Friday, February 29, 2008

Drawing The Short Straw

"Yes, I'm tired. No, I don't give a damn anymore. Well, maybe I do. Why do you ask?"

Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo struggles to stay awake
while waiting for a House of Representatives
Budget Committee session to resume
February 28, 2008

Image courtesy: Tokyo Shimbun

Later - The House of Representatives will be passing the budget and ancillary legislation today, one day later than House of Representatives Parliamentary Affairs Chairman Ōshima Tadamori's goal of February 28.

Since there is no agreement about any adjustment of the temporary gasoline levy or the 10 year, 59 trillion yen mid-term road construction plan, the bills now go the House of Councillors as crafted by the anachronistic bits of the ruling coalition.

The opposition coalition will tear the legislation to pieces, then leave it to die of exposure.

The budget will automatically go into effect in 30 days (Constitution of Japan, Article 60) just slipping under the wire for the April 1 start of the new fiscal year.

* * *

The Fukuda Cabinet and the four top LDP leadership posts are chock-a-block with faction leaders. These were the guys (and yes they are all guys) who were purported to have the juice within the party. They would twist arms and wring necks to get things done. As moderates, at least more moderate than the Abe Shinzō-Nakagawa Shōichi-Aso Tarō crowd, the current crop of ministers and party executives were supposed to be able to work with members of the Democratic Party of Japan to move legislation throught the Diet.

None of the above has happened. The ruling coalition is reduced to carrying out the country's business via the autopilot mechanisms built into the Constitution.

The LDP and Kōmeitō have run out of gas.

Do they know it?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

No good times

Afer watching the first few minutes of News 23, I'll have to agree with Okumura Jun--Defense Ministry Ishiba Shigeru looks like a goner.

One can be deceptive in one's Diet testimony most of the time, hewing right to the line of truth or even over it. But when you have grieving, grizzled fishermen on the nation's screens umpteen times a day, you really do not have the capacity to define "there was no attempt to meddle in the investigation of the accident in any way" according to the meaning that suits you.

Having a commander fly out the to the ship and question those aboard without notifying the Coast Guard--the government agency in charge of investigating shipboard accidents--and having the navigator of the MSDF vessel airlifted to your office on the day of the accident to brief you on what happened...may not strictly be meddling...but wow does it look unnecessarily suspicious when the movements of various personnel are not revealed on Day One but in a series of leaks over the course of a work week.

With the Prime Minister's support level at 30% and the budget about to undergo a month of excrutiating scrutiny in the House of Councillors, the LDP Diet membership is rightly starting to panic.

If they had seen how the Ministry of Infrastructure, Land, Transport and Tourism got ripped to shreds in the evening's second report, about a planned elevated road in Toyama Prefecture, the LDP members would have been asking for air sickness bags.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Haru Ichiban

Fukujusō - Adonis ramosa and hoverfly
Yorii City, Saitama Prefecture
February 11, 2008

Why Could I Not Think of This?

Over at GlobalTalk 21 Okumura Jun offers a simple and elegant solution to one of the perennial conundrums of Japanese politics, namely:

"Why do the results of the telephone surveys of public opinion reflect the political biases of the major news organizations conducting the poll?"

I encourage consideration of Mr. Okumura's conjecture.

Not this time

LDP Election Measures Chairman Koga Makoto is not stupid, it seems.

In the fight over which of the LDP's candidates for the Tokushima #2 district shall represent the LDP in the next House of Representatives election, he has chosen the party exile Yamaguchi Shun'ichi over the Koizumi Junichirō-appointed assassin Shichijō Akira.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reports that Koga came to choose Yamaguchi over Shichijō based on the results of public opinion polls and levels of support for either candidate among Tokushima party members. Of course, what the report does not say is that Yamaguchi, as the incumbent, had an edge in terms of name recognition and that the local party apparat are all his longtime cronies associates.

Given those criteria (Are they reflective of Koga's stated goal of "picking a candidate who can win"?) it is not as if the outcome was in doubt.

Shichijō's prize for his second place finish in the contest is a listing "in the upper part" of the LDP's party list for Shikoku bloc seats.

Some prize.

Unlike the resolution of the Gifu #1 dispute where Satō Yukari was able to extract a candidacy in a district seat, opening up the possibility of her defecting to the opposition, Shichijō has only received the opportunity to campaign for the party that has slighted him and whose policy direction he most likely opposes--then accept from it a seat that will always belong to the LDP, never to him.

If Shichijō spurns Koga's offer, he likely ends up with nothing. The DPJ will not take him in--he probably does not have enough of a local presence to make him a worthwhile convert...and he must stay in the LDP until the day the current Diet is dissolved.

A mean-spirited, take-it-or-leave-it-offer from Koga...which means he is finally getting serious about the party's head count in the Diet, post-election. He is also setting the pattern for the resolution of all the remaining disputed seats: the exile will be the party's nominee in the district, the assassin will stay in his/her bloc seat--if the LDP does well enough in the party line vote to win the bloc seat, that is.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Not all bad it seems

While still reeling from the public relations disaster of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Vice Minister Kitabata Takao's idiotic (if horribly predictable) remarks, continued government-business collusion in the stiffing of activist investors and a move toward main-bank defenses against acquisition, a bit of good news on the Japan M&A front:

Newell Rubbermaid to Acquire Aprica
Associated Press

By HARRY R. WEBER – ATLANTA — Consumer products maker Newell Rubbermaid said Monday it has agreed to buy a Japanese maker of strollers, car seats and other children's products.

The Atlanta-based company said it is acquiring Osaka, Japan-based Aprica Kassai Inc. for an undisclosed sum...

A U.S. public company will acquire a premium brand of Japanese manufactured goods, albeit a brand with a drastically shrinking domestic market, in what seems an entirely amicable transaction.

Gee ...why don't all these stories end this way?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Making it up as we go along

In a recent post, the Japan Observer noted a shift in tactics in the LDP leadership's approach toward moving the road/gasoline levy legislation through the Diet. Rather than pushing hard for the ruling coalition's 10 year, 59 trillion yen plan, LDP Secretary General Ibuki Bunmei and LDP Election Measures Chairman Koga Makoto have "begun to indicate they would be willing to compromise"--provided that the DPJ provide its own bill first.

When the Japan Observer speaks of a shift in tactics, however, he is referring only to a change in the tactics of public relations.

