Monday, 7 November 2005

A new cabinet

So what is there to write about this week in the goings on of Japan? Well again not a lot, it would seem to me. The Kool Kid chose his new cabinet after the landslide election victory of a few months ago and this time he went for something nice in teak. Ho ho, joking aside, the new cabinet has, some commentators have noted, something of a hawkish feel to it, but personally, having only been here for about 8 years, I have yet to spot this. What I did note was that there was, as ever, a somewhat grey, male tinge to the gang, though there were at least one or two female members (one of which wore an alarmingly blue dress to the formal inauguration dinner thing the other night – or rather it was BLUE!). Most of the MP’s that I wrote about the other week got in now, one assumes, in a position to push their claims for the Premiership (as in the PM-ship, not as professional Association Soccer players in the English league, doh!) once the Kid does his bunk next year – a plan he is still apparently committed to.

Maybe I don’t watch enough domestic news of an evening, but the cabinet in Japan just doesn’t seem to have the same function as it does in the UK, or at least the same levels of commitment or importance. I mean, when a domestic policy issue comes up on, say education in the UK, the news media will talk to the Minister of Education (or whatever their title is now), the shadow minister, a junior minister or two, perhaps a mandarin from the Civil Service, maybe another cabinet member like the deputy PM and, quite possibly the PM as well, depending if he’s around and no one has stuck a camera on him in the last few minutes. But in Japan it seems to me that the only politico we ever get to hear about is the Kool Kid himself. In fact as I try and remember now, the people of that ilk I can think of are the Kid, Tokyo governor Ishihara and the head of Nippon Keidanran who’s name I can’t remember but I know the face as his top lip doesn’t move when he speaks (Nippon Keidanran is a bit like the CBI, I think, in that they always seem to be going on about business and business sentiment in the city. Or something). But I suspect that if you showed me some pictures of the new cabinet members now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you who many of them are or what they do. I’m sure this is a failing on my part, but I’m an educated sort of person and, when living in the UK, could have a decent stab at naming and shaming those who ruled in my name. But not here, and I wonder how many Japanese could?

Anyway they had they big inauguration thing and were all jolly happy and indulged, no doubt, in a spot of back slappage and general bonhomie for the evening before going back to their constituents for a bit of scheming and plotting.

In the news there has also been a lot about the US and some plans to move some of their bases around in Japan and give some land abck to the Japanese, or, again, something like that. As you can probably guess I haven’t been following this one too carefully either, mainly as I don’t live anywhere near any US air or naval bases, have no intention to do so, so don’t really care where America puts its aeroplanes or ships. Does the US presence in Japan, I wonder, really act as a deterrent to China’s expansionist desires in east Asia, as not a few seem to think? I mean, are the Chinese, or indeed anyone, really interested in world domination anymore? OK, Krazy Kim of Krazy Kim’s People Mart does probably want to take over the world (bwahahahahaaaaa etc), but he is, as we know, something of a loon and not really in a position to do so, but he does quite possibly have nukes which he could lob at Japan any time he pleases, so does the US deterrent work their (and also with the US troops in South Korea)? Or does the presence of so many US troops in Japan and Korea antagonise the situation and ratchet up the tension causing more harm than good? Goodness me if I knew the answers to these questions I suspect I would not be working in the job I do now but would certainly be knocking on the door of the UN.

It is difficult to know what Japanese people really think about the presence of the US troops here as it seems to me to be an issue that is somewhat skirted around by the media. Again this might be to do with me not seeing anything about it, rather than the media not asking, but I do read a newspaper everyday and try to watch the odd bit of news. If I was to hazard a guess it would be that the average person on the Kawaguchi omnibus would not exactly be happy that US forces are here, but would be pragmatic enough to think that they might be a good thing for a bit of stability in the region – and as far as I can tell, there hasn’t been any of the anti-American style riots that seemed to happen in South Korea a few years back. But then again as I wondered earlier, if all the US forced buggered off tomorrow, is it likely that a country such as China or North Korea would attack? I think not as China is now such a huge trading partner with Japan (and the US), and money speaks a lot louder than anything else these days, that why would China bother. Krazy Kim might do something silly like drop a bomb on Roppongi Hills, but I think even that is unlikely as China does seem to hold their leash to a large extent.

But the US isn’t going anywhere anyway, just moving their runways around a bit I think, so all a bit moot, really.

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