2013 Election Special: The rout of Japan’s Left is complete with a crushing LDP Upper House Victory


eBooks, Books, and more from ARUDOU Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
“LIKE” US on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/debitoorg

Hi Blog.  It’s as predicted (if not encouraged) by Japan’s media:  The rightist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), along with its coalition partner  “Buddhist Party” Kōmeitō (KMT), won an outright majority in Japan’s Upper House.


Background for those who need it:  Japan’s Diet (Parliament) is a bicameral legislature, with a more-powerful Lower House (House of Representatiaves) and a more rubber-stamping Upper House (House of Councillors) that can block Lower House legislation.  The Upper House holds elections every three years (Councillors have 6-year terms, and half the Upper House — 121 seats — goes up for election at a time), and yesterday was the Upper House’s most recent election.

The timing of this election was important to Japan’s accelerating swing to the Right.  As Debito.org noted after last December’s Lower House Election, Japan’s rightwing parties — the LDP, KMT, and even a lunatic-Rightist fringe called the Japan Restoration Party (JRP, headed by the likes of xenophobic bigot Ishihara Shintaro and demagogic Hashimoto Tōru) — won an enormous victory over the ruling leftwing parties (particularly the Democratic Party of Japan, or DPJ, who had finally wrested power from the LDP, a party that had become very corrupt and inbred after governing Japan for most of its Postwar Era, in 2009).

How enormous a victory was last December’s Lower-House election for Japan’s Right?  It put 3/4 of all Lower House seats in the hands of ultraconservative parties — ones who were openly stating they favored the reinstatement of a Japanese military (not just the “Self Defense Forces”), a revision of Japan’s Constitution to remove Postwar sensibilities regarding individual rights, and a very ahistorical accounting for Japan’s Wartime responsibilities; they were also quite nakedly playing up external threats to sovereignty by niggling over disputed ocean specks with China and South Korea (see here and here).  These trends were enough to cause alarm in even dispassionate scholars of Japan, but no matter — the DPJ was voted out.

Thus yesterday’s election was to be a referendum on the past six months of Prime Minister Abe, who was previously PM last decade in a spectacularly inept LDP administration that went down in flames in less than a year.  Although political Pollyannas said Abe would be restrained between January and July due to this election (indeed, he vacillated somewhat on his stance towards historical revisionism, such as Japan being involved in wars of aggression and wartime sexual slavery), Abe still made the election more about temporary economic upturns with a hint of constitutional reform — asking for a mandate to resolve the gridlocked Diet (gridlock he had caused, it should have been noted), while occasionally raising alarmist fears about outsiders and Japan’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, the DPJ could not make the main issue of the election how the LDP’s proposed constitutional reforms would abrogate everyone’s constitutional rights.  The LDP’s campaign slogan was in fact “Take back and return Japan” (Nihon o tori modosu); readings by scholars noted that this meant taking Japan back not from the DPJ, but from a Postwar constitution back to something Prewar.  So much for restraint.

So SITYS.  Debito.org has long called for Japan’s rightists to bring it on and show their true colors — so that Japan’s voters could decide whether they really wanted reactionary arch-conservatives to tinker with their civil and political rights.  It looks like they have.  Debito.org has also warned what would happen if Japan’s Right got what it wanted.  Turns out voters didn’t seem to care, for now with this resounding Upper House victory, they have given Abe the mandate to do so.  Let’s crunch some election results and then offer some conclusions:


These results are from Japan’s mainstream media, so there is nothing particularly specialist in these analyses.  I will take screen captures from the Asahi Shinbun’s website at Asahi.com, dated Monday July 22, 2013, 2:15 AM JST, with all seats reporting in:

Here’s the makeup of how the seats went by prefectural electoral district:



EXPLANATION:  Each box is a prefecture.  Inside each box is a colored kanji representing one seat and, depending on the color, to which party it went.  The navy blue ones are the LDP, the sky blue ones the coalition KMT.  Red is the center-left DPJ, and within the fringe parties of note, the light green is the ultrarightist JRP and the orange is all-over-the-map-politically Your Party (Minna no Tō).

COMMENT:  As you can see, almost every prefecture went LDP.  Japan’s rightward shift is especially clear when you compare it to the distribution in the 2010 Upper House election:


and the 2007 Upper House election, which was quite decisively DPJ:


Now let’s look at how the Upper House looks in terms of seat distribution and assembly majority.


EXPLANATION:  The uppermost grouping is the LDP/KMT coalition, denoting a total of 135 seats in the 242-seat Upper House.  That gives them an absolute majority, as half the seats (visible in the horizontal bar chart) is 121.  The 10 are unaffiliated and fringe parties, the 11 are the Japan Communist Party, and at 59 is the DPJ.

In the smaller greyer horizontal bar chart below the larger one, you can see the distribution of assembly seats before the election.  Below that is a chart showing the seats distribution with this election (e.g., 65 for the LDP), plus the seats that were not up for election this time (e.g., 50 for the LDP), totaling the political power of 115 seats below that.

COMMENT:  As denoted in the larger horizontal bar chart above, a 2/3 majority has been reached in the Upper House if one coalitions the JRP (at 9) and the Minna no Tō (at 18).  This means a reform of Japan’s Constitution is now very possible if not probable.

Next, to see how much of a rout this election was for the DPJ, consider this bar chart for this election alone, not including seats that were not up for election this time:



EXPLANATION:  The biggest seat getters were the LDP/KMT coalition at 76.  They had 44 before this election.  The other fringe parties, Minna no Tō (politically wild-card) went from 3 to 8, JRP (ultra rightist) went from 2 to 8, and JCP (leftist communist) went from 3 to 8.  Clearly the biggest loser was the DPJ, which dropped from 44 to 17.

COMMENT:  The Right is now clearly in control of the Upper House.

Next, Japan has a funny election system seen in other parliamentary democracies where the electorate votes for an individual candidate in a prefectural seat (senkyo-ku), and then votes for a second time for a political party (called hirei-ku, or Proportional Representation).  So of the 121 seats up for grabs this time, 73 are for prefectural seats largely apportioned by local population numbers (i.e., larger population = more seats), while 48 are reserved for people who get votes on behalf of their party.  So if people preferred an individual candidate but didn’t like their party, they could vote for the person and then a second time for a different political party.  Here’s how those turned out:


At the top is the LDP again, which got 47 seats in electoral districts, and 18 seats from PR votes, total 65 seats of the 121 up for grabs, increasing their total seats in the Upper House from 84 to 115.  You can do the same math for the other parties, which are, respectively, LDP coalition party KMT (sky blue, center-rightist), DPJ (red, center-leftist), Minna no Tō (orange, wild card), JRP (green, ultra-rightist), JCP (purple, leftist-communist), and other fringe parties in grey Seikatsu no Tō (political despoiler Ozawa Ichiro’s latest incarnation), Shamintō (leftist), Midori no Kaze (green leftist), Kaikaku (unknown leanings; did not field a candidate), Taichi (Suzuki Muneo’s demagogic party), the rest of the fringes, and the unaffiliateds.