The parliamentary tactics have always been 1) submit ridiculously gargantuan plan, 2) wait for the Democratic Party to offer a counterplan and 3) cut a deal between the two plans.

This has not changed.

What has changed is the LDP leadership, which had heretofore been emphasizing its readiness to confront the resistance and irresponsibility of the DPJ (Manly men are we, the spawn of menly men!) now is showing more feminine side--that it is open to compromise, but only if the DPJ makes its move ("Why don't they call? Don't they know we're ready to meet them halfway?").

The currently tripping Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo echoed the softer line from Seoul.

However, the memo to "be nice" has not been able to alter the behavior of the one person for whom the repositioning could make a difference: House of Representatives Parliamentary Affairs Chairman Ōshima Tadamori.

[An asided - Ōshima is the only politician in the upper ranks of the party who manages to speak in paragraphs. Rather than spooling out the usual jumbled, emotive gurglings of his colleagues, Ōshima bangs out big architectural, intellectual structures, with almost visible beams, struts and joists. It is a real delight to hear him talk. ]

Over the weekend, he set a deadline of this Thursday (February 28) for the passage of both the budget and ancillary, enabling legislation, including the gasoline levy legislation.

Ōshima had little choice: he was starring into the abyss. Unless I am mistaken (Do you really want me to go through the list? - Editor) the House of Representatives must pass the budget by Thursday. Otherwise the budget will not go into effect (the budget automatic override period is only 30 days) in time for the April 1 beginning of the new fiscal year.

So come Friday, unless a miracle (a breakout of humility and self-awareness in the ruling coalition leadership) occurs, the whole aggressive, stinking pile of legislation will land slam on the desks of the members of the House of Councillors--leaving the parties to negotiating a compromise while the legislation is being raked over the coals in televised House of Councillors Budget Committee deliberations.

Fun, fun, fun...and not a T-bird in sight.


Some folks cannot shake a habit.

From the news organization that gave you "Kyūma Fumio ready to buy F-22s" and enough untrue claims of incipient regulatory changes to choke a black bass, comes the latest in the string of "No, this is not an honest interpretation of what the interview subject said, but no harm/no foul right?" news flashes.

Actually, no, it isn't.

Why does the FT feel it necessary to over-promote its interviews? Do the editors think their paper's reputation to be so low that unless the headlines scream of juicy exclusives, no one will read the article?

More importantly, do the editors of the FT realize how their hyping of their exclusives pollutes the news stream? This AFP retelling of the main revelations does the FT a huge favor by dialing down the temperature to reasonable levels.

Unfortunately, not all FT exclusives have been brought back down to reality by the efforts of competitors.

A paper with a global reputation should not be relying on the kindness of strangers to police its excesses. It should, indeed, be policing the exaggerations and misleading representations of others.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Inside the Hatoyama Mind

My favorite quote of the week:


"It would be a good thing for him to go back and do language study one more time."
That was former National Police Agency bureaucrat and House of Representatives member Kamei Shizuka's assessment when asked about Justice Minister Hatoyama Kunio's contention on February 13 that the infamous Kumamoto vote buying case could not be called enzai (冤罪)—a false prosecution.

(An aside, but Kamei Shizuka's emergence as a severe critic of the excesses of the criminal justice system, including his steadfast opposition to the death penalty, is becoming distressing. Pleasantly distressing, that is.)

The Mainichi Shimbun, echoing the feelings of many within the LDP, calls Hatoyama Kunio's continued presence in the Cabinet "the government's Achilles heel." His tenure in the country's most somber post even after hilariously bizarre statements ("my friend of a friend who is an Al-Qaeda member has entered Japan on numerous occasions using false identities" "Does a death warrant really need my signature—can't we make the process more automated?") have made it impossible to fire anyone for anything.

The anti-government coalition is currently calling for the resignation or dismissal of Minister of Defense Ishiba Shigeru as a response to the MSDF Atago's collision with a fishing vessel. Were Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo to try to can Ishiba, however, someone could very easily ask:

"Is this really a firing offense? What about Hatoyama Kunio?"

To which there is no adequate response.

The February 21 Mainichi article speculates that Hatoyama Kunio's continued survival might be attributable to the Democratic Party of Japan's refusal to press for his departure...and that the DPJ's lack of enthusiasm for a Hatoyama Kunio resignation arises from a wish to spare his brother, DPJ Secretary-General Hatoyama Yukio, further embarrassment. The article notes that the two brothers intend to open a training center for future politicians in April—and guesses that no one in the DPJ wants to undermine the inauguration of the center.

Just what either of the Hatoyamas, both of whom are prone to politically tone-deaf utterances, thinks he could teach to aspiring politicians escapes me:

"Please sit down. Welcome to your first day at the Hatoyama Institute. How does one become a successful politician? If my many years in politics have taught me anything—and my brother will back me up on this observation—you need to be born into an extremely wealthy household--this first of all--and your father has to be head of a major political party.

After you have these basics down, you can then move on to the more esoteric qualities..."

Friday, February 22, 2008

Disgorging their GUTs...

...or should they be called GUTOEWWNs--"Grand Unified Theories of Everything Wrong With Nippon"?

Next week's The Economist tries to get it all down.

Poor Philippe Pons tried the same in Le Monde last week, in a much more compressed format.

Documenting the infuriating incapacity of the country to seize upon its advantages possibly defeats all language. An island of liberty floating in an illiberal sea, a state with an obedient yet forward-thinking populace, a pleasant environment, social stability at home and a low cost international security arrangement--how can the Japanese not succeed?

Some hints...some guesses...


a) Japan is an elective parliamentary democracy, and

b) 25% of Japan's parliamentarians represent people who no longer exist

you will have problems.


a) a generation is taught (work hard) + (sacrifice) + (show deference to authority) = a peaceful, successful life (honestly, it's guaranteed!) and

b) the members of this generation are now in charge of the country's boardrooms, schools & universities, government & quasi-government offices, and

c) they are the most numerous generation Japan will ever know

you will have problems.

For democracy to function properly, those occupying seats in the parliament must represent the people--because believe-it-or-not (and damn few of the supposed elites in Tokyo do) the people are not stupid (see the conclusion of the Economist article on this point).

