The time for Japanese political protest?

Even in the ultimate old boys’ club, where nepotism and social standing trump merit and competence, yesterday’s election of Shinzo Abe as president of the opposition LDP — giving him a very good shot at being the next Prime Minister — marks something of a new low for the already closed world of Japanese politics.

Born into a distinguished political dynasty, Abe’s rise through the ranks was inevitable, culminating in him becoming Prime Minister in 2006. A post he then quit after only 12 months of a decidedly undistinguished reign. Such failure, apart from in the world of finance, usually leading to a rapid slide into irrelevance.

But no, and what can be seen as a further sign of Japan’s fall from grace, the hawkish and diplomatically provocative Abe is now well and truly back. For how long, and in ultimately what role, only time will tell, but hopefully what it also signals is the final straw for what has until recently been a distinctly apathetic population.

The size and passion of anti-nuclear demonstrations over the last 18 months have shown an anger and frustration not seen since the sixties. An issue that perhaps importantly isn’t just restricted to the present regime, but all those since the dawn of nuclear power itself.

Now whether that zeal can be maintained, not to mention extended beyond the nuclear issue, remains to be seen. But what is clear is that for younger generations in particular, the veil has been well and truly lifted, and those with their eyes open definitely don’t like what they see.

Japanese political protest


  1. says

    An ultra conservative, I may add, I remember him best for his constant denial of comfort women during WWII to white-wash his granddaddy. My aunt was in a camp in Indonesia and remembers well the girls from 14-15 and upwards being shipped off forcibly :-)
    Japan really is in need of new politicians and fresh views, the Japanese people do deserve politicians that serve the people and not sit on their hands and wait until the problems resolve themselves like the bank issue that has been going on since the bubble burst in the late 80s.

  2. says

    I agree Japanese politics are very depressing. But I would add that the Japanese people have no one to point fingers at other than themselves for the indifference and passivity to politics I saw when I lived there.

    Which led me to an observation: One can determine the depth of the governed’s interest in who governs and how they govern by the degree of political humor, of which there is very, very little in Japan.

    • says

      That’s one thing that has always frustrated me over the years. If there’s one Japanese word I really dislike, it’s ‘shoganai’. But fingers crossed the anti-nuclear protests have finally fired people up. I do have my doubts though.

      That’s a very good point about political humor. A very good point indeed.

      • AV says

        YES again for the humor indicator !

        I keep giving Japan as example of dire politics in a relatively OK economy when someone tells me that a well oiled market breeds neat politics [which used to be quite often around here].

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