COMMENT:  Once again, the biggest winners were the LDP, the biggest losers the DPJ (which got as many as KMT and just one more than the ultrarightist JRP!)


As talked about in previous blog entries, two candidates were notable a) for their underwhelmingness (Japan’s first European-born MP Tsurunen Marutei) and b) for their rabid xenophobia (the anti-Korean candidate Suzuki Nobuyuki).  Suzuki first:



In the end, Suzuki came in tenth (out of twenty candidates), which is not too shabby considering how extremely nasty he is. As of this writing, 74,083 people in Tokyo voted for him.  I find that decidedly scary.




Finland-born Tsurunen Marutei, the human chameleon who got his Diet seat for two terms, did little of import with it, and then promised to change even the color of his eyes, decisively lost in the PR vote.


For the DPJ, he came in thirteenth, gaining only 81,856 votes (not all that many more than Suzuki, and this is a nationwide vote!).  This is below the threshold allowed for the total votes cast for the DPJ, which gave only seven candidates (those denoted by red roses) a seat.

COMMENT:  What an ignominious end to what could have been a noteworthy career.  And if you think I’m exaggerating Tsurunen’s underwhelmingness, even the Asahi didn’t see Tsurunen’s loss (as Japan’s first Visible Minority elected to the Diet) as significant enough to include in the 63 “noteworthy races” (chūmoku no tōraku) they gave special coverage to.

CONCLUSION:  I think Abe will now see this as vindication of his mandate, and we’ll see even more pushing of his rightest agenda to undo as many Postwar reforms as possible.  Those will become very visible in the coming weeks.  Vigilance.

Alright, that’s the bare bones of this election.  Let’s open this up to Comments. Thanks for reading.  Arudou Debito

53 comments on “2013 Election Special: The rout of Japan’s Left is complete with a crushing LDP Upper House Victory

Comment navigation

  • Excellent commentary and overview of the election, putting it into a proper perspective that is easily understood and digested. Japanese politics can be so difficult to unravel for the Japanese electorate, let alone those of us who have made it our adopted home.

  • j_jobseeker says:

    Thanks for this Debito. Fundamentally, I think we all knew this was going to happen. Getting a breakdown just helps us understand voter distribution. Watching news coverage of Koizumi V.2 being being squealed at by local females (mostly older) with twinkles in their eye as if he was some kind of Hanryu star just made me laugh in that sick to my stomach way. These are the kind of people voting for the LDP. Single issue. Easily mesmerized by double-talk and spin. Backed by a willing and perhaps collusive media, what other result could there have been. It’s nice that Yamamoto Taro got the nod, but really, what’s he going to be able to do….

    Regular debito.org readers, you’re hearing this from me first: suitcases are out and ready to be packed. No joke.

  • Sadly, MATSUNO Nobuo of Kumamoto lost his bid for re-election. Debito and I and others involved in the struggle against discrimination by the Prefectural University of Kumamoto


    came to know Mr. Matsuno because he advised the non-Japanese teaching staff regarding their legal options and ultimately served as one of their lawyers when the NJ staff sued the university in a historic, though unsuccessful, case. Mr. Matsuno has done a great deal of legal work on behalf of the victims on Minamata disease in Kumamoto and continued to advocate for them as a politician.

    There is much more that might be said about Mr. Matsuno but, in the interest of brevity, I’ll conclude by saying that he was one of a very small number of politicians about whom I had no reservations at all.

    — Yes, I remember Mr. Matsuno very well. And I’m happy to say he remembered me, last time we bumped into each other at the Diet. Good man. What a shame that a party going down in flames has this degree of collateral damage.

  • Here is the latest Pollyanna view from the Japan Times:

    One-party rule back but Abe could blow it
    The Japan Times, JUL 22, 2013

    Sunday’s sweeping victory by the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc in the Upper House election put an end to the divided Diet and hopefully to the “revolving door” of prime ministers over the past seven years, as ridiculed by foreign media.

    That is at least until the next Lower House election, which must be held within the next three years.

    But even though the ruling bloc secured a majority in the Upper House, the first time since the LDP’s defeat in the 2007 election during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s first stint at the nation’s helm, he is not expected to rush into revising the pacifist Constitution, experts said, noting his priority will instead be boosting the fragile economy.

    The LDP-New Komeito bloc secured a majority in the chamber but not the two-thirds majority it will need to revise any clause in the Constitution before the agenda is put to a national referendum, as stipulated under Article 96. Abe hopes to revise the article — if he can garner enough votes — so that only a simple majority would be needed to amend the national charter.

    Abe has a full agenda without including the constitutional revision, said Sadafumi Kawato, a University of Tokyo professor of political science. “Abe has three years to achieve his (right-leaning policy) goals.”

    But Abe said Sunday night after the polls closed that he will gradually start discussions on amending the Constitution.

    “We need a majority in both Diet chambers to revise” Article 96, Abe said. “Since we were granted political stability, we will calmly deepen the debate.”

    Indeed, Abe needs the cooperation of the opposition camp, namely Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party, because New Komeito, which is backed by the pacifist Buddhist lay group Soka Gakkai, opposes his quest to revise Article 96 because this would make it easier for him and the LDP to amend the war-renouncing Article 9.

    Proponents of the constitutional revision including the LDP, Nippon Ishin and, previously, Your Party, currently have 63 uncontested seats in the Upper House but need another 99 to have the necessary two-thirds vote to revise Article 96. However, Your Party dropped its support for revising the article just before the campaign kicked off, saying there are other priorities.

    Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University, said Abe may try to break up the Democratic Party of Japan, which suffered another devastating defeat Sunday after being ousted from power in the Lower House election last December, by getting some DPJ members to support a constitutional revision.

    The DPJ opposes revising Article 96 but does not have a unified stance on Article 9, which bans the use of force to resolve international disputes.

