Japanese Politics Updates – January 21, 2024

Play Video about Japanese Politics Updates Japanese Politics One-on-One #154

This post presents the synopsis of the  154th episode of the weekly Japanese politics updates delivered to you through the collaboration of Langley Esquire and Japan Expert Insights.  

“Japanese Politics One-on-One” Update #154 (45 minutes / 70-minute Q&A)

  • Fumio Kishida (65yo, 10x, Hiroshima, Prime Minister) held his second meeting of the Blue Ribbon Panel he established on Monday with 38 key LDP influentials including Faction Members and Independents, former PM Suga, LDP Secretary General Motegi, Deputy PM Taro Aso as Advisor. It is no surprise, then, that as things are really heating-up, Kishida opened the meeting to anyone else in the LDP; you know, to any one “who might be interested”. Naturally, the closed-door meeting inside LDP headquarters was packed.
  • It turns out that late in the week, the Public Prosecutors reached a conclusion. It is their position that proving a “conspiracy” between the Accountants / Faction-internal treasury with Faction Members would be ‘too difficult’. As a result, the investigation is winding-down. The main culprits already publicized are the Abe Faction, Nikai Faction and Kishida Faction accountants, a single Diet Member and 4 of his Secretaries, and likely chief offenders who ARE Diet Members but who only had a dabbling involvement, i.e., less than ¥30 million received over the last 3 years.

A key moment in the history of Japanese politics

As it now stands:

  • Kishida announced the disbanding of Kochi Seisaku Kenkyu-kai, aka “The Kishida Faction” on Wednesday. This 47-member faction is the oldest, having produced 5 Prime Ministers. Treasurer Kazuo Sasaki resigned last month, and was indicted on Friday. Kishida said the controversy was largely due to ‘administrative oversight’. He revised the Faction tax filing by adding ¥30+ million to revenues over the last 3-year period and delivered this to the Internal Affairs Ministry on Thursday. This triggered more dominos;
  • The Abe Faction disbanded on Friday, following a team meeting where the younger Diet Members formed a team to demand the Leaders do something. Leadership Committee Chair, Ryu Shionoya responded that “we were misled by Administrators” and that the complaint of overbearing pressure by faction bigwigs to “keep your mouth shut about the kickbacks” over the years was “news to me!”. The Abe Faction is accused of amassing more than ¥500+ million over the last 3 years;
  • The Nikai Faction disbanded also on Friday. They are accused of collecting ¥200+ million over the last three years. The faction accountant, Hiroshi Nagai was indicted on Friday, too.
  • As it now stands (assuming follow-through), whereas two weeks ago that of the LDP, 24% were non-faction affiliated, today, that number is 80%! The Aso Faction (56 Members), Motegi Faction (53 Members), and Moriyama Faction (8 Members) have not followed the Kishida atonement strategy.
  • Abe Faction executives will, at most, suffer summary indictment without arrest, maybe a fine. The LDP lofted a trial balloon suggestion that “the Party may take disciplinary action against those who have harmed the Party” to test the reaction.

Women in the news

  • In a huge newsworthy leap, the JCP selected a new leader of the Communist Party in Japan. Tomoko Tamura (57yo, 3x UH, List) …i.e., 18 years in Parliament, national representative selected from the Party List. Formerly a Diet Secretary. The first woman to head the Party. Tamura replaces Kazuo Shii who will remain as Chair of the Central Committee. Shii clarifies that Tamura will be chair of national politics.
  • JAL appointed Mitsuko Tottori as their new CEO in a dramatic move. She takes office in April; former CEO moves to Chairman, and current Chairman retires. A career JAL employee, formerly a stewardess (now called “Cabin Assistants”) in 1984. She joins 12 women leading the top 100 airlines, up from six a year earlier. These include KLM, Austrian Airlines, Aer Lingus, JetBlu GOJ wants 1/3 of management-positions at major businesses to go to women by 2030 (after failing to achieve the goal by 2020) and one woman on Bourse-Listed Company Boards by 2025 (‘or else!”). Japan’s 13.2% of female management positions is the lowest among all OECD nations.
  • Yoko Kamikawa (69yo, 7x, LH Shizuoka, Foreign Minister, Kishida) is tirelessly traveling throughout the world’s hotspots and making an impact. Seen as #3 ~ #4 within the (former?) Kishida Faction, she is increasingly being mentioned as the most-appropriate candidate to succeed PM Kishida. Four months ago, few even knew of her.