For companies and the state to perform their functions effectively, executives and government leaders need to flush from their systems this crippling nostalgia for the late 1950s and 1960s--when everything was supposedly "getting better all the time." In truth, it was getting worse--the air, the water, the political corruption, the competition of ideologies...all decayed or were buried. Revival and salvation came in the 70s and 80s when those far from the levers of power learned to shame their betters into working on behalf of the common citizen.

Nostalgia, however, lingers on, even when all else is lost...

Demolished home in Shinjuku 5-chōme with poster of Ishihara Yūjirō
Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo Metropolitan District
February 22, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

At the Dawn of Their Time

Recently returned from his honeymoon in Hokkaidō, Janne of Janne in Osaka directs us to a 1998 article on the origins of the Japanese people by the ever brilliant Jared Diamond.

One for the fantabulists to mull over...if they ever mull at all.

Clouds over Yagake
Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture
January 1, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Not ready for the Major Leagues

As the government tries to figure out why it took two hours to notify the prime minister of a collision between a fishing boat and the country's most advanced Self Defense Forces vessel--a delay making a mockery of any claims of an improvement in the country's crisis management since the inadequate response to the 17 January 1995 earthquake...or 31 August 1998 launch of the Taepodong missile over Japan...or Prime Minister Abe Shinzō's suddden incapacitation on 13 September 2007...(I think they get the picture, MTC - Editor) the Liberal Democratic Party finds itself scrambling in the Diet on the gasoline tax, stunned that the opposition refuses to abdicate its tactical advantages.

[Reversing gears for just a moment - that the MSDF Destroyer Atago's captain did not have clearance to blast an approaching fishing boat into oblivion before it could strike the very expensive bow of his very expensive ship must be disturbing to members of the coalition against terror. LDP faction leader Yamasaki Taku, always good for stating the incredibly obvious, worries that the accident may cast doubt the preparedness of Maritime Self Defense Forces deployed the Arabian Sea as regards possible small vessels suicide attacks. ]

Yesterday in the Diet, Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo demanded that the Democratic Party of Japan take a first step toward meeting the government halfway on the renewal of the temporary gasoline levy. Only if the DPJ showed its hand--by proposing its own plan on what to do about the tax--could the two sides begin the process of coming to some sort of compromise position, the agreed-to solution to the parliamentary impasse over the bill worked out by Speaker of the House of Representative Kōno Yōhei and Speaker of the House of Councillors Eda Satsuki in a special end-of-January intervention (assen).

The DPJ response so far to the government's entreaties: go leap into a large body of freshwater.

The DPJ's position recalcitrance is not without merit. The government proposal, a 10 year, 59 trillion yen commitment, is absurd. The DPJ has not dignified it with a response--and is right to refuse to do so.

The government's absurd overreach on its bill reveals an even more fundamental and chronic problem. The demand for an opposition bill on the gas tax indicates that some 7 months since suffering a shattering reversal at the polls in the July 2007 House of Councillors election, the ruling coalition still does not understand what an opposition does. The ruling coalition, with help from the country's constipated editorialists, keeps asking the opposition to be responsible, to stop trying to score political points, to stop trying to weaken the ruling party. For some reason, the opposition is supposed to act responsibly and soberly, resign itself to its secondary status and give up on its advantages--all this for the common good, in order to further the national interest.

"Sure," the DPJ keeps telling them, "We will be incredibly responsible and work to further the national interest...just as soon as we are in control of the government."

In terms of the gasoline levy, the ruling coalition still has not grasped that the DPJ, not the ruling coalition, owns the default position. If the government cannot entice the opposition to come to a compromise, the tax will die--just as the DPJ said that it should. The government has no means of forcing the issue -- unless it offers up its own throat, the DPJ will not come out and play. Calling the DPJ "unserious" and "immature" will gain applause from some sections of the commentariat--but will only encourage Ozawa Ichirō and the rest of the DPJ to continue to play truant on the gasoline levy.

Only yesterday, I was berating the Democratic Party leadership for ceding any ground to the ruling coalition in the debate over the gasoline levy. Given the LDP's pathetic, brain dead whining over the issue, I may have been overharsh in my criticisms.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ali Baba enters cave...

...finds it full of thieves.

I find myself failing to grasp the strategic logic of the recent round of Democratic Party Acting President Kan Naoto's speeches on the temporary gasoline levy. First he goes before a crowd of made men paid up members of the Road Tribe from the provinces and is booed heartily. Today he takes on a gibbering baboon the comedian-turned-governor Higashikokubaru Hideo and Aso Wataru, the governor of Fukuoka Prefecture and Chairman of the National Governors Association in a gentlemanly discussion of local finances and the road tax.

Excuse me, but we are not in college here. This is not the Oxford Debating Society. This is real life...and in real life the last thing you give to desperate, conniving fraudsters is your microphone.

Kan has sufficient star power to dominate the debate by himself. His goal in his appearances (and I can only think his innate decency prevents him from knowing it) should be to starve his opponents of every molecule of available oxygen and every iota of the attention of every journalist he can stuff into his schedule.

Why he is letting the provincials stand or sit alongside him as equals? If the point of the DPJ's argument is that these guys in the ugly suits are flim-flam artists, why is Kan giving them the least chance to muddle the discourse, weave their dark spells and purloin the public purse all over again?

The DPJ's sense of fairness, often purported to be the linchpin of its appeal, is really its greatest weakness.

Chōja no Ana - Kofun Era lateral burial site
Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture
March 3, 2006

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hi ho, hi ho!

It's home from work I go.

Honestly, after the grind at the office today, it is all I can do to share the above image taken by yours truly a week ago from Morito Beach in Kanagawa Prefecture's Hayama Township.

Sleep well, sleep soundly, sleep safely all. We will try to figure out tomorrow what Chief Cabinet Secretary Machimura Nobutaka will be suggesting to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as means of improving the "lax" (tarunde iru - his words, not mine) discipline of U.S. Marines.

Good luck Nobutaka-kun! Just don't start talking about the Nazca Lines again, please!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Obligatory Chocolate

Served without enthusiasm.

Courtesy: Tokyo Shimbun
February 16, 2008

A pleased Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo receives a chocolate "Vice Governor of the Bank of Japan Mutō Toshirō" from a harrumphing woman, demonstrating the parallel between the unenviable Valentine's Day custom and the unenthusiastic surrender to the seeming inevitability of Mutō's selection as BOJ Governor.