    “DPJ lawmakers such as (former Prime Minister Yoshihiko) Noda were once called the LDP Noda faction, as their views are very similar to the LDP’s, especially on the Constitution and on collective self-defense,” said Nakano. “It is possible Abe may try to split the party by bringing the constitutional revision to the table.”

    Even though Abe as LDP president has seen his party win two landslide election victories in a row, he faces an uphill battle in tackling key economic issues, including keeping momentum in his economic policies dubbed “Abenomics,” deciding whether to raise the consumption tax next spring and steering the negotiations for the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

    Any one of these issues could shatter Abe’s power base and his support rate, which is around 60 percent in media polls…

    Rest of the article at

  • Trembling with Fear says:

    I’ve been scared for a long time. Now…dear God.

    Well, this isn’t much, but I found this:


    The current batch of meme captions suck on ice. Let’s see if anyone here (Japanese born or not) can come up with some with teeth. Some that might just raise awareness…

    A better comment soon.

  • #5 says:
    “…….. keeping momentum in his economic policies dubbed “Abenomics,” deciding whether to raise the consumption tax next spring and steering the negotiations for the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

    Any one of these issues could shatter Abe’s power base and his support rate, which is around 60 percent in media polls…”

    I get the feeling that the whole Senkaku islands issue is the backup plan just in case there is doubt amongst the LDP supporter base. Just keep the people scared and people will run back to you.

    I am sure some of you will remember this:
    “Alarmed Japanese voters head to polls as threat of conflict with China looms”

    Knowing the Japanese nationalist elites, if the LDP economic recovery plans stagnate or even backfire at any point, they will bring switch to their Plan-B which is to feed the public fear and fuel nationalism while selling the idea that the LDP are the only ones that can “save” Japan from the “big bad NJ”.

    Since the LDP does not plan on having any dialog with its neighbors regarding geopolitical disputes, and with military excersices intensifying. Tensions might escalate to a point where the Japanese may care less about the economy and more about the looming war and will submit to any solution the LDP will have hoping to solve the regional disputes.

    Controversial bills will pass through with little resistance when the desperate are comforted with assurance with dreams and illusions of political and economic stability sold by the LDP.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I didn’t have any hope for this election because it is too predictable. LDP knows pretty well how to engineer their political clout to micro-organize Koenkai and tiertiary organizations that helped them reign well over 35 years since 1955, and 15 years since they regained the power in 1994/1995.

    How many critics predicted that left could lead the Diet for more than five years? Almost none.
    Ellis Krauss and Robert Pekkanen published a book titled “The Rise and Fall of Japan’s LDP,” a year after DPJ’s victory in 2009. It drew our attentions because the election outcome was stunning and unusual when the book was out. This election result, however, makes sense regarding LDP’s strong records of political squad-making and powers for electoral reform.


    It’s really scary for people to have both houses high-jacked by rightists–especially those who have the abusive powers to manipulate the language and political system to strip our rights guaranteed by the constitution.

  • Trembling with Fear says:

    Dave G:

    This is a good start, but we need something catchy. Something that people will remember.

    Isn’t he related to Kishi? Well, funny story about Kishi…Class A convicted war criminal, he was pardoned and later became prime minister. The United States had a lot to do with the exoneration of Japanese war criminals. Why? Because these guys were reliably anti-communist and supportive of rearming Japan. That’s right, the US gov is one of the biggest guys pushing for re-militarizing Japan.

    From the end of the occupation to the 1970’s, the US (CIA specifically) funneled money directly into the coffers of the LDP. Not only that, they also helped put down the Japanese left. You wonder why the left is so weak in Japan? Now you know.

    Officially, the CIA has ceased backing the LDP. I think this is BS. The DPJ lost over a fairly minor scandal; the LDP has gotten away with worse. The DPJ (and the Japanese left generally) is basically in favor of retaining Article 9, but not American military bases. Even DPJ members who want to revise Article 9 are a much less bellicose lot than the LDP. Since the DPJ (and many other segments of the LDP) want to maintain cordial relations with China, this doesn’t fit in with Washington DC’s “Asian pivot” either. This doesn’t sit well with the Pentagon.

    Now look at Shinzo Abe. He’s more than eager to allow US military bases, a damn China basher, in favor of revising the Constitution, and is related to Kishi-“America’s Favorite War Criminal”, according to a Japan Policy Research Institute.

  • A tiny note of hope, to counteract the disturbing prospect of Abe’s likely push for constitutional reform:

    “Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli against LDP plan for constitutional revision”

    Anime director Hayao Miyazaki and other members of his Studio Ghibli have voiced their opposition to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s push to revise Japan’s pacifist Constitution in a July article in the studio’s free booklet.

    “It goes without saying that I am against amending the Constitution,” the 72-year-old Miyazaki wrote.

    The 5,000 copies of the booklet were distributed at bookstores on July 10 and were gone within days.

    The articles have been available as a download (http://www.ghibli.jp/docs/0718kenpo.pdf) on the Internet since July 18.

    The booklet, titled “Neppu” (Hot wind), carried a special feature on constitutional revision. It explains that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intends to change Article 96, a clause that stipulates procedures needed for revisions, to make it easier to achieve his ultimate goal–scrapping the war-renouncing Article 9.

    Miyazaki said revising Article 9 may not pose a problem legally if Article 96 is amended.

    “But it will amount to a fraud,” he said. “That is something that should never be done.”

    In the feature, Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki underscored the importance of relaying the spirit of Article 9 to the world, while director Isao Takahata discussed how significant it is for Japan to have maintained peace for more than six decades because of Article 9.

    The decision to make the feature available online came after the studio was inundated with requests. It can be downloaded through Aug. 20.

    By NASUKA YAMAMOTO/ Staff Writer

    I do hope these good people raise their voices and other civic movements multiply and gather momentum, as part of the vigilance that Debito’s post recommends. Japan will desperately need them from now on.

  • Baudrillard says:

    ” the pacifist Buddhist lay group Soka Gakkai, opposes his quest to revise Article 96 because this would make it easier for him and the LDP to amend the war-renouncing Article 9.”

    I never thought I would see Soka Gakkai in a positive light but now I am really hoping they will use their clout and stop Abe’s revisionism. Go Komeito!

  • @Trembling #10,

    That’s a really logical point I confess I had never really stopped to consider. But it makes great sense financially both as a way to reduce but not eliminate the cost of manpower deployed here and also ensure more and better arms sales, all while forcing Japan to carry the financial and safety burden on their own.

    I would be really curious to read what some of the extreme right has to say on this, as from my limited conversations with them you could say that their thoughts on the CIA and their intervention are….rather negative.

