Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Nazis, Yasukuni, the Aso Bump

Maybe BBC exists in a parallel universe and the Japanese media in its world say that Taro Aso did make the “Nazi” comments in a meeting yesterday “with his opposition counterpart in parliament”. But every Japanese report on my planet says that Mr. Aso went to pay his respects as the new Secretary-General of the LDP to the President of the Upper House, Satsuki Eda, who, following custom, left the DPJ when he assumed the post. Mr. Aso’s main opposition counterpart is DPJ’s Yukio Hatoyama, who has appropriately taken this opportunity to wax indignant, but that’s not what the BBC story is talking about.

Anyway, Mr. Aso’s comments, such as has been reported, can be interpreted in two ways:

1. The opposition neglects the public interest by refusing to engage in deliberations in the Upper House. The public could get sick and tired of the resultant inaction and put a party like the Nazis in power.
2. The opposition neglects the public interest by refusing to engage in deliberations in the Upper House. The public might still elect them to power—after all, the Germans did elect the Nazis. They remind me in more than one way of the Nazis.

I think that the first one, which appears to be close to Mr. Aso’s version, makes more sense. It hews more closely to what the media reports reported as Mr. Aso’s words—unsourced, but from the context apparently coming from the DPJ side. To reach the second interpretation, you must add stuff and interpret liberally. It is funnier though.

Of course even the first interpretation contains an outrageous assertion, that things are so bad overall, or a pitiful admission, that the existing political parties—including the LDP—are so awful that the Japanese public might turn to a Nazi clone. It’s also the kind of hyperbole that can only invite anger regardless of the context.

Given what we know of Mr. Aso, there must be more of this where it came from. Stay tuned.

Today, the Justice Minister and the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister said that they would go to Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, the day Japan announced its unconditional surrender. Last year, one State Minister decided to go at the last minute. The names are not important. The core of the unwritten deal with China is that the Prime Minister, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, the Foreign Minister and the Defense Minister stay away.

If there could be anything more galling to casual-Japan-Watcher liberals than seeing Sankei (correctly) attributing the 7.6 percentage-point leap (21.6%→29.3%) to Mr. Aso’s selection as Secretary-General and heir presumptive to the Prime Minister Fukuda, it’s the report that the pacifist coalition partner Komeito could hardly contain its glee at the return of Aso. In fact, according to the hardcopy Yomiuri (August 4), “the gleeful Akihiro Ota, Komeito party chief, clowned in front of the press corps, aping the [comedienne]-tarento Edo Harumi [with her stock phrase] “Guu, guu, guu (good, good, good)”.

The head of the pacifist Komeito is not just happy because Mr. Aso is a good campaigner. (Though there’s that.) Mr. Aso has been on good terms with the Komeito for some time now. It’s hard to reconcile this with the following BBC description:

Known for his conservative views, [Mr. Aso] has advocated a tough line towards North Korea and rejects changing the law to allow women to ascend the throne.

But then, the Western media rarely get it right with Mr. Aso…. and Junichiro Koizumi.


Anonymous said...

I believe you missed this:

Tokyo, July 25 (Jiji Press)--Mobile phone content featuring a Japanese politician known for his love of manga and animated cartoons made its debut Friday.
Customers of content providers Dwango Co. <3715> and Edge Co. can download voice and image of former Foreign Minister Taro Aso for use as ringtones or wallpaper for mobile phones.
As ringtone options, the service offers interview clips and the laughing voice of Aso, a strongman in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
An official of Dwango said the company picked Aso because he is popular among many young people.
Aso is the second Japanese politician after Ichiro Ozawa, head of the largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan, to be featured in the company's mobile content services.

Jun Okumura said...

Haha, thanks, Anonymous. Now if they only published download rankings...

Seriously, they should offer similar versions for all the potential Prime Minister candidates plus Mr. Fukuda, then publish ranking lists. That would buy a lot of press for Dwango, if nothing else.