Been away...doing things...and not doing things too.
Much has happened in the interim...and in at the same time, not much, aside from world spot oil prices (huge shifts there) has changed.
Two items of note:
1) Abe Shinzo did not go to Yasukuni Shrine in the 2014 calendar year.
He may have done so in secret. Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi supposedly paid a secret visit in 1992. Current Education Minister Shimomura Hakubun supposedly paid a secret visit sometime in 2013, proving that the trick can still be pulled off.
By not publicly paying his respects at Yasukuni, Abe has betrayed the revisionists and the mawkish sentimentalists, those who have been the rungs on the ladder he has climbed to prominence within the Liberal Democratic Party and ultimately into the premiership. It is fitting: what one does with rungs is step on them.
In not visiting Yasukuni, Abe has also shown he is playing a very long game indeed in terms of being a mover and shaker in East Asian politics, sacrificing immediate political and psychological advantages for a bigger political payoff later.
2) Anti-government conservative forces triumphed in the Saga gubernatorial election.
A Japan Agriculture (JA)-supported candidate defeating the LDP-Komeito supported candidate. Most analysis focuses on the supposed black eye suffered by the Abe administration, a third embarrassment after last year's humiliations in Shiga and Okinawa -- and on the supposed red flag the victory portends for the Abe Administration's hopes to reorganize Japan's agricultural sector -- both for growth and to facilitate the completion of Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.
What is less talked about is the implications of the victory of a non-LDP supported conservative for the basing of U.S. forces in Japan. Since his victory, the new governor of Saga has been desperately trying to reverse the agreement the prefecture has with the national government to host Self Defense Forces V-22 Ospreys at Saga Airport. As a special Socialist Party project team noted in 2009, Saga Airport boasts a very, very long runway, is not very, very far from Sasebo and its U.S. Navy homeported amphibious strike group, and is surrounded on three side by hectares of hectares of rice paddies, with narry a dwelling in sight -- the perfect place, really, for a Futenma replacement facility (FRF). The already agree-upon SDF deployment, with the ancillary development of the infrastructure to host Ospreys, is an open door to deployment of U.S. Marines Ospreys at the same dedicated facility.
How Pyrrhic a victory JA's triumph over the Abe government will appear in retrospect -- and how clever the administration -- if Saga Airport becomes a supplement to, a second, or in the extreme a replacement for the fraught Henoko FRF.