    Would you (or Debito and/or any of the fluent readers here) be able to point me towards any of the more….intellectual Rightist writing out there from Japan then that might touch on this? Or even anything out there from the US side?

  • @Baudrillard – be careful what you wish for. The “enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic often bears some dire consequences down the line. If Japan has to rely on Soka Gakkai to save its constitution, it’s obviously end times. I hope everybody on Debito.org is in the clear about the “ura” behind Soka Gakkai’s (and for that matter, Happy Science’s) friendly and democratic demeanor.

  • Trembling with Fear says:

    I don’t know anything about that sort of writing, seeing as I am not fluent. I just know a thing or two about Japanese history.

    As for the right’s attitude to the CIA & the US, they can be…fickle. Remember, the right (both LDP and those further afield) is the primary beneficiary of any less-than-ethical action the US takes in Japan. While they are against US manipulation in theory, in practice they just want it swung their way. Only the left maintains a consistent position of getting the US out of Japan, militarily and politically.

    The LDP (even the Nationalist faction) wants to get rid of Article 9, but not US troops and favorable CIA action. The DPJ (broadly) wants to keep Article 9, but not US troops and want to ensure against CIA BS. LDP wants the ability to project power, the DPJ wants to primarily rely on diplomacy.

  • Trembling with Fear says:


    This piece also points out a few more glimmers of hope: There are more like Miyazaki in Japan, and most Japanese still aren’t supportive of revising the constitution. In addition, based on what I read at the Japan Times, books about the Constitution are flying off the shelf. I think this may be the first time, post-war, that Japanese people are taking the constitution seriously. Could this lead to a rise in civil society? We can hope…

    Of course, this doesn’t mean much for NJ…for now. If a greater civil society takes hold, and actively thinking about the issues of the day widespread, it is only a matter of time before thoughtful Japanese start talking about extending rights to NJ. Right now, especially in the cities, NJ are increasingly a part of daily experience. When NJs are friends or even family, the injustice of the situation will be made manifest.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Trembling With Fear #16

    I’d be extremely wary of anything setting Miyazaki up as ‘the voice of calm’, since his new anime film is a fictionalized account of the life of the designer of the Zero fighter, and his struggle to create it, with a totally fictional romantic interest subplot, that whilst depicting the 1923 earthquake as some kind of 2011 national bonding experience, totally fails to depict the brutal round ups and murders of ethnic Koreans that took place, and portrays the pre-war Showa jidai as a kind of perfectly peaceful Japan, rather than an oppresive fascist police state.
    In short, Miyazaki’s new film buys into exactly the imagined past that Abe is selling.

  • Trembling With Fear says:

    Have you even read the article? I’m not talking about his film; it’s his pamphlet and his (very much on record) anti-war, anti-revisionist (regarding Japanese war atrocities), anti-nationalist, generally progressive stance. Hell, he protested the war in Vietnam and Japan’s support role in it. (Repairing equipment) That’s not something a right-winger then (or even now) would do.

    As for his film, if the article is accurate, there may have been some subtext that you missed. Still, he does sanitize it (I never seen the film). Unfortunate, but I think it is wrong to say he buys into exactly the imagined past that Abe is selling.

    He’s not perfect, and he doesn’t claim himself to be. His remarks that he would have been swept up in the war-fever is an acknowledgement that most are vulnerable to the pressures of the situation. The point is that he’s a sight better than Abe, criticizes him in no uncertain terms, and his opinion has weight in Japan. Compared to Abe, he is a voice of calm.

    I’ll take whatever I can find.

  • Trembling With Fear says:

    The pamphlet seems to supply the subtext. For the international releases, it should be translated…perhaps with an international appeal to save Japan’s constitution.

  • Baudrillard says:

    @ Jim, “Miyazaki’s new film buys into exactly the imagined past that Abe is selling.”

    This got me thinking about a comment I often heard in Japan in the early 90s (from those brave enough to say so) along the lines of “I voted Communist because its the only real alternative to the traditional parties”). In other words, the now virtually defunct SDP and the LDP had more in common than at first met the eye. I did not pay much attention to this, but it proved eerily prophetic when in 1994-96 they formed an unlikely coalition with the LDP, arguably paving the way for the electoral destruction of the SDP and the real left in Japan.

    So although these 2 parties represented the 2 “choices”, they arose from the same essentially shared set of values in the post war Showa period. Article 9 is a compromise of this 2 party system, and partly why it has survived unchanged for so long. Despite many years of LDP rule, they never previously sought to revise it. Bush is to blame in part. Abe is a revisionist Neo-Con a la Koizumi from George Bush’s reign, who was seeking military involvement from Japan in American interventions in Iraq. Japan was not rewarded with the permanent security council seat in return (ha ha), but America is potentially useful to this neo-con faction of the LDP in their Asian confrontations.

    If one suggests the DPJ is the new party of the left (I don’t think so, they are more like LDP Lite, born of ex Shinseito, Sakigake etc), then it can be said they have at least inherited the status quo stance of both the SDP and the old LDP- i.e. the retention of article 9. While the LDP have always wanted to emphasize duties to the state rather than individual freedoms, being pro American used to mean retaining Article 9.

    What Abe proposes is a new, startling development and is not of this tradition at all. He is, after all, Japan’s youngest prime minister since World War II, and is the first to be born after the war.

    As I write this, I came across someone who has drawn the same conclusions:Wingfield-Hayes of the BBC points out that Japan has now abandoned traditional politics:

    I would imagine that Miyazaki is on the left or postures so, but it seems he holds some postmodern beliefs, in his defense: “In an interview with The New Yorker, Miyazaki claimed that much of modern culture is “thin and shallow and fake”, and “not entirely jokingly” looked forward to an apocalyptic age in which “wild green grasses” take over.[24] Growing up in the Shōwa period was an unhappy time for him because “nature — the mountains and rivers — was being destroyed in the name of economic progress.”[25] Miyazaki is critical of capitalism, globalization, and their impacts on modern life.[26] Commenting on the 1954 Animal Farm animated film, he has said that “exploitation is not only found in communism, capitalism is a system just like that. I believe a company is common property of the people that work there. But that is a socialistic idea.”[27]” (Wikipedia).

    So Miyazaki wants to retain Article 9 as perhaps do many of the older LDP/SDP axis generation, but maybe he too, as he gets older,along with rightists his age is getting nostalgic for a Japan which never existed?