Later - Oh hell's bells! Okumura Jun points out in comments that the "woman" in question is supposed to be Ozawa Ichirō in drag.

It's hard to be #1

It is hard to be the ultimate, the ne-plus-ultra, the one who sets the standards by which all others shall be measured.

But someone has to do it.

Since I have met the gentleman in question (I have his card) I might as well be the one to utter the unutterable:

David Pilling of the Financial Times has written what must be the worst essay on Japan published in a major newspaper in the last 20 years.

He does not even get the arithmetic right. The last time anyone looked, 125 million divided by 10,000 is 12,500--not 1,250.

Sigh. Sigh again.

When one makes a mistake like that in the first paragraph, the outlook for the rest of the ride is, well, uncertain...especially after starting off with the ao versus midori canard and its obliviousness to the reality that a number of languages have a single word for the green-to-blue part of the spectrum...and how one can point to the analogous "orange" problem in English--where the language did not have a word for "orange" until les mangeurs de rosbifs manhandled the Spanish word naranja sufficiently that "a naranja" became "an orange"--giving a color that had always existed a name and identity.

Read the essay. See if you come away with the same question as I did:

"How could the Financial Times, or any newspaper, publish an essay by one of its correspondents upon the theme is 'I do not understand the subject I am paid to write about every day. Calloo callay, I chortle!'--and not understand that it would undermine every single sentence that correspondent has ever written?"

The publication of this essay represents either editorial malfeasance or actual malice aforethought toward the author.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The tyranny of numbers

According to this morning's Nikkei Shimbun, the folks at the Social Insurance Agency are a bit behind in making the Liberal Democratic Party's deadline, set in July of last year just before the House of Councillors election, of reuniting over 50 million "lost" pension records with their owners by March 31, 2008.

As of February 14, 2008, the Agency has managed, through Herculean effort, to reunite

3.85 million accounts

with their owners, leaving only

47 million accounts

still floating, unattached.

Good luck, and Amaterasuspeed to you, you poor unloved sods.

Sardines drying at Kanaya Port
Futtsu City, Chiba Prefecture
February 26, 2006

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Surveiller et punir

If Michel Foucault were still alive, he would get a frisson at the government's latest idea for a means of preventing U.S. servicemen and Defense Department personnel from committing crimes:

Surveillance cameras.

Engage the Panopticon!

Let me see if I understand this.

The Marines (and sailors and soldiers) are here to protect the nation from its enemies...and yet we are going to go to the expense of putting up surveillance cameras all around the exteriors of the bases to keep an eye on those Marines (and sailors and soldiers) at all times...because they pose a threat to the local population.

At some point, the imposition of ever more layers of security measures to counteract the unintended deleterious effects of previously imposed security measures starts looking a bit...bizarre.


A U.S. active duty serviceman has been arrested in Okinawa Prefecture for assault of a sexual nature upon a 14 year old girl. Christopher Pelligrini over at Trans Pacific Radio has tried to put the case into context in a thoughtful essay on the prosecution of rape in Japan while Tobias Harris has examined the politico-military background to the case (here and here).

There is a limit to the level of sympathy anyone can extend to the accused: he has already admitted to forcible sexual assault upon a minor. His assertions that he did not engage in sex or know that the girl was not of legal age do not detract from his having forced his attentions upon a person who lacked the physical means to resist him.

Nevertheless, the rapidity of Staff Sergeant Tyrone Hadnott's transfer to Japanese custody, his immediate arrest on the incredibly flexible charge of bōkō (暴行)and the multi-ring media circus ever since leave little room for faith that he will be tried only for the crimes he has committed. More likely he will be tried for all the unprosecuted or insufficiently prosecuted rapes and murders of the occupation period and the U.S Defense Department's shielding of its warfighters and civilian personnel with the Status of Forces Agreement after the reversion.

The hopelessness of Sergeant Hadnott's situation was made clear in the first comment out of Foreign Minister Kōmura Masahiko's mouth as regards the incident. "Ii kagen ni shiro" ("Give me an effing break") he told the bank of cameras, explaining what the people should be feeling when they first hear of the story on the news.

When the two-time Minister of Foreign Affairs, the nation's top diplomat and the holder of a degreee in law, eschews the language of diplomacy in favor of an earthy, exasperated "What the hell? Again? Give me an effing break" locution--you can pretty much discount the "innocent until proven guilty" presumption.

Ambassador Thomas Schieffer and Marine Lt. General Richard Zilmer have gone before the cameras and sworn, solemnly--with either with complete incomprehension of the situation or with the coldest, most calculating of hypocrisies--to "cooperate fully with the investigation."

I must confess, I laughed. "Cooperate fully with the investigation? What investigation? You have already handed him over to He is in the hands of the Japanese legal system. They have already booked him for assault. What is left to investigate, aside from the length of his sentence?"

Why care? Why should anyone care that a jerk, an idiot, possibly a pedophile, possibly a rapist, is crushed beneath the wheels of the law? If that is the cost of keeping the alliance going-- that a fool is tossed under the wheels to excite the crowd even as his superiors proclaim the openness of their minds as to his guilt--then so be it, right? Is he not a soldier, ready to lay down his life for his country anyway?

We should all be pragmatic--let the law be used to settle old scores, clear old debts from old accounts. We also need to give the people a moment or two of righteous indignation since that makes them feel better about Japan's semi-colonial status.

Anyway, it too late to change anything. The judicial process has begun--the guy's toast. Why waste the resources and the energy? We ourselves could never do anything stupid that could be misrepresented or misunderstood...and the police and prosecutors would never imprison us in order to fulfill a quota or respond to political pressure to "do something!"

Think about the greater good.

Photo: Demons tormenting the damned
Detail from the Enma Scrolls of the Zendōji
Yorii City, Saitama Prefecture
February 11, 2008


Later: Many thanks to reader AC for the correction. According the timeline printed in the Asahi Shimbun evening edition of February 12, local police found Mr. Hadnott sitting in his car in front of his off-base home just after midnight on February 11. The officers convinced Hadnott to voluntarily come with them to the police station for questioning. They arrested him at the police station at around 2:10 a.m.

Even later: After reading the various accounts of the purported rape in the various major dailies, none of the actions or words of any of the main actors makes any sense at all.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Neither hot tea...

...nor cold milk should you be drinking should you ever decide to pay a cybervisit to House of Representatives member Katayama Satsuki's homepage.