External events and diplomacy

  • Taiwan reports, in the week following their election of Democratic Progressive Party Lai Shing-te (anti-CCP), the incursion of 24 Chinese warplanes in/around Taiwan’s waters (11 actually crossing the ‘median line’) and 5 navy vessels. Tensions are high.
  • Kishida State Visit to D.C. set for April 10. Timing not quite up to the PM’s best-by date. This is because Biden is confronting Super Tuesday (3/5) and The State of the Union (3/7) and the election looming. The last State Visit by a Japanese leader was Abe-Obama in 2015… a long time ago. Kishida is desperate for wind in his sails.
  • To keep in mind, too: the date for By-Election is 4/28 (two seats to be filled, some expect the number to swell to 4 or more in coming days). This election is starting to loom as a good time (by some) to hold a General Election (465 Seats). Such requires a 12-day notice. Assuming Kishida’s State Visit is 4 days (4/9~4/12), he has 4 days to close the House upon his return. Keep an eye on this.

N. Korea growing more testy

  • Kim Jung Un tested last Sunday a new solid-fuel hypersonic ICBM. This was in response to joint US/S. Korea/Japan drills involving US nuclear aircraft carrier Carl Vinson;
  • This week N. Korea also tested a nuclear-capable underwater drone “Haeil” (tsunami) for future deployment as a “taskforce killer”;
  • Our Great Leader gave instructions this week to revise the Constitution, removing a commitment to “peacefully reunify the peninsula”. References to ‘our brothers’ to be dropped and replaced with ‘enemies’, monuments representing this commitment to be dismantled;
  • In 2023, N. Korea launched 5 ICBM, 25 ballistic missiles, 3 satellites. This week S. Korea Ambassador to the UN Security Council insisted that the UN take drastic action to avert further provocation. China & Russia hold veto over any UN actions so nothing is expected but the tension is clearly escalating. 2017 was the last time sanctions were imposed for violations of nuclear and ballistic missile technology bans imposed in 2006.

Osaka EXPO 2025

  • Osaka Expo now 500 days away, and still struggling for countries to submit architectural plans for one of the 25 “planned” major pavilions. Unfortunately, the Noto Peninsula earthquake disaster forces Nagata-cho to contemplate re-directing construction workers to Noto. In other words, cancelling/postponing the Osaka Expo. This would be a huge blow to Osaka political heavyweight opposition Party, Ishin. It has been 55 years since Osaka hosted an Expo, with great fanfare & success the last time.

Japan lands on the moon

  • JAXA’s successful launch of H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center on September 7 hits paydirt. Saturday night, 700 kg “Moon Sniper” landed gently on a pinpoint location. JAXA testing accuracy, to land within 100 meters of target. This would be a huge leap in technology. As it stands, though, the solar panels did not deploy. As a consequence, the life-span may only be hours, solely dependent on battery-power. But even if deployed, the panels would only last days: the harsh moon environment would destroy them. Still, a huge success. Japan now joins the USA, Russia, China, India in moon landings.