  • Andrew in Saitama says:

    I’ve always wondered how the Soka Gakkai, a group that is supposed to be about human equality and dignity, is comfortable at all with its political arm constantly in bed with the LDP. Ikeda wanting to rule from the wings?

    And what’s with Antonio Inoki as JRP’s new “no brainer” MP?

    My not-so-funny private joke about this election: Abe was gleaning for votes which would then allow him to remove peoples’ rights to vote. But there is a grandfather clause – you can still vote if your grandfather was a PM, and your vote is worth more if your grandfather was a war criminal.

  • JDG#18,

    I’ve just seen the film and also feel uneasy about Miyazaki’s seemingly idealisation of pre-war Japan. In many ways, and to its own detriment, this is a far less ambiguous and complex film than his previous ones, even though it’s technically amazing. It’s also, I feel, a more personal work, despite the theme, and, some say, may be his swan song. Besides, under the current predicament I cannot help sympathising with the overall message and its universal appeal, contained in the Paul Valéry’s verses that inspired the film’s title: “The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live!” Indeed.

    I wonder if that disturbing idealisation is behind the need Miyazaki felt to publicise his views on war, empire and civilian responsibility so painstakingly when promoting Kaze Tachinu in the Neppu booklet now available on line. Matthew Penney usefully summarises the contents in his JF article this week: “Miyazaki describes the national culture of wartime as “hysteria”, driven by government and military elites, but remaining an object of responsibility and necessary reflection for civilians as well” (http://japanfocus.org/events/view/189?utm_source=July+22%2C+2013&utm_campaign=China%27s+Connectivity+Revolution&utm_medium=email). Well, where is all this in the film? And taking into account that the real-life Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of the Zero fighter, seems to have been much more dismayed and broken-hearted at the disastrous uses to which his creation was put (http://www.amazon.com/Eagles-Mitsubishi-Story-Zero-Fighter/dp/0295971681), Kaze Tachinu leaves a lot to be desired in this respect.

    Still, I admire Miyazaki & Cia’s gesture to contribute to the debate in their manifesto and to call upon Abe to study history:

    “Of history [novelist] Hotta Yoshie said, ‘History is in front of us. The future is behind.’ It is only the past that we can really see. I understand how [some people] do not want to see the history of Japanese militarism. However, if you are a politician of the country called Japan, if you aren’t educated about this and do not seek to find out about it for yourself, you simply will not be able to cut it in international society.” Miyazaki calls out Abe for not studying history seriously and only paying attention to those stories he wants to hear: “… people want to say that ‘Prewar Japan wasn’t bad’, but it just was. It is simply wrong to deny this. The comfort women issue is an important one for the honor and dignity of other peoples, so we have to properly apologize and pay compensation.” (http://japanfocus.org/events/view/189?utm_source=July+22%2C+2013&utm_campaign=China%27s+Connectivity+Revolution&utm_medium=email#sthash.GFwtZv0b.dpuf)

  • #18 says:
    “I’d be extremely wary of anything setting Miyazaki up as ‘the voice of calm’….”

    I have a theory. People like Miyazaki could be the type of people who want to believe Japan is a land of angels that can do know wrong. They will support nationalism, revisionism, heavy protectionism plus restrictive and prejudiced NJ policies but not aggressive militarization that will involve drafting or esclation to a hot conflict that have the risk potential of bringing war and destruction to their doorsteps.

    I think today’s J-nationalists are the type who would prefer to cowardly hide behind the screen rather harass and threaten people anonymously and prefer to stay that way. They fear being drafted or put in a situation where they may be forced to reveal their identities (i.e. fighting their declared enemies on the battlefield) and losing their anonymity and risking legal and social repercussions.

    Folks like Miyazaki probably want their wars cold. They will fantasize and even yearn of Japan defeating its neighbors, post threats online to intimidate NJ, wear masks to ultra-nationalist rallies. But they would not rather confront NJ themselves, much less to fight them on a battlefield. Then you have the J-nationalists who live with cushy jobs and well furnished homes also don’t want to lose it.

    So I am thinking the increasingly radical LDP may not be the best of choice for this type of Japanese who wants their dreams to remain as dreams. They also have stake with the “peaceful Japan” and “poor victim Japan” image that they want to maintain.

  • Even under totalitarianism regimes, under the most trying circumstances, tragedies and disasters, people have to keep on living and loving, realising their dreams and talents – finding some reason to have hope. Not all people can be – or afford to be – revolutionaries and malcontents; not all people had as many choices as we do now, nor did they have the benefit of retrospect. I say this as someone who was born under a fascist dictatorship, and whose parents and their friends experienced all such needs and pressures.

    WIth all its faults and omissions, Miyazaki’s new film is mainly about that – and it’s worthy of admiration for it, IMHO.

    Let’s not throw away the baby with the bathwater.

    Of late I’ve begun to realise that in our urge to criticise Japan’s WWII history and the current regime – and all dictatorships and repressive societies, for that matter – we all too often lack a sense of compassion and solidarity with those we were – are – trapped in the horror and do their best to survive (in) it. A lack that can dangerously verge on arrogance and insensitivity and schadenfreude (there’s a mea culpa here, note).

    I’ve just finished reading this wonderful book by Tessa Morris-Suzuki, To the Diamond Mountains, an account of her travels between the two Koreas some years ago. In it she writes sth that struck a deep note with me, and which I take the liberty of reproducing here:

    In some ways, however, my feelings toward North Korea echo today the emotions felt on first visiting the South Korea of Park Chung-hee: a sense of despair at the nature of the political regime and a deep respect for the ordinary people who manage somehow to live within the narrow spaces left to them, and to live without losing their humanity. . . . If we treat some countries as pariahs beyond the reach of all communication, and if we fail even to attempt to peer through the cracks, we will also fail to see the complexities and paradoxes that beset even the most repressive societies. And then it becomes too easy to build an imagined “rogue state” in our minds and to devise comfortingly simple – and almost certainly misconceived – solutions to its profoundly complicated problems.

    Tessa Morris-Suzuki, To the Diamond Mountains: A Hundred-Year Journey through China and Korea (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publ., 2010), pp. 97-98.

  • Trembling With Fear says:


    Miyazaki released this pamphlet for the film’s premier in Japan. I won’t repeat that his progressive credentials are impeccable; are we all really so cynical, that we believe that every Japanese is a nationalist to the man?