There is Photoshopping an image...and then there is Photoshoplifting it.

She a damn University of Tokyo, Faculty of Law graduate and a former Ministry of Finance career-track bureaucrat, for Amaterasu's sake! Who thought that such manipulation was necessary? Or not instantly, completely, risibly hilarious?

For an actual, unretouched photo of the former Mrs. Masuzoe--a handsome and accomplished woman, by any standard--check out her page on the LDP website.

My thanks to reader TN for the tip.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tanakaism: The Final Days

On March 31, 2008 the Liberal Democratic Party will die.

Well, perhaps not the Liberal Democractic Party. But definitely a Liberal Democratic Party...the great, voracious beak of the octopus--the clownish, spiritually debilitating hogfest that has been the party's heart since a mawkish small-time construction company owner named Tanaka Kakuei bobbed, weaved, pocketed and disbursed his way around all the pre-war elites and grand poobahs to a place at the head of the table--the wealth-destroying bachannalia of concrete and cash so crass and transparent in its corruption that it made Abe Shinzō and the fantabulists look good by comparison.

To not appreciate the primacy of road building in the country is to not understand the country at all. The archipelago is draped in dense network of roads... a network not just of the roads themselves (and the bridges, the tunnels, the landslide-prevention measures) but of contractors, sub-contractors, subcontractors' subcontractors, former bureaucrats, part-time farmers, the postal savings system, the Ministry of Land and Infrastructure and thousands of politicians who have nothing else to do but live off the system -- that are The System.

When Inose Naoki wrote his Nihonkoku no Kenkyū (日本国の研究 - The Study of the Country Japan) he did not start with a description of the Iron Triangle of bureaucrats, industrialists and politicians. He did not talk about the lifelong employment system, about kaizen or about the prevalence of rote memorization in the schools. He did not talk about the kami, self-sacrifice, dependent behavior or the ideology of the Meiji.

He wrote about infuriating excellence of Japan's logging roads--roads without traffic, going nowhere, scarring the countryside--by design.

Over the last thirty-five years, nothing has been more important to a rural politician than the ability to dole out road construction contracts--indeed, for many politicians, securing of road construction contracts and getting reelected are the yin and the yang of government. One exists for the other--and for nothing else.

[Attending local social functions, the other mandatory activity of the rural politician, exists to prove to constituents that said politician is indeed still alive...which is not a joke, as we learned last year.]

The gasoline tax is the blood of the Tanakaist polity. So sure have politicians been of its power to motivate the base that they never even bothered to remove the zantei (interim, temporary) label from the levy. They knew, simply knew it would always be there--they indeed could not imagine political life without it.

When Koizumi Jun'ichirō set about saving the LDP by destroying it, he did so by siccing his two disrespectful, presumptuous attack dogs upon the road construction gang. His left hand loosed Inose upon the Dōro Kōdan (Japan Public Highway Corporation), forcing its breakup and the cleaning up of its finances. His right loosed Takenaka Heizō upon the Post Office, the piggy bank of the road construction state, forcing its breakup and privatization.

Since Koizumi's stepping down from the prime ministership, the road construction gang has been trying reassemble itself and get its hands back on the steering wheel. It got a huge boost of adrenaline in July of 2007 when Abe Shinzō's revisionist vision failed to entice the public into voting for the LDP. The stunning loss to Democratic Party leader Ozawa Ichirō's hoary and utterly insincere promises of transfers of wealth from the city to the countryside revived the hopes of the road construction partisans.

[Just an aside--does anyone else think that Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintarō's promise to send 300 billion yen of Tokyo tax money to the hinterlands might have more to do with buying rural LDP member support for his son Nobuteru's run at the LDP party presidency than buying central government support for Ishihara Senior's quixotic bid to have Tokyo host the 2016 Olympics?]

Humpty Dumpty, however, is finding it hard to get back together again. Despite the full-court press of the traditional sanyaku (Koga Makoto is strangely absent from the debate) the LDP's road tribe could not get its act together in time to push the gasoline tax extension bill through the Diet. The party executive and local assemblymen staged a high-profile emergency meeting on January 23 to scare the Diet into voting for the extension...then, when that failed to have the expected effect, staged another emergency meeting on February 8, this time dragging in the prefectural governors, including the always-good-for-a-made-for-television-event Higashikokubaru Hideo of Miyazaki Prefecture.

To no avail.

The Tanaka Democracy has had an incredible run, staying a viable pantomime of electoral democracy well past the point where it descended into farce (when the both the population and the number of full-sized cars on the road are shrinking, how is it possible to argue that the country needs more and better roads?) The recent explosion in the number of talk shops, the new transparty alliances, the nervous runs for membership in the factions (I do not share all of Okumura Jun's faith in the resurgent significance of the factions. Frankly, I believe LDP politicians are joining factions for the same reason some people surf the Internet: it sure beats working), the hopped-up patriotism of the revisionists--all point to a deteriorating certainty in the ability of politicians to simply buy off the party's base.

It turns out the money is not there--Tanakaism has done to the peace-loving, low-tax Japanese state's finances what the military-media-industrial complex, outrageous defense expenditures and unending warfare have done to the finances of the United States. The gasoline tax, if it is saved, will be shoveled into the general fund, where it will be used to fill other holes than those found in road top surfaces. In the nebulous vastness of the general fund's flows--or, horror, of horrors, in a carbon-abatement levy--the link between one's local LDP politician and one's bank account will no longer be not crystal clear.

At which point, the LDP--Tanaka Kakuei's LDP--will be dead.

The Greatest Goddamned Country on God's Goddamned Earth

Sunset at Morito Beach
Hayama Township, Kanagawa Prefecture
February 10, 2008

Yes, I am the cynical one.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Smiles of a winter's night

With broad grins and a handclasp of solidarity, House of Representatives members and electoral rivals Noda Seiko (Gifu #1) and Satō Yukari (Tōkai Proportional) demonstrated their happiness yesterday at the Liberal Democratic Party leadership's clever resolution of the dispute over which of them would be running in a district seat in the next House of Representatives election.

It turns out both of them will be--Noda in the Gifu #1 seat the pair contested in 2005 and Satō in the Tokyo #5 seat being vacated by the retiring Kosugi Takashi--himself a beneficiary of the Koizumi landslide of 2005.

