Japanese Politics Updates – January 28, 2024

Play Video about Japanese politics updates - Japanese Politics One-on-One episode #155 synopsis

Japanese politics updates: the Emperor opened the Diet on Friday, January 26, with all Upper House & Lower House Members in full attendance for the 15 minute ceremony. PM Kishida did not take the podium… Still, breathing a sigh of relief as there are 150 days of legislative-immunity now.

Read the synopsis of the 155th briefing of Japanese Politics One-on-One, delivered to you in collaboration with Japan Expert Insights to keep you informed the newest developments in Japanese politics and public policies.

Fractures inside the Factions

  • Motegi Faction suffered 5 defections on Thursday, led by Yuko Obuchi(!). This is a significant precursor of erosion in other Factions. In comparison, the Aso Faction seems to be a beacon of strength and stability.

PM Kishida’s Blue Ribbon Panel

  • PM Kishida’s Blue Ribbon Panel meetings #4, #5 this week, and then in the Final Report on Thursday. PM Kishida announced decisions to disband his Faction, the Abe Faction, the Nikai Faction. The one faction of the 6 existing which was NOT implicated in the kickback-scandal (zero!), the Moriyama Faction (8 Members), decided nevertheless to disband on Friday(!?). The Motegi and Aso Factions are holding firm.
  • Factions will be characterized as ‘policy study groups’ and not unified in a way that allows them to collectively collect money or lobby-as-a-group to secure Ministerial positions within the Cabinet. It is difficult to imagine the LDP without Factions so, much might change without diminishing the preeminent dominance of this powerhouse party.

New Diet session opens

  • The emperor opened the Parliament on Friday. PM Kishida, however, did not deliver a speech. Pomp and Circumstance for sure, but very proper, very staid. Morning-tails and men in kimono.

Cabinet approval at 24%

  • Cabinet Approval is at 24% according to a poll released Thursday, the lowest since 2012. Now, with the 150-day legislative session on, this kickback mess will move from Prosecutor-territory into Opposition-territory. Many expect more than mere fireworks this week. 
  • In anticipation of such political turmoil & dynamic change, Dan Harada & Timothy Langley will provide an overview on Friday, February 2, at noon, titled “Mr. Kishida’s Great Gamble”. Live-presentation on LinkedIn and on YouTube ~35 minutes or so.

External events

  • Trump Presidency possibility has MOF and the PM’s office rightfully concerned. Typically fickle, GOJ is going to have to pick sides because sitting on the sidelines will not do in this election-cycle. Repercussions / revenge are anticipated from the Democrats if they win, and likewise from Trump if he wins. Much is held in the balance and Japan does not like to toy with US-Japan trade. Taro Aso’s attempt to meet with Trump in his recent trip to D.C. was unsuccessful. Telepathic messages are already being sent.
  • N. Korea is ramping up for war. Leader Kim Jung Un has revised the Constitution to remove commitments aimed at re-unifying the peninsula and instead orders demolishing monuments dedicated to this goal, and characterizing S. Koreans as ‘enemies’ instead of ‘our brothers & sisters’. N. Korea has unilaterally re-drawn maritime borders, and launched a volley of cruise missiles on Wednesday. The rhetoric is heating-up.
  • S. Korea President Yoon Suk-Yeol faces re-election 4/10, the same day of the Kishida State Visit to D.C. Yoon won by a hair two years ago, and now a (real/fake?) scandal has ensnared his wife in a possible bribery claim, called the “Dior Handbag Scandal”. There will be lots of dirty tricks until election time. This at the same time that the peninsula is essentially under a war-alert.

The Expo challenge

  • Countries are NOT flocking to claim 28 main-attraction-pavilions within the circular complex. The deadline for Architectural Plans submission was 4 months ago in order to open on-time in ~480 days. Worse, the Noto Peninsula earthquake disaster of New Year’s Day is sucking-in workers and construction labors throughout the nation. Should the Prime Minister say-so, the Expo contractors would have to give it up. A postponed Expo would be a major blow to Osaka’s dominant political party, Ishin. On Friday, Kishida earmarked ¥155 billion yen for reconstruction. Expo is on feeding tubes.

Daihatsu's disaster

  • In these Japanese politics updates, we continue to follow the Daihatsu’s disaster. This Toyota-owned, small-car manufacturer will not re-start production until February 15 or so… and even then, only 3 of the 4 factories will restart. This is a huge blow and personal insult to Toyota since Daihatsu fully-ceased production in December. This deception (doctoring airbag safety data) has been going on since 1989(!). This scandal calls into question so many things. Impacting 64 models (including some sold under the Toyota brand), the company will remove several models from production (at least 6 permanently!). This could spill-over to some flagship vehicles under the Toyota brand, i.e., the Land Cruiser series is under investigation.


  • Price-hikes throughout 2023: due to a weakening yen and cost overrides from overseas. Virtually all products/produce in Japan were affected last year. Supermarket sales in ‘23 were up 2.4% though consumers purchased less. Convenience Stores did better with 4.1% increase in sales; due to tourism, customers increased 2.7% from the year earlier.

Questions Poised (65 minutes)

  • During this Japanese politics update there was an earthquake! I could see your room moving and I felt it here, too! Is everything okay… epicenter in Tokyo Bay but thankfully no tsunami-alert. I hope everyone is well!
  • With all this political turmoil, isn’t it about time for Japan to consider a female Prime Minister? And in any event, will the Prime Minister’s term (with another 10 months left) end abruptly as a result… soon?
  • When Trump becomes the Republican Candidate for President, do you think PM Kishida will make the effort to meet with Candidate Trump… maybe during the upcoming State Visit on 4/10?
  • The price-rises you highlighted are a global phenomenon. The issue in Japan seems to be stagnant salaries. Inflation in Japan is high but elsewhere these numbers are exceeded. Japan’s loose-money policy, high-inflation, yet stagnant wages seem to be unique among the G-20.
  • With a sudden increase of independent Members within the LDP, doesn’t this suggest a possible drift towards a two-party system… or at least a more distributed share of political power? How will this impact political evolution?
  • Are you aware of any serious independent think-tanks focusing on regional geopolitics, without the influence of foreigners on-staff or financially/politically connected… purely Japanese? In particular, I am interested in their analysis of what is going on here in the Asia-Pacific region. Who are the big brains working on this (who are unaffiliated)?
  • What is the purpose of a Faction? How did they emerge, and what keeps them together? I remember hearing that Factions were primarily to train and groom new Diet Members, and to educate Members on policy issues.
  • There is a tremendous exodus of laborers to the Noto Peninsula earthquake disaster area (28 days ago). Can the Expo 2025 in Osaka be completed on time? With the Prime Minister earmarking ¥155 billion yen for disaster-recovery (as you reported), the central government can actually ensure that the Expo doesn’t go off as planned, right? What are your thoughts on this?

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