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Japanese Politics Updates – February 11, 2024

Play Video about Japanese Politics updates Langley Esquire for Japan Expert Insights; Japanese politics One-on-One #157

If you are interested in Japanese politics, do not miss this weekly briefing or, at least, the bullet-points of issues raised during the briefing. The Japanese Politics updates the product of the collaboration of Langley Esquire and Japan Expert Insights.

Prime Minister finds himself in an increasingly precarious state

Recent polls negatively place Kishida’s popularity several points lower than in the last poll. Now at ~22.3% approval, the disapproval-rate is climbing faster. Moreso, 58% of the public not only disapprove of his handling of the kickback scandal but 84% criticize his ability to be clear and forthright! Whether anything comes of this is anyone’s guess. Still, it is revealing that 87% of those polled did not expect the LDP to restore trust anytime soon.

The 5 opposition parties banded together 10 days ago. They insisted that the Prime Minister (as President of the LDP) produce a list of LDP Diet members who received kickbacks, how much they received, and what they did with the money. The list should be presented by Monday or else none would participate in Budget Hearings (the primary purpose of any regular 150-day Diet Session). This throws a significant wrench into the machinery of government, so what he does in response will be telling. As an olive-branch….

The Prime Minister offered-up 80+ names from the Abe and Nikai Factions (only). The list was for a 2+ year period 2020~2022 (only) so let’s see what happens tomorrow? Not much of an olive-branch, after all.

Gunma election implications

An election last weekend frightens: why? First: Maebashi City is the Capital City of Gunma Prefecture. Gunma has always been LDP territory and has produced 5 Prime Ministers. The Mayor is a 4 time, 64yo staunch LDP stalwart. Yuko Obuchi is from Gunma (as was her father, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi). SHE is the head of the LDP election headquarters (not just for national but for local elections, too). The LDP candidate STILL lost to a newbie: and a 41 yo woman at that from the local Maebashi Assembly. Supported by the opposition but running as an Independent, Ms. Akira Ogawa will be the new Mayor. 39% voter-turnout is 4% lower than the last election. This indicates lack of enthusiasm for the process and for the four-time current Mayor. This is a sign of things to come.

Unification Church scandal lingers

Kishida’s hand-picked Education Minister “forgot” that he received the endorsement of the Unification Church. He in fact signed an Agreement to promote Unification stance on LGBTQ, constitutional revision, defense policies, etc., in exchange for receiving Unification Church help in the last Lower House election (’21). This became clear in full Diet Hearings on Monday when a newspaper published a photo of later-to-become Minister Masahiko Moriyama (LH, 70yo, 6x, Kishida) flashing a smile and holding-up the Agreement. This is so critical because you will remember that all LDP Members were duty-bound to report to Secretary General Motegi last year (a.) the total extent of their Unification Church involvement, and (b.) their commitment (under threat of LDP-ejection) that all ties have been cut. The Minister admitted that he failed to list this Agreement on the Motegi-demanded Commitment. More to the point, the Education Ministry is in charge of extinguishing the Unification Church and distributing their treasure-chest of wealth gained by decades of tithing. Calls for his resignation are rising. Minister Masahito is from the Kishida Faction. The Prime Minister says he relies upon him, so he stays. Until, of course…

Privacy Policy

Expo costs raise again

In a stunning display of chutzpah, the cost for the 2025 Osaka Expo rose again by ¥200 million for PR, we learned last week. This brings the PR budget to ¥4.0 billion and the overall cost to ¥165 billion. The 6-month Expo starts in Spring of ’25… unless postponed by PM Kishida (which would be a major egg-on-Ishin-face).

Political factions

Motegi Faction is eroding

In a stunning development last week, Yuko Obuchi (49yo, LH, 9x, Motegi) departed the Faction her father (former PM Keizo Obuchi) created, together with Kazuhiko Aoki (61yo, LH, 3x, Hiroshima, Motegi) whose father, Mikio Aoki (former Chief Cabinet Secretary) also created the Faction with PM Obuchi and took 5 more Members!

The Abe Faction is holding firm

No massive defections but the top leadership is under tremendous pressure. The opposition is demanding some heads to fall, and the easiest to pick as sacrificial lambs are from either the Abe or Nikai Factions. Seems like the Kishida & Motegi Factions are getting a pass.

The Aso Faction seems to be a bastion of stability comparatively

There has been only one defection from the Aso Faction, clearly emerging as the most dominant in the LDP now. It is unlikely that Deputy Prime Minister will run a 16th time… instead, it is expected that he will be the king-maker by handpicking the next Prime Minister who we can fairly firmly confirm will not be Fumio Kishida.

Questions Poised (65 minutes)

  • Under the current circumstances, will Japan have a female prime minister this year?
  • In your opinion, which scenario (1-5) has the highest probability of occurring in 2024? That is, of all the issues.
  • I have read a news about the chairman lady of Japanese Lawyers committee: Nichi Ben Ren, the first top lady of the Bengoshi organization, saying that her first priority is to change the rules of having different surnames for a married couple. Have you heard about it in the cabinet in accordance with Political circumstances?
  • Talking about Osaka Banpaku (EXPO), are the budget mentioned are the national ones? Or is Osaka prefecture, I mean, the regional autonomically government body has a separate way of funding?
  • Tim, I heard you grew up in Okinawa. I was there once, and I was taken aback by a strange looking aircraft that flies around there. It was so weird and foreboding to me that I thought it was an alien aircraft at first. For years, that experience left me wondering if there was ever a public health study done regarding the psychological impact of the industrial design of that machine on the locals’ well-being.
  • Many businesses and individuals are perplexed with the slow pace of change in Japan. Everything here takes much longer than in other parts of the world. Do you think there are any positives of the slow pace of change in Japan?