What a wonderful "all's well that ends well" result for both of these impressive and attractive candidates.

If only we could hear what the pair of women were thinking, behind the smiles...

Photo courtesy: Nikkei Shimbun

If LDP Secretary-General Ibuki Bunmei and LDP Elections Measures Chairman Koga Makoto think they dodged a bullet on this one, they are complete effing fools.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Tender Mercies

Thank Amaterasu for tiny blessings.

It turns out that when four adult men beat a child to death with their fists, a bottle and a baseball bat they can, after a hiatus of only seven months, be actually arrested for the killing.

Amaterasu bless the Sumo Association and the National Police Agency--who worked so hard to bring swift justice to the bereaved.

Just remember: Asashōryū is a despicable lout who has shown disrespect for the august majesty of his chosen sport by kicking a soccer ball a couple of times at a charity event.

Hinkaku, man, hinkaku!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Technically, a disaster

The Nikkei 225.

Down another 4.7% today.

Courtesy: Yahoo Finance

The Nikkei's performance over the last six months againt the DAX (green), the FT100 (red) and the S&P500 (black).

Courtesy: Yahoo Finance

Must remember: Chinese pesticide residues, Chinese pesticide residues...the most earth-shatteringly important news story to hit since...gosh...Kiko-sama's giving birth to a boy.

Nothing to do about it but blast Okuda Tamio covering Led Zep.

Winning by Losing

"I will not be able to sleep at night."

That was former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosano Kaoru's reaction to his October 28 defeat at the hands of Ozawa Ichirō in a clash of the Diet's titans of the go board. The lower-ranked Ozawa had not just beaten Yosano; he had obliterated him.

Given recent news reports, it seems Yosano came up with a fine recovery strategy during his hours of staring at the ceiling. Indeed it may be possible that he did not lose the match at all.

Yesterday's Yomiuri Shimbun echoed an earlier Sankei Shimbun article* in noting that Yosano, instead of being exiled to the wilderness in the post-Abe Shinzō reorganization of the government, seems to have insinuated himself into the Kantei as the Prime Minister's go-to guy.

When a problem is tied up in knots, the PM seems to be turning to Yosano to untie it.

According to reports it was Yosano, not the PM's formal advisors or the ministers, who guided the PM to end the gyrations and evasions over the government's ability to provide compensation to the victims of blood-product borne Hepatitis C infection.

The arguments that swayed the PM to give up on the two-month extension of the temporary gasoline levy--a move that has killed any hope of continuing the present use of the levy as a sop to the road construction industry--also seem to have been Yosano's.

As for why the PM would follow Yosano's advice in this matter of vital interest to the future of the Liberal Democratic Party?

It seems that Yosano, in losing a game of go to Ozawa, won himself something more valuable than bragging rights. He and Ozawa are suddenly being referred to as nakama (comrades, boon companions)--when they had little in the way of notable interaction in the past. In December, Yosano joined the board of the Kokusai Kusa no Ne Kōryū Sentā (known in English as the John Manjirō Whitfield Commemorative Center for International Exchange) in the exalted position of Vice Chairman, second only to one Ozawa Ichirō, Chairman of the Kokusai Kusa no Ne Kōryū Sentā. The two of them naturally sat together at the organization's first board meeting of the year on January 4.

Now a back channel to Ozawa is a rare and wonderful thing. Ozawa's imperious manner and duplicitous, self-serving nature make him a very hard man to like--and he does not admit many persons as his equals.

By getting beaten in the October match, Yosano seems to have managed to entice Ozawa to lower his self protective shield a bit. Theirs seems to be a relationship that Ozawa can take pride in--where the homely country bumpkin outwits and then befriends the suave city boy with the illustrious family history.

Yosano's capacity to talk directly to Ozawa may be crucial in the next few weeks as the deeply estranged LDP and DPJ try to come to terms in the promulgation and passage of the new budget and its ancillary legislation by a March 31 deadline. The formal mechanisms of Diet debate and compromise are either frozen up from disuse or too damn hot to handle.

The question now is, with Yosano's interventions coming out into the open, whether the formal leaderships of the LDP and the DPJ will sign off on the deals worked out through the back channel.


* I am indebted to Tobias Harris of Observing Japan for drawing my attention to this article.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Where you stand depends...

..on where you sit.

The Sankei Shimbun had a neat shorthand the other day for the two main approaches toward Diet affairs splitting the LDP membership in two. With more than a nod toward the pre-war split of the Imperial Army into the impetuous and violent Imperial Way Faction (Kōdōha - 皇道派)and the cautious, positioning-first Control Faction (Tōseiha - 統制派), the Sankei, in a front page article, declared the LDP divided into Forceful Breakthrough Faction (Kyōkōtoppaha - 強行突破派) and a Valuing Debate Faction (Taiwajūshiha - 対話重視派).

According to the Sankei's formulation, the Forceful Breakthrough Faction advocates the fearless use of the two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives to override the vetoes or inactions of the Democratic Party-coalition controlled House of Councillors. Led by LDP House of Councillors leader Aoki Mikio and a core of senior LDP House of Councillors members, the Forceful Breakthrough Faction desperately argued for the passage of the two month extension of the temporary gasoline surcharge in order to set up the eventual override of the Democratic Party's opposition to the surcharge's renewal.

The Valuing Debate Faction, which prevailed in the collision over the handling of the gasoline surcharges, is by contrast concerned about the public image of the operations of the House of Representatives. If the Fukuda government just forces through legislation, especially deeply unpopular legislation like the temporary gasoline surcharge, then the issue of the legitimacy of the present regime will be pushed to the forefront as well.

While the written Constitution states the House of Representatives can simply override the House of Councillors at a whim, the unwritten Constitution--the silent compact with the citizenry--is that the government will test itself with an election before proceeding with such forceful action. For the leaders of the LDP who are also members of the House of Representatives--which means just about everybody who is anybody--testing the popularity of the government and the party in a House of Representatives election is the last thing they would want to do.

Unlike the LDP House of Councillors members who get to glower impotently at the Democrats for the next three years and possibly the next six, the House of Representatives members actually have real latent power thanks to their aberrant numbers. The LDP Representatives will do almost anything to put off the day they have to surrender their latent power--including, paradoxically, avoiding the wielding that power for their own immediate, narrow personal self-interests.