    When you consider Miyazaki’s own past and his present positions…that doesn’t sound like a nationalist or a right-winger of any kind.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Bayfield,I do not think Miyazaki is posting threats on-line, nor is he an active nationalist. But he is, quite clearly, a postmodern fantasist (that is what he does for a living). His new movie may even be cashing in on the current nostalgia for the pre-war era viewed through rose tinted glasses.

    His generation share anti-war values but at the same time even he may have still voted for LDP when that party was an umbrella party for whatever reason (just as we saw with the last election result), or just out of distaste for being labelled a socialist, or labelled anything. I am sure he would like to be seen as an artist and an individual, and that is no doubt how he sees himself.

    I call him postmodern because he wants to be on the left, but seems to reject socialism. On the other hand, for a man who deals in images, it is hard to for us, and his too, to separate his self-image from his “real” beliefs, a condition no doubt compounded by his celebrity and success as an acclaimed anime producer. His stance in interviews may well be determined by the image he seeks to convey, so as Guy Debord would say, you see not the real Miyazaki, but rather the image and opinions of an anime producer in his 70s.

    It is easier for the Soka Gakkai members; they just vote for Komeito out of religious conviction, rightly or wrongly. But as Andrew postulates, indeed why are Komeito in a permanent alliance with the LDP, a party at odds with their beliefs? Why would Abe tolerate them if they threaten to stop his revisionism? It is worth noting that New Komeito is more conservative than the original Komeito party and “shares its support base with the LDP, made up of white collar bureaucrats and rural populations, but also gains support from religious leaders”. (wiki).

  • Not a Miyazaki fan says:

    Miyazaki a fascist apologist? Are you serious?


    “I am staunchly opposed to amending the constitution,” Miyazaki wrote in the article. “During recent elections, candidates have not been elected by large margins, and voter turnout has been low. It is not appropriate for the government to take advantage of the confusion to amend the constitution using some improvised means.”

    “The comfort women issue is something that affects the pride of every nation, and as such Japan must make a clear apology and provide proper compensation for this,” Miyazaki said.

  • @DK(#26) While you raise a good point about life in totalitarian systems, I have to point you to the famous sentence by Adorno
    (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Es_gibt_kein_richtiges_Leben_im_falschen) which has been interpreted as to mean that there was it was impossible to live a decent life in fascist Germany because the category of “decency” was no longer applicable to these times. Collective guilt of the average Germans is still a debated topic, and the same must apply to the Japanese who lived in WWII era Japan.

    As for a lack of compassion for the contemporary Japanese, I have to admit in my case it might be sort of a knee-jerk reaction to the widespread ignorance (at best) or denial (at worst) of the most basic facts – such as Japan having been an aggressor in WWII, what happened in Nanjing, Japan having had colonies, the Pearl Harbour attacks being staged by the US government to create a reason to attack Japan, etc. – all beliefs being told to me by adult Japanese people with university educations and six-figure jobs over the course of the last two years.

    Maybe I was just unlucky and met the wrong crowd, but as long as we don’t have actual statistics of what percentage of the population supports these ultra-right views (due to the unfortunate cultural peculiarity that generally, nobody here dares to say what they think), I will save my compassion for those who clearly deserve it.

    I’m genuinely interested about your mileage – where are all those supposed “decent” Japanese who clearly speak against nationalism, revisionism, xenophobia, and other negative aspects of their home country?

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Alright, let’s address some of these Miyazaki issues.

    Firstly, I am not suggesting that Miyazaki is a closet fascist. I am claiming that Miyazaki is (wittingly or unwittingly, I will return to this point later) buying in to the current nationalist trend that Abe et al are putting forward as revisionistic historical narrative; nothing more, nothing less (again, later I will explain why either is extremely problematical).

    ‘Even under totalitarianism regimes, under the most trying circumstances, tragedies and disasters, people have to keep on living and loving, realising their dreams and talents – finding some reason to have hope.’ Even at the expense of millions of other lives? The designer of the Zero was correct to pursue his dream, and accept the compromise with the military over it’s use, just to keep his dream alive? A compromised dream balanced against millions of lives? Pretty selfish outcome, I would say.

    But wait, the designer didn’t have a choice right?
    ‘Not all people can be – or afford to be – revolutionaries and malcontents; not all people had as many choices as we do now, nor did they have the benefit of retrospect.’ This sounds a little too close to ‘I was only following orders’ to me. With the possible exception of N. Korea (who must be in their third generation of Stockholm Syndrome for the great leader by now), everyone has to share some responsibility for the government (now or pre-war) that they elected (or allowed to become elected through inaction). There is always a choice, but the easy way out isn’t called ‘the easy way’ for nothing. ‘It’s nothing to do with me’ is so prevalent in Japan (despite all the group ‘wa’ bs) that when someone truely acts altruistically in Japan, it makes news around the world (look, here’s one of those ‘Japan-basher’ NJ journalists saying something nice about Japan);

    @ Not A Miyazaki Fan & Trembling With Fear

    I have read the article, thank you for providing it. Is it supposed to support your position?
    I couldn’t help but notice upon reading it, that Miyazaki was born in 1941. On what knowledge is he basing his depiction of 1930’s Japan? (I refuse to say ‘Pre-war’ since Japan was, at that time, at war in China). He is certainly not basing it on the first hand accounts he relates being told;
    ‘He notes as well that, if he had been born a little earlier, he also might have become a jingoistic young man.’, so why didn’t he depict his characters as jingoistic young men, if he knows that was the reality? Why lie to the audience?
    How about this;
    ‘Many times… I heard adults speak boastfully of the horrible things they had done on the Chinese continent.’ http://japanfocus.org/events/view/189#sthash.rBBkvDnQ.dpuf
    Why doesn’t he depict that in his film? Because it would spoil the ambiance? What then, we must surely ask is the point of knowingly choosing to depict 1930’s Japan in much brighter terms than reality dictates? Notice this comment;
    ‘The comfort women issue is an important one for the honor and dignity of other peoples’. Well, gee, don’t condemn it for the sake of ‘other peoples’, condemn it because it was just plan wrong, why don’t you? Oh, now I see why not;
    ‘However, if you are a politician of the country called Japan, if you aren’t educated about this and do not seek to find out about it for yourself, you simply will not be able to cut it in international society.’ Ah, now I see, it’s not about ‘right and wrong’, it’s about Japan’s international image.
    Clearly, there is an agenda. Which brings me to….

