Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Wow! Even handpicked sidekicks can't get no respect...

I am going to settle down sometime and write a post about the Honma Masaaki Affair (so to speak). The tale has all kinds of interesting lacunae and inconsistencies. It furthermore offers hints about the origins of the heretofore rather inexplicable frigidity in the relations between Koizumi Jun'ichirō and Fukuda Yasuo--the falling out that set the stage for Abe Shinzō's rise to the prime ministership.

But before I do that, did anyone else notice the chaos that erupted at the meeting of the Education Rebuilding Council (Kyōiku Saisei Kaigi) last Thursday? The English language press seems to have not reported the goings on.

What a zoo!

The Council is a 17-member Friends of Abe and a Smattering of Very Eminent Persons commission, a set of safe hands for the promotion of conservative principles in education. It is chaired by Nobel Prize winner Noyori Ryōji but is the acknowledged political vehicle of prude-in-chief and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Yamatani Eriko.

One would think that such a body would command a modicum of respect within the government.

One would think that, yes.

However, it seems that the staff of the Council, seconded from the various ministries, drafted an interim report that almost but not quite utterly rejects all the recommendations of the Council.

Imagine that.

Theater producer and council member Asari Keita stormed out (which is kind of apt, as his is "The Four Seasons Theater Company") of the meeting at the kantei.

A longtime friend of conservatives (he discovered long ago that a magical ability to provide politicians with tickets to popular theater productions for their wives, the friends of their wives and female members of the kōenkai wins you eternal gratitude and influence) Asari could not restrain himself from blurting out his frustration to the press:
"They're absolutely like Hitlers in there! What the members of the Council said and what is in the draft from the staff are completely different. We all expressed our opposition to it. The staff has imposed a gag order. In this day and age, when we should be open to the media!"
Other members of the Council used less dramatic language but all expressed their shock at how nearly every single one of the Council's recommendations had been ignored. During the meeting, Watami Co., Ltd. president Watanabe Miki challenged Prime Minister Abe:

"What we have discussed is not even touched upon (in the draft). This meeting should be open to the press. If that is the case and this (draft) represents the judgment of the PM, then I can grant my approval."
To which the PM responded:
"Pulling together everyone's opinion will take a tremendous amount of work. However, little by little, I am sure things will converge."
Whoa Nellie! What the hell is he talking about? What does he mean by "converge"? What kind of convergence can take place when the Council's opinions are not even printed out on the page?

Minister of Education, Technology, Sports and Seemingly Everything Else Takaichi Sanae Is Not In Charge Of Ibuki Bunmei, who can always be trusted to make a crisis worse, did not disappoint. It seems he felt it necessary to explain to the assembled council members exactly how much he respected their opinions:

"First, whether or not what all of you are honorably saying will be put before the Diet is up to the government to decide.

Then, on top of that, what the law will actually say will have to be decided."

Oh take that you lowly Nobel Prize winners and eminent members of society! Your opinions are not on the program! Eat my shūgiin giin shorts!

For those who want to read a full account of this clown show, here is the link to the story from the Asahi Shimbun.

As I final note, I am coming to have a finer appreciation of the use of the term ōmune.

The dictionary will tell you that the meaning of ōmune is "for the most part", "basically" or "roughly".

In practice, ōmune sees a lot of use as a marker for "the following statement is a lie. Perhaps not in narrow legalistic terms, but definitely in substance."

So I was hardly surprised at all by Yamatani Eriko's summing up of the day's proceedings.

"Ōmune hōkōsei ga ryōshō sareta ."

"For the most part, the direction we are taking met with the Council's approval."

Oh yeah. Sure it did.

Just to make the point clear--this Council is Abe's own creation. He is its honorary chairman. He named a Special Advisor to the Prime Minister to guide it. It is stocked with friends of his government. Education reform is supposed be one of the Cabinet's main thrusts. The Council is only two months old.

And its membership is already ticked off.


Jun Okumura said...

I am surprised that the media aren't doing a better job of mining the records of the meetings, summaries first, and the whole proceedings to be posted later. Asahi produced a piece on Dr. "Nobel Prize" Noyori, but it only (totally unfairly) made him look like a nostalgia-laden nut case ranting about juku.

I have no interest in discussions that fail to focus on the college-entrance-exams-driven process and the parallel private education system. Members of the council, bless their hearts, do talk about those things. Too bad there seems to be no leadership coming from the other end.

Anonymous said...

Hey, where is the post on the Honma Masaaki affair? I would like to know your opinion on the Koizumi-Fukuda relation...!

The French reader