In prevailing in the intra-party battle, the Valuing Debate Faction has almost certainly killed off any hope of the renewing of the gasoline surcharge for the purpose of constructing roads. The surcharge will either expire, be redirected to the general fund or be recast as an anti-global warming levy--a lollypop for the press attending the Toyako Summit to suck on.

Whether the Valuing Debate Faction's defeat of the Forceful Breakthrough Faction is the product of a badly managed legislative calendar (as LDP Secretary General Ibuki Bunmei implies in the article) or represents a more fundamental and much-delayed resignation to the House of Councillors' right to object to and even kill off legislation of questionable value remains to be seen.

I hope it is the latter.

Save the G8 Summit!

Some numbers to ponder, from Brad Setser's blog:

Counting the funds Kuwait and Korea committed to Merrill and Singapore and Kuwait committed to Citi, sovereign funds have provided US and European banks about $42b in new capital over the past two quarters.

That tops the $30b the IMF lent out over a four quarter period in the Asian/ Russian crisis of 1997-1998, and is roughly the same size as the $40b or so the IMF lend out to Argentina, Brazil, Turkey and Uruguay over a two year period in 2001-2002...
Ah! To be the best loved ally of the world's greatest debtor nation, whose president has just produced a budget with a real on-on-line deficit of of $738 billion dollars, a heck of a lot more (technical term) than original estimates.

Meanwhile the Fukuda government has indicated it will be inviting "non-G-8" countries to the Toyako Summit in July. I suppose some of the invitees will be given special badges with the word "Participant" crossed out and the word "Owner" written over it in felt tip pen.

Question is will they bother to come? After all, who wants to hang out with a bunch of slow-growth or no-growth deadbeats who have an abysmal record of corporate governance and political development?

Monday, February 04, 2008

A New Deal in the Asia-Pacific

Keiō University professor Kokubun Ryōsei published a thought-provoking three fifths of an op-ed in the Asahi Shimbun a couple of weeks ago.

In his essays points out that far from being a time to be fearful, this might be an era with unprecendented prospects for peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. A new whole crop of leaders is coming in, all of whom are far more committed to compromise, self-control and mutual respect than the leaders they are replacing.

To whit:

In South Korea, the relentlessly, almost comically anti-Japanese Roh Moo-hyun is being replaced by an Osaka-born businessman who has already stated his intent to discard the institutionalized organs of prejudice set up by his predecessor.

In China, the current leadership looks secure in its strong but increasingly humane grip on the levers of power - while the imperative of a successful hosting of the Olympic Games will serve as a break on adventurism by disgruntled elements.

In Taiwan- the feisty, pro-independence Chen Shu-bian will be out, almost certainly to be replaced by the more conciliatory Ma Ying-jeoh of the KMT. There are still opportunities renewed for Sino-Taiwan tension--like in the aftermath of the UN membership referendum--but both sides know the Democratic Progressive Party is in eclipse--and everyone just needs to keep a cool head.

In Thailand, democracy is being restored--though the military's fight with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is far from over.

In Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Sinophile, has replaced the pugnaciously pro-American John Howard.

The United States is in the process of electing a new president--and dangnabbit anyone could handle the DPRK powderkeg better than G. W. Bush.

And in Japan, the current prime minister is careful not to trangress the sensitivities of Japan's closest geographic neighbors. The spectacular flameout of his predecessor has momentarily blunted the barbs of the more radical and vociferous of the self-proclaimed defenders of Japan's honor--and in their temporary retreat, Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo has had a chance to test the theory of "just being nice."

I say that Professor Kokubun has a good three fifths of an op-ed because in the latter paragraphs he offers three excrutiatingly conventional suggestions on how Japan can take advantage of this new order in Asia.

The first is to use the G8 summit as the springboard for Japan's reseizing of the role of the planet's environmental leader. How Japan can win recognition as the environment's champion when it is not meeting its own Kyoto obligations--and the Fisheries Agency is pissing of the Australians over whaling--is not clear.

The second is a national recommitment to be among the world leaders, if not the world leader, of Overseas Development Assistance. Unfortunately, in the present domestic political climate, where the populace is still trying to figure what Japan actually got in terms of international respect and affection in return for its earlier ODA largesse--and with the economy sliding toward malaise again it is unlikely that we will be seeing any increases in ODA anytime soon.

Finally, Japan must have policies that take advantage of this Pan-Asian thaw of mutual animosities. Yes, but what are those policies, precisely? What are the criteria we shall apply to confirm that they are indeed taking advantage of this situation? Professor Kokubun runs out of space before telling us.

Nevertheless, the initial paragraphs of Professor Kokubun's op-ed do make a great deal of sense--we will be damned fools if we do not take advantage or take enjoyment out of this opportunity for a less fractious and fractured Asia-Pacific region. Toss in Medvedev's likely election in Russia and the wobbly but continuing progress toward reining in the DPRK's nuclear program--and we may be entering something of a golden age of stability and mutual respect.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

In Kawagoe, they write letters

Hiramatsu Tomoko
66 years old
Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture

It was a few years ago, when I was returning to my ancestral home in Yamanashi Prefecture. I had turned off the Chuō Expressway and was driving through the dry land fields. Before, it had been an "agricultural lane" but now it was magnificent road, even wider than a prefectural highway. However, in 20 minutes on the road, the number of cars I met coming the other way was zero. Of course, there was no one either before me nor behind me either. This was even though it was the middle of the day. It was if the road had been reserved for me. As I gripped the steering wheel, I thought to myself, "What was the purpose of building this road?"

Furthermore, in a paddy fields area behind the home of my parents, another magnificent bypass had been built. Was it the reason why the main street running through the heart of the town had not been repaved or widened, and the shops had closed down and been abandoned?

That the construction of roads profits the rural areas is a logic camouflaging reality. The roads that have been built at great expense using the provisional tax rates of the gasoline taxes, can it be denied that in reality they are causing the collapse of heretofore existing rural communities?

What is needed in an aging society is not high-traffic volume roads but safe roads so that those residing in existing rural communities can live with peace of mind. Rather than the construction of rural roads that farmers do not use or enormous expressways that increase the pollution of the air, I would like road work that improves the quality of the roads in line with the actual lives of the people.

If we do this, there certainly enough in the present budget accomplish our purpose, even if the provisional tax rate is abolished.