    Baudrillard & Bayfield

    Interesting comments, thank you. Allow me to offer something.
    I have posited in my replies above that Miyazaki has intentionally and knowingly chosen to depict a rose tinted version of imperial era Japan despite all his protestations in the above linked articles about how the constitution must be protected, the war and militarism was bad, the right must not force Japan down the wrong path, etc.
    Well, here is my explanation of how to reconcile Miyazaki’s words and his actions.
    I recently watched the following lecture by Slovoj Zizek;

    In this video, he recounts Rumsfelds speech on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. To summarize, Rumsfeld talks of three states of reality;
    ‘There are known knowns’ (eg, Saddam is a bad man).
    ‘There are known unknowns’ (eg how many WMD Saddam has- turned out to be 0, but that’s not the point).
    ‘There are unknown unknowns’ (eg, maybe Saddam has some kind of unimaginable super weapon that could not be foreseen).
    Zizek puts fourth that Rumsfeld stopped too soon, that he should have gone on to a fourth position; there are unknown knowns (eg, at a press conference during the invasion, the Iraqi Minister of Defense was asked if it was true that the US Army was in control of part of Baghdad airfield, and he replied ‘the US Army is not in control of themselves’).

    It is precisely in this fourth category that I would place Miyazaki and his film.
    Just like Abe, he is a total product of his society. A society that has relentlessly been at best ambivalent about wartime responsibility, and at worst, denied it *to them selves* out right. Unlike Abe, who acts in the knowing certainty that his warped view of history is ‘correct’, Miyazaki is trapped in the cognitive dissonance of the anecdotes he heard first hand about how evil the Japanese Empire was, and the post war tatemae that dictates that ‘peace-loving Japanese people were hijacked against their will by a militaristic government hell bent on oppression of others and war’. It’s a convenient narrative that allows the post war Japanese to do exactly what DK posits above, and shrug their collective shoulders and say ‘what can i do about it? I’m just one man? It’s nothing to do with me’, that is to say, a national psychological cop-out (which is, in passing, what I believe to be the major difference to be between the German and Japanese attitudes towards war time guilt (Markus, please chip in for or against), the ‘I was only obeying orders’, ‘I’m just one man’ excuse didn’t stand up at Nuremberg, and wouldn’t wash now with the German people, but in Japan….).

    Now, Miyazaki may not be aware of the cause of his cognitive dissonance; he draws a great picture, but he is no intellectual, so let’s not over-credit his self-awareness. And it is precisely this lack of self-awareness in regards to reconciling his beliefs about the war, that put him in Zizeks ‘fourth state of reality’; he is a nationalist, but he doesn’t know that he is. Miyazaki is just like all those ‘internationally minded’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ Japanese who wear foreign brands, drive (or aspire to drive) a Mercedes, and love to jet off on foreign holidays- they will swear blind that they are not racist, and that there is no racism in Japan, only to turn around and overwhelming answer to a survey that ‘foreigners should not receive the same human rights’ as japanese people. They don’t know they are holding racist views, and would be offended in the extreme if you suggested such to them, whilst Miyazaki says that he is against Japanese militaristic nationalism, whilst his actions alone appear to promote it. No doubt he would be like-wise be offended if you put this to him.

  • Trembling With Fear says:

    Like Not A Miyazaki Fan said, whatever the man’s stance on NJs or the nature of his recent film, he’s not any kind of a historical revisionist or denier of Japanese war atrocities. In the Japan Focus article, the writer references Miyazaki being disgusted as a child with adults boasting of horrible things done in China; no doubt the Rape of Nanking is what he means here. Then, of course, you have his activities in the 1960’s, the various anti-nationalist themes in his previous works, his anti-war stance in his works, etc. That doesn’t suddenly disappear in his new work. And, as his statements imply, he doesn’t completely hold the idea of Japan as the ‘biggest victim’ of WWII. (I do consider them, ultimately, victims. So many innocents died in the fire bombings, many others in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)

    As he had, the subtext is that the Zero fighter’s engineer’s position is a tragic one. He wants to design airplanes…but to do that, he must design fighter planes for the Japanese military. You also have the pressures of Showa Japan; to stand out against the government was to invite certain death. Put yourself in that position.

    Would you have done better than most Japanese people then? I fear I would not. I know too much about the frailties of human psychology to deny that I would have been exempt.

    PS: When I call the Japanese victims, I don’t call them the ultimate victims (though it is tempting, when you consider Hiroshima and Nagasaki). But, in the end, one could say they were at least somewhat.

  • Trembling With Fear says:

    @ DK #26

    Bravo. Bravo. Everyone should read your note and think about it. Real life is messy; it is also important to remember that the Japanese people only recently have had any real say in their government. You think every single Japanese person supported the war? Even if those in opposition were in minority, it was probably not insignificant. But in an oppressive country, few ordinary people have the kind of courage needed to oppose such regimes. In a way, it is also part of the banality of evil.

    Very few people stand up against the policies of democratic countries either.

  • @DK:

    A very humane post. Still though, the general gist of this new Miyazaki movie seems to tie in nicely with the culture of martyrdom that runs through Japanese society: The idea that suffering ennobles you.
    This also ties in with Baudrillard”s observation that Miyazaki sees the problems, but does not wish to take personal responsibility for trying to change things. Hence his reluctance to man up and declare “I am a socialist” or at least”I subscribe to socialist principles.” Interestingly, when people DO define themselves clearly in Japanese society (as Abe has done) they become real people, and the passively suffering hoards flock to them, even if it increases their suffering.

    As we see here:


    This is the reality of what is going on, and hiding away producing and consuming post modern romantic nostalgia, tempting as it may be, won’t fix anything I’m afraid. Things will only change when enough Japanese start taking responsibility for their country. So, the populace deserve criticism IMO.

  • Trembling With Fear says:

    I really enjoy this discourse; this sort of clash of views and debate was once the warp and woof of the net itself. While there remains the pressure of the situation and the banality of evil, I admit I find my inner existentialist being stirred. The US has also had a hand in creating this culture of irresponsibility; I mean, it did let the Emperor off the hook and exonerated every reliably anti-communist war criminal.

    There are a few precedents: the late Saburo Ienaga and the still living Yuki Tanaka. Surely there must be others? Further, I do not see why one has to be a socialist (I do consider myself to be one, in a sense) to take a stand. Just opposing this as a man of conscience seems to be enough, whatever one’s political leanings.

  • Trembling With Fear says:

    John W. Dower explores some of these more critical figures in his “Embracing Defeat”. Since many do not speak their minds, there may be many more critics than one realizes…

    In any case, doesn’t not knowing one way or another preclude resentment as well? If one doesn’t know how widespread ultra-right views are, then shouldn’t one try to keep an opinion tentative? It is a country of over 120 million people after all.

