Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Disposable Diplomats

Have you heard the news? Japan has a new Prime Minister!

Yoshihiko Noda

You know who he replaced right? Koizumi? No no, he resigned 5 years ago, waaay back in 2006, and was replaced by Shinzo Abe-san. Then Noda-san? No, a year later Abe-san resigned suddenly, and was replaced by Fukuda Yasuo... who also suddenly resigned a year later.

Koizumi Abe Fukuda

At this point I thought the next guy was going to be bald...

but it turns out Aso Taro had a full head of hair after all.

Noticed how new guy Noda-san's name hasn't come up yet?

This brings us to 2009, when there was a rather historic general election that put the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) in the majority over the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) which had been in the majority practically uncontested since the 50s (I'm probably exaggerating here, but that gives you an idea as to how big of a deal this was). So with a change of party, also comes a change in the Prime Minster. Enter Hatoyama Yukio... who promptly resigned a year later after his approval ratings plummeted after a controversial decision to keep an American base open in Okinawa.

And finally... no, not Noda yet, Naoto Kan, the Prime Minister who was in office throughout the earthquake. However, because of disapproval in his handling the post-quake recovery, his popularity fell and many called for his resignation. At one point he actually proposed his own resignation, before the Diet put forward a vote of no-confidence, but the motion was defeated and he stayed in office... for a little while, until he resigned, and we finally get... Noda-san!

Couldn't quite keep track of that? Well don't worry, neither could Germany, when they accidentally put Aso Taro in the newspaper for the G8 Summit earlier this year in France (the one Kan-san attended).

So as you can see, Japan really likes to go through prime ministers. Going back to Koizumi, that makes the 7th prime minister in 6 years. No wonder nothing can ever get done. I suppose if Kan-san was really doing a horrible job handling post-quake Japan, then I guess we should have a new leader to run things, but I can't help but think at this point in the game it's only going to hurt the situation. I have to imagine people in Fukushima don't really care who sits in the big chair. They just want stuff to get done so we can move towards recovery.

But that's just the the revolving door of the prime ministers. Imagine how many other politicians throw in the towel on what almost seems like a regular basis. In fact, Noda's minister of trade, Yoshio Hachiro, resigned not even a week after being appointed into the cabinet. Seems he made comments on a town in Fukushima being a 'town of death' and joking about 'giving radiation' to a journalist. However, a bit of good news out of all this is that Edano is back as his replacement! Edano was the primary spokesperson of the government during the earthquake.

I like this guy.

Anyways, I'm far from an expert on all this, and only really absorb the main topics and events from English resources ( is pretty amazing). I generally watch more variety shows than the news, but it just bothers you a little when you hear about resignations all over the place. As a result, my (naive) understanding of Japanese politics is, "If it doesn't work, quit." Often politicians resign under the guise of 'taking responsibility' for scandal/failure/accident. Perhaps this is rooted in the concept of 'saving face' and Japanese culture.

Here's a good, and unfortunate example of what I'm talking about. I was watching SMAPxSMAP awhile back when Higashikokubaru was on as the guest. Higashikokubaru was a former comedian (particularly known for Takeshi's Castle, otherwise known in English as MXC - he was Kenny Blankenship!!) who became a politician. Kind of like Schwarzenegger, but you can take him more seriously. Anyways, after he became the governor of Miyazaki prefecture, he really turned the place around. Then there was an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2010, to which an emergency was actually declared, and most of the cattle, swine, sheep, etc had to be slaughtered. After all was said and done, Higashikokubaru decided not to run for re-election, as a way of taking responsibility for the outbreak, even though nobody wanted him to resign.


What ever happened to sticking it through the hard times to do whats right. Isn't that what being a leader is? They're not there to be everyone's friend. They're where they are to make the right decisions in the best interest of the country.

Alright, that's enough politics out of me. This is probably one of the reasons I watch more variety shows than the news. Actually, looking up information about Higashikokubaru-san, my mind has been completely blown away to find out he was Kenny Blankenship from MXC. Also, "Beat" Takeshi was the main host (durr, that's probably why it's called "Takeshi's Castle), or otherwise known as Vic Romano in MXC. This, changes, everything.

Man, I love this show.


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