February 24, 2005

Postoffice issues ...

And I’m back with another bit on Japanese politics.
I’m preparing for two discussions that I am going to this week and next about the planned privatization of the postoffices. Now, this doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but some are warning that PM Koizumi is ahead of himself on this one. A big issue. Pretty much The Issue on reform for Koizumi and he wants to push it through no matter what.
Well, I’m not too clear on a lot of things of his plans, so if any one who’s reading this can help out?

A few excerpts for the International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shinbun:
“’This meeting is not about protesting the postal privatization plan,’ Tamisuke Watanuki, an LDP lawmaker known for his anti-privatization stand, said. ‘Rather, I am deeply concerned about parliamentary democracy being put at risk.’”[11/02/05]
A quote about a meeting that Koizumi had last week with anti-privatization politicians within his own party. I’m slightly puzzled about the phrase ‘parliamentary democracy at risk’. Is that what it is called if something isn’t going the way that the majority of the LDP wants it to go? The LDP fears for an opportunity for the opposition:
“An all-out battle between the government and the LDP over the postal plan could give the main opposition party room to attack during the current Diet session.” [11/02/05]
Coalition and opposition party confrontation isn’t immediately a threat to democracy though? Isn’t that the whole idea of democracy?? Sounds a bit akward, I think…
This might clarify a bit: “Allowing Koizumi to push through his postal privatization initiative despite his arrogant disregard for the Diet would seriously undermine the health of the nation's democracy, which, like any democratic system, is founded on the people's trust.” [25/01/05]
I still don’t quite see it…. The Diet obviously needs to approve the proposal. If the majority of the Diet approves, then doesn’t this mean that the population agrees? Parties and Diet members should be voting according to their constituency. It doesn’t help the opposition to vote for the proposal just to annoy the LDP, as it would support Koizumi who is also LDP. No gain in that strategy.

Anyhow, a bit earlier the same newspaper reported the following about trouble within the LDP:
“But resistance forces within his Liberal Democratic Party are up in arms as the party's traditional support base outside Tokyo has always relied heavily on the postal sector.” [25/01/05]
Eh? The postal sector is an important support base for the LDP? I knew about the rural areas and farming sectors and a couple of others but where does the postal sector come in? Does it have that many employees that it can put so much weight on policy? Is it the money involved – insurance funds etc? That doesn’t make sense, as that would put influence within the ministry; not the constituencies.

And, finally and not surprisingly, this seems to be one of the most important reasons for pushing the proposal:
“Still, Koizumi wants some agreement on postal privatization before his term expires, mainly because there are few other issues where any progress seems likely soon. The dead-end is especially noticeable in foreign affairs, with no end in sight to Japan's disputes with North Korea and Russia.” [18/01/05]
Jun-chan will have to accomplish [i]something[/i] by the time he retires. The privatization of the highway companies has been critized of being too much of a compromise on the side of the Cabinet. The North Korea situation is at a dead-lock, and currently deteriorating. The Northern Territories issue has again come to a standstill despite some earlier hopes of progress – it doesn’t seem that much is going all that well for him ...

IHT/AS 11/02/2005
IHT/AS 26/01/2005
IHT/AS 18/01/2005

{it’s late-ish, so I might have been incomplete here and there…. Will fix it later if that’s the case! Let me know if you have any insights on this issue!}

A few more links that I came across:
NikkeiNet Editorial (subscription only, unfortunately)
WhitePeril blog-entry on Postal Reform

Also, of course this issue brings along a lot of other topics in Japanese politics - LDP support base/constituencies, ministerial competition (MoF vs Ministry of Post), US vs Japan trade issues and so on. More to come!

February 19, 2005

Just a quick comment.

Just came across a website which at first sight appears to be very good for any information on Japanese music. You can find profiles on anything from Morning Musume (I had no idea that they started with one girl, and the history after that. Pretty smart marketing, as I see it) to Towa Tei and Buffalo Daughter. Check Nippop

Will be filling up the blog soon with much more stuff. Have a few things I want to work on, but need some time...

February 14, 2005

Japan, Middle East, Russia, China = energytroubles...

The Oil and Gas Journal published an article about Japan's energy environment this month.
Maybe not so interesting to most of you, but after North Korea, it seems my research interests are shifting to oil and gas. And I can't quite believe I'm still writing about it at home after having worked non-stop on a report about it all of last week....

Either way, I'm always pleased to see things that confirm my own findings. Like this article, so I thought I'd share :)

Here's the first paragraph:
The Japanese government is working on several fronts to enhance energy security and reduce the country's reliance on oil from the Middle East.
But that dependency is unlikely to change much anytime soon, said analyst Hosoe Tomoko in a January report by Fesharaki Associates Consulting & Technical Services Inc. (FACTS Inc.), Honolulu.
Japan is trying to strengthen its nuclear power infrastructure and to import more LNG and has developed a petroleum stockpile system, initiated an environment tax, and is working toward importing oil from Russia and Iran as alternative sources of oil supply.
It also is making upstream investments overseas, reestablishing a relationship with Middle East oil exporters, and helping other southeastern Asian countries develop strategic stockpiling, Hosoe said.

Exactly. Just like I'm saying.
Now, did I really need to take a month to find this out....? :-S At least I got some good sushi out of it!

February 07, 2005

Japan - discrimination, soccer, immigration etc...

A few quick links that I've come across:

Rogue's Gallery
Just an example of how multi-cultural this country isn't!
(although, not to get this out of proportion, I've never see this, and I'm sure this happens in plenty of other countries, albeit not so openly)
I actually borrowed this information from Kana's site, which is quite interesting also :)

And, well, an example of how sports can turn into politics. Japan is playing North Korea tomorrow night in Saitama.... All hell will break loose here if the Japanese won't win. Obviously.
Japan is getting ready though...
More news after tomorrow. Despite not being a fan of soccer, I will be watching the game. Am quite curious what the coverage will be like here!