Scandals blemishing the industry

  • Fujitsu is embroiled in a huge scandal … never heard about it? Fujitsu bid and won in 1997 a project by the British government. A national contract to write software & create hardware-interface for the nation’s Postal Service. A big deal, right? Unfortunately, a glitch in the accounting was only caught in mid-2o13. The program shut-down in 2015. In the meantime, though, hundreds of Postal Inspectors were sued for criminal conversion, jailed, blackballed, careers ended. This was due to the software erroneously miscalculating flow-of-funds. A huge liability now for Fujitsu. This only became public when, precisely like in the Johnny’s Jimusho case, nobody said anything about it until a documentary exposed it. Now (like in Johnny’s) the lid has been blown off and there is hell to pay.
  • The Daihatsu scandal is beginning to wind-down. GOJ determined the extent of the airbag data manipulation (going back 10 years!) and identified many of the core issues. As punishment, three models will be discontinued. Daihatsu, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toyota, stopped ALL production in December. The machinery will restart soon, it is hoped, relieving Toyota (4% of sales) and Daihatsu’s 8,000 feeder companies.


  • The Nikkei is enjoying a joy ride. The stock market has not seen a boom like last week for 35 years! The yen is falling again in value, pegged at $/¥148.14 on Friday. In related news, Japan has fallen to the world’s 4th largest economy. Germany overtook Japan in GDP this week (largely as a consequence of the falling yen). Japan is not expected to recover. Instead, within the next 18 months, Japan will be #6 or #7, then more precipitously to settle for around 12th in due course.


  • Finally, Trump had a tremendous showing in the Iowa Caucus last week. As a consequence, Japan is growing nervous. A return to a Trump Presidency becomes a real possibility. Trump caused, you will remember, much consternation when President. Not just in international trade, breaking away from TPP, insistence on paying for the nuclear umbrella. Even PM Abe fell into the sand trap while attempting to negotiate! (… sorry, couldn’t help myself). Nervousness is maybe called for: Deputy Prime Minister and huge LDP heavyweight Taro Aso traveled to DC last week with Hirofumi Nakasone (77yo, UH 7x, Saitama, Nikai). They had several high-level meetings and great Biden Administration access.  They were rebuffed, however, in their attempt to see Trump. Picking sides will become the hugest consternation going forward. Trump-lovers will have to be bold and step out in the open, or risk retribution. Biden-lovers will suffer the same fate, depending on who becomes President. What does fickle Japan do?

Questions during the 154th Japanese Politics One-on-One session

  • With the collapse of the Abe Faction, how does this impact the LDP dynamics? Will these floating, non-faction affiliated Members now join the existing Aso, Motegi Factions? Will the power of the Prime Minister increase or decrease? Now, Independent Members occupy 68% (incorporating the former Abe Kishida and Nikai Faction Members) of the LDP. Does this mean the power block will shift to Independents?
  • Will this lead to a new Prime Minister?
  • Hasn’t PM Kishida played this magnificently? Doesn’t this reveal that everyone miscalculated Kishida?
  • Why hasn’t the Aso Faction folded? Does this have something to do with his (famous) wife?
  • Won’t newly unaffiliated Abe / Kishida / Nikai Faction Diet Members just seek membership in the existing Factions? Can you please describe the benefit of joining a Faction after all?
  • How about a re-creating or re-launching a NEW Kochikai (the Kishida Faction)? Couldn’t it regroup and become even larger, more astute in the near or medium term?
  • How about Yoshimasa Hayashi (current Foreign Minister)? Does he still rank high on your scale of potential candidates for replacement PM? Is this scandal impacting him personally?
  • Please comment on the recent Mainichi Online interview of Makiko Tanaka (former Foreign Minister, retired, daughter of Kakuei Tanaka). She speaks openly and frankly about the current funding and kickback scandal? She seems to have hit the airwaves heavily since the burning-down of the massive Tanaka Estate in Mejiro last week.
  • About the new CEO of JAL, I heard she was a CA in her earlier career. This is a great development.
  • Can I ask you about scandals-in-general in Japan? Why is the weekly magazine Bunshun always at the forefront of exposing these? No one else does. These stories you talk about are infrequently mentioned in contemporary Japanese Press or in the news. Why… is it just digging-up dirt… or is this prevalent in other countries, other democracies? Mostly in Japan?
  • Didn’t the current kickback story originally come from Bunshun?