Link)
------------- Image: Surfers waiting, hoping for the least wave. Kugenuma Beach, Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture on 6 December 2009. Image courtesy: MTC