    — TWF, it is good form on this site for people who make citations give links, or in the case of books page numbers, so we can check references out for ourselves. It is also better form to consolidate your comments into one salvo (organized by topic and/or people you are replying to) to keep things readable and better considered (i.e., fewer short stray thoughts, like the one above). You’re relatively new here, so just a Moderator’s nudge. Thanks.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Jim ” so why didn’t he depict his characters as jingoistic young men, if he knows that was the reality? Why lie to the audience?”

    Postmodernists would of course say that it is because both he and the audience prefer the fake to the original; the “Hollywood” version to the ugly truth. And this is ostensibly a movie for children. Miyazaki uses this as an escape clause of having to dirty his hands with real politics in Japan “Nonetheless, he suggests that adults should not “impose their vision of the world on children.”[“Midnight Eye interview: Hayao Miyazaki”. Midnight Eye. Retrieved 2007-06-07.]”

    In my experience there is a tendency amongst artists in Japan to be escapist, not activist, with a “don”t shoot me, I am only the piano player” mentality. They just want to get on with their art. I would argue this is irresponsible if they are media figures.

    I have the utmost respect for artists who do speak up, e.g.Imawano Kiyoshiro and I am glad Sakamoto Ryuichi has picked up his anti-nuclear mantle after the former died of throat cancer.

    I partly remember an interview with Miyazaki in which he said there are 3 basic (and obvious) rules to his work 1. a good story, 2. he has to enjoy drawing it and 3. it has to be popular and make money, so he can continue doing what he loves.
    It is quite simplistic and Miyazaki here is not telling us anything new, but it suggests Miyazaki’s new rosy depiction of the era and the life of the zero fighter designer is at worst pandering to the current jingoistic mood of the audience; at best alarmingly apolitical and badly timed, one man’s personal penchant for drawing airplanes.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Perhaps I was harsh, having read Miyazaki’s interview in Japan focus;http://japanfocus.org/events/view/189 he clearly is speaking up against Abe and is clearly anti-war.Good for him. He is, as I posted before, part of the old school, pacifist Japanese yet who cannot bring themselves to label themselves as “socialist” etc, preferring to find freedom through their art.

    The article goes on to conclude that this new movie of Miyazaki’s “fits with Miyazaki’s oeuvre and the film and discussions surrounding it are representative of anti-militarist views and critical views of history that continue to be mainstream in Japan. ”

    Really? This is an anti militarist movie? I do not know as I have not seen it.

    I sometimes wonder if this is why the rightists are “the natural” party of government, they give people a sense of belonging. Why Taro Aso is popular amongst geeks in Akihabara (?) The left in Japan, other than trade unionism, tends to consist more of charismatic individuals, splintering over how they would like to be seen, defined, their image, arguably. We see this on the right too, with Hashimoto’s image-based campaign and imagined differences from other right-wing parties; such differences are just based on personal vanities and ego. I hope that they also splinter over the issue of constitutional revision.

    Still, this is all just my speculation.

    However, and back on track to the relevance of this site, I don’t think Miyazaki would be a fan of NJ immigration, preferring instead the “small Japan” idea;

    ” Later in the piece he outlines a vision of a Japan with a population of around thirty million with an economy that has been de-nuclearized and promotes shared prosperity, grounded understanding of how goods make it from farm, field, or factory to a consumer’s hands, and environmental sustainability. If a market for animation no longer exists in such a country, Miyazaki adds, so be it. – See more at: http://japanfocus.org/events/view/189#sthash.rBBkvDnQ.a6wMVU4J.dpuf

    — I’m afraid I’m going to have to call for an end to speculation on this movie. If you haven’t seen it, probably best not to comment on it in specific. Come back after you have seen it; this discussion will still be archived here. As you note, it’s tangental to this blog entry anyway.

  • Winning Gold at Dressage Doesn't Count says:

    A minor quibble, but Suzuki did not get 1% of the “electorate.” He got 1% of votes cast. Turnout for Tokyo was 53.5%, just higher than the national average. Fringe candidates tend to do better than expected, proportionally, when turnout is low. Also, he came 10th out of 20, but that’s in a field where there were seven candidates who got under 13,000 votes (and five under 7,000). Even crazed inventor Dr. Nakamats got around 50,000 votes, so Suzuki’s showing is not so scandalous.

    Anyway, more importantly, it’s simply not good analysis to compare Tsurunen’s showing in the PR list with that of Suzuki’s in Tokyo and to infer that because Tsurunen got only slightly more votes than Suzuki in a national vote, Tsurunen’s showing was roughly equal or even worse than Suzuki’s. Although Tsurunen was indeed a participant in a nationwide vote, the HoC election ballot for the PR seats allows voters the choice of voting for a party or for the candidate of their choice, the latter of which is added to the proportion of party votes. The vast majority of voters simply vote for the party. So, for example, the DPJ got about 7 million PR votes in total, of which only 2.5 million voters specified a candidate. In the candidate vote, Tsurunen is “competing” against members of his own party, because vote strength determines candidate placement on the overall list. In this pool, he drew down 3.6 percent of vote, more, as a percentage, than Suzuki. Further, Tsurunen was ranked against real candidates, most of whom had established themselves as former or current House of Representatives members. Like Tokyo, there were twenty DPJ members on the list, but unlike Tokyo, all twenty received more than 13,000 votes. The field was much tougher.

    In any case, the number of votes the individual candidate garners in the PR ballot is not necessarily a measure of electoral success or failure. There were 13 candidates from the various other parties who were elected despite getting fewer personal votes in the PR side of the ballot than Tsurunen. Hell, the lead candidates in four of the ten parties contesting the election got less than Tsurunen, including one party leader.

    Tsurunen is a damp squib, and despite his pre-election position as head of the DPJ’s international bureau, I agree that he hasn’t really done much for anyone, let alone immigrants. Indeed, heads of that bureau have in the past been embarrassing characters who the party wants to get out of the way of real business. But Tsurunen is a far more successful as a politician than Suzuki will ever be. What that means is that you really don’t need to be scared of Suzuki.

    — Thanks for the feedback. Points taken.

  • #33 says:
    “Everyone should read your note and think about it. Real life is messy; it is also important to remember that the Japanese people only recently have had any real say in their government.”

    The Japanese did have say briefly before the 1930’s and had a choice to vote a government. Their vote is a lifestyle they choose of their own