Saturday, September 27, 2008

What the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Said and Other Matters

Nariaki Nakayama may be gone as early as Monday, with New Komeito and LDP Diet members both desperately trying to push him under the bus. The only thing that can prolong the agony is Prime Minister Aso’ s possible inability to crack down on loose-lipped adiminsitration member. We saw this with Prime Minister Abe; Mr. Aso runs the same danger because of his lack of a solid power base in his own party*. In the meantime, for the record and your amusement, here’s a translation, with commentary, of the fullest online account of what he actually said, on the Mainichi website (which is, again, having problems of its own.)


Only one lane (one runway) for so long, and I thought Japan was pathetic. Call it profiting by holding out, I think post-WW II education was at fault. Where the public mood is that there's no willingness to sacrifice yourself to some extent for the common good and it only matters that you're okay, the airport could not be expanded for so long; which was so regrettable.

Offended the good people of Chiba Prefecture, and post-WW II Japanese. Significantly, the issue falls within his jurisdiction.


The sorry state of the Board of Education in Ooita Prefecture; it’s the Japan Teachers’ Union’s fault, it is. The JTU offspring become teachers even when they get poor grades, they do. That’s why scholastic achievement levels are low in Ooita Prefecture. The reason why I proposed a nationwide Scholastic Achievement Test was because I’d guessed that scholastic achievements were low in places where the JTU was strong. And it sure is. So I think that the role of the scholastic test is over.

Offended the good people of Ooita Prefecture. Offended the JTU as well, but since the JTU is unpopular with LDP and New Komeito supporters.


Japan is, shall I say, one ethnic group; (interchange) with the world is lacking, so it tends to be insular. (To increase the number of tourists who visit Japan, [we]) Japanese must first open our hearts.

Offended the Ainu people.
Mr. Nakayama apologized to Chiba Prefecture and the Ainu. It is not known whether he also apologized to naturalized Japanese citizens. He certainly did not apologize to the teachers’ union.

Actually, the underlying issues that he raised begs for serious improvements. Get the facts right and actually try to do something about it, add a little flair and vision, and the public will be surprisingly responsive. Prime Minister Koizumi did that with the national agenda, if some of what he did/didn’t do turned out in the end to be more smoke and mirrors than substance. And Governor Hashimoto is having even greater success with Osaka voters, taking on, among other things, the entire local public education establishment (instead of singling out the teachers’ union for the blame). More generally, there’s a battle to be fought for the hearts and minds of the Japanese people, though it will not be waged in this election cycle; Ichiro Ozawa can be the Great Destroyer, not Constructor.

* Would Mr. Nakayama, as a former fast-track official at the super-elite MOF, have been a little more careful with his words or be a little more willing to take an immediate hit for the team instead of dragging it out over the weekend as if he were daring the Prime Minister to fire him, if Prime Minister Aso had more intellectual credentials? Or been the head of a more substantial habatsu instead of the mini-faction that he had inherited from the mild-mannered dove Yohei Kono? Are we seeing a curious lack of respect for the new Prime Minister in this, as well asin Junichiro Koizumi’s retirement announcement?

ADD 28 September: I’d obviously underestimated the LDP’s sense of urgency. Mr. Nakayama is gone as of this morning, and the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Takeo Kawamura, is doubling as pro tem MLIT Minister. Mr. Nakayama’s rage against the teachers’ union if anything intensified as the denouement approached. If the LDP cannot shut him up, he’ll continue to provide embarrassing sound bites to the media. I’m keeping an eye on the weekly metropolitan Tokyo area poll conducted by the Fuji TV network. The LDP had been gaining ground on the DPJ since the dismal days of June and July. Last week, in the first poll under Prime Minister Aso, LDP overtook the DPJ on the “likely to vote for” for the first time since the 17 January poll. If those numbers return to June and July levels (and are indicative of what privately commissioned polls tell the LDP), the ruling coalition will have second thoughts about the timing of the lower house election, conventional wisdom placing it at 2 (preferred, LDP-NK) or 9 (DPJ) November. Not that a long delay will help much, and I still think the show will go on. But they’ll be desperately seeking another bounce, likely from an expanded stimulus package.

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