"The highways built with the provisional tax rates are unnecessary" (Zanteizeiritsu tsukau daidōro wa fuyō)
Tokyo Shimbun (January 31, 2008), p. 5

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Chinese Frozen Food

A suspicious mind asks the question : what is this about, really?
Concern mounts in Japan over Chinese-made food

TOKYO— Japan on Friday warned China that its reputation was on the line as companies rushed to recall Chinese-made food after hundreds of Japanese said they fell ill from dumplings.

At least six major foodmakers ordered recalls of frozen and prepared foods that were suspected to have been produced at the same Chinese factory in Hebei province behind the food safety crisis, company officials said.

Big household names including Ajinomoto, Glico, Katokichi and Kibun recalled more than 30 dishes effective Friday including Chinese-style stir-fries, skewered and barbecued pork, beef tongue and curries.

China -- Japan's largest trading partner and second biggest supplier of imported food -- has said it found no pesticide in the dumplings as alleged in Japan but pledged an investigation.

Japanese officials warned that China needed to be thorough.

China "must exert all its efforts to make sure this will not trigger sentiment in Japan against products made in China," Trade Minister Akira Amari said.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said separately: "We can limit the negative impact on Japan-China relations to a minimum if both countries cooperate to investigate the cause and to deal correctly with any recurrence."

As supermarkets pulled the suspect food from shelves, the scare even spread to Japan's military which, despite sometimes fraught political relations with Beijing, bought frozen pork cutlets from the same Chinese factory.

Although no illnesses were reported, Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba ordered officials to comb through army kitchens and throw out any suspicious food...
Let us go through the list.

- The Sankei Shimbun is Right! - At the end of the day, the Chinese government cannot be trusted. The factory producing the suspect frozen foods belongs to a state-owned company, right? Either the Chinese government's inspections systems are incompetent or in cahoots with the manufacturers. We have been daft to entrust any portion of our food supply to the Chinese.

Corollary: Fukuda Yasuo is a fool. Yasukuni sampai forever!

- It's the Olympic Year, Baby! - With every stop being pulled out to make the Beijing Olympics a success, the Chinese government is vulnerable to the least bit of bad news. The first few months of 2008 are your last chance to inflate every single little incident out of proportion in order to leverage as many concessions out of the Chinese as possible.

Corollary: we will gladly host your Olympic teams for the weeks up until the actual competitions.

- You see what happens when we globalize our agricultural markets? -We put little children into comas, that's what happens. Because when we produced all our own foodstuffs, nothing like this ever happened.

- We Love to Have Panics! - Every night our media directs us to a new person or development to fear. Sometimes we just cannot get ourselves excited about what the government and the media are ginning up. But sometimes the danger is so random, so banal and so in line with our prejudices (against prepared food, against the Chinese Communist Party) that the whole populace can join together in a cathartic burst of paranoia.

- Hey, Japan Tobacco, We Own You! - The big culprit on the home side is Japan Tobacco, the formerly state-owned monopoly whose shares are still held in large measure by the Japanese government. JT has been trying to find new ways to make money, given that its main product suffers from a declining customer base (technically, the product kills the customers) . First, if you are going to damage the health of your customers through selling them poisonous agricultural products, you will damn well do so only from the approved list of poisonous agricultural products, capiche? And what is a Japanese public-owned company doing employing Chinese subcontractors to make food for the Japanese market, anyway?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Keeping one eye on the clock

"We did not lose the game. We just ran out of time."

--attributed to Vince Lombardi

What is it with the LDP and time management?

Ever since the spring of last year, the party has been unable to complete any maneuver within the time allotted. The expiration date of the law on the renewal of the supplementary gasoline taxes has been known for a very long time. How could the party blow it--and not just blow it, but blow it again?

Let us review the inglorious record, shall we?

- Regular Diet session of 2007

Extended 12 days in order to pass a few bills whose passage had been held up by the eruption of the pensions scandal. The importance of the passage of these final pieces of legislation was lost upon the public.

- House of Councillors election, 2007

Delayed, from July 22 to July 29, to accommodate the extended Diet session.

- Extraordinary session of the Diet of 2007

a) Delayed in its start, from late August to September 10.

b) Extended twice in order to effect the passage of the refueling law.

- Time limit for the passage two-thirds majority override of the extension of the gas taxes to cover up the missed opportunity to renew the laws prior to the expiration date of March 31, 2008


The LDP is clinging to a memorandum of understanding with the Democratic Party of Japan to pass/make-a-best-effort-to-pass (the two two main parties disagree as to the the agreement's main point) all of the budget-related ancillary legislation by March 31, following some kind of approximation of examination of the bills and parliamentary debate.

[I say "approximation" because all and sundry are talking about a seijōka (正常化) of the Diet session. How anyone can call about a session being "normalized" when the opposition controls the House of Councillors for the first time ever is beyond me. The original powerless of the Japanese opposition was not "normal" from a global standpoint...and the new "twisted" Diet makes an attempt to reapply the "normal" practices of past Diets nonsensical. ]

* * *

One would come away with the impression that the LDP had never had to schedule anything before--that the leadership had never had to plan ahead, had never had to prepare alternatives should the main schedule become unworkable.

It is as if they had never had to face any kind of serious impediment before, that they could just wing it, passing necessary legislation "Whenever..."

Surprise guys and gals. When you have a radical revolutionary program to impose, or an empowered opposition against you, you really need to buckle down and plan stuff.

For the successor of Mr. Fukui...

...a step-by-step lesson with illustrations of the basics of central banking post-1987.

Because at Cassandra Does Tokyo "Larnin' is Phun!"

February's Song - Tsuki hito shizuku

Last month I gave Okuda Tamio (奥田民生) a hard time for his shameless borrowing from the works of others. That he often seems to go out of his way to test copyright laws should not be construed to mean that he cannot craft effective tunes on his own or perform them with real feeling.

In late 1994, he co-wrote with Inoue Yōsui (writer of the worst lyrics in the known universe--so bad they sound better in translation than in the original) and singer/actress Koizumi Kyōko the hit "Tsuki hito shizuku". Kyon-kyon's performance of the song reached #7 on the charts in late 1994. Okuda then released his own, sweeter version of the song.

It remains one of his best reworkings of one his own compositions.

February's song is "Tsuki hito shizuku" performed live in 1995 by Okuda Tamio and friends, in the column on the right or here.