Rockin' the DPJ's Boat
Not much good is coming from DPJ head honcho Okada Katsuya's meeting last month with the Japan Communist Party's Chairman Shii Kazuo on the terms of the two parties cooperating ahead of next year's House of Councillors election. Okada nixed the JCP's offers of a coalition (Link) up to and including a seductive and bewildering JCP promise to (provisionally) accept the constitutionality of the Self Defense Forces and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty (Link). The conservative wing of the DPJ, led (provisionally) by the party Policy Research Council chief Hosono Goshi, are screaming that coalition/cooperation with the JCP would plunge the DPJ into existential crisis.
One should always be wary of the declarations of the DPJ's perfidious conservatives. However they are right in this instance: the upside of electoral cooperation is outweighed by the message of incompleteness which it telegraphs:
"We do not have what it takes to fight the Liberal Democratic Party toe-to-toe; vote for us."
DPJ Leader Okada is in a tough position. He cannot simply say, "No" to the Communists, as they could be allies after the election. However, by not immediately rubbishing what Shii says, Okada creates the opportunity for the ambitious Hosono and his supporters to open up old ideological wounds.
In the meantime former Minister of Foreign Affairs Matsumoto Takeaki, one of the perfidious conservatives (How conservative? His website is a single page), delivered his request to resign from the DPJ, citing irreconcilable differences with the party secretariat (Link - J). The departure of the former cabinet minister is painful but not unexpected: Matsumoto has been playing footsie with the Japan Innovation Party's Matsuno Yorihisa for quite some time (Link). The son of the Kaifu Cabinet's Director-General of Defense, Matsumoto serves in a safe and conservative district.
See ya, ya LDP wannabe.
As for the DPJ, neither the current leadership group nor the rank and file have found a message resonating with the non-aligned voters. Without a means of cajoling the uncommitted to make the journey to the polls next July, grim indeed are the party's chances of defending the 15 prefectural and 26 proportional seats it has up for grabs in 2016.
Ceci N'est Pas Un Poisson
On Tuesday, the new head of the LDP's Taxation Committee, former METI minister Miyazawa , met his coalition party opposite Saito Tatsuo for the first time since LDP president Abe Shinzo kicked the former tax sumpremo Noda Takeshi upstairs. The subject of the meeting was a split in the application of the next rise in the consumption tax, scheduled to take place on 1 April 2017. Both sides agree that certain everyday items should continue to be taxed at the present 8% rather than at the scheduled 10%. However, the parties are wide apart on what those items should be, with the LDP proposing to limit the lower rate to "fresh food" so as to blunt the loss of revenues. The Komeito, by contrast, wants all food and non-alcoholic drink to be taxed at the lower rate, shrugging off the tripling of the loss in revenues under such a broad definition. (Link)
The beauty of the Komeito's suggestion is its relatively simplicity: if people eat a product in the form in which it is sold, then it is taxed at the lower rate. The LDP's attempt to define "fresh foods," by contrast, leads to peculiar outcomes, the current favorite being that a large chunk of raw fish is fresh food while that same piece of fish sliced for consumption as sashimi is not.
Cue the TV announcers reporting from a supermarket, holding trays of fish both sliced and unsliced.
For two guys sitting and talking for an hour last Friday all about the consumption tax rise, check out me and Timothy Langley on the latest edition of Tokyo on Fire (Tokyo on Fire - Episode 30).
We Don't Need No Stinkin' International Court of Justice
As mentioned here last week, in response to the International Court of Justice's ruling that Japan's research whaling program violates the terms of the 1986 moratorium of the International Whaling Commission, the Abe Cabinet vewy, vewy qwietly proposed on October 6 an astonishing exemption of whaling from the ICJ's jurisdiction. Just how quietly became evident as the nation's broadcasters and new organizations reported on the story as news for the first time yesterday (Video - J). The Yomiuri Shimbun's English account, with its "learned Wednesday" of a story reported here a week ago, is especially precious. (Link)
What is mind boggling is that the unilateral exemption of whaling from ICJ jurisdiction contradicts Japanese government strategy, not just as regards the whaling issue but all of international relations. The government of Japan has traditionally and this Abe government particularly interested in arguing for a need to respect the rule of law in international relations. This strategic choice, due in part to Japan's position as a reticent military actor, puts Japan on a moral and tactical higher plane than its grand regional rival China, which is more likely to cite the judgment of history as the justification for its actions.
Why no one in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has pointed out the government is throwing out the baby with the bathwater only adds to an ineluctable sense of wonder at this evolving story.
Gotta Dance, Gotta Dance
Professor Jennifer Robertson of the University of Michigan should be feeling pretty spiffy today. In 1989 she produced a then pretty out-there paper on how the Takarazuka Review informed the behavior and public discussion of lesbians in the Late Taisho and Early Showa periods. (First Link Displayed)
Yesterday Masuhara Hiroko and Higashi Koyuki were first in line to register as partners under Shibuya's City new (and so far the country's only) program creating a legal equivalent of gay marriage. In a nice bow to history, Higashi, the tall one (naturally) is a former Takarazuka otoko yaku (male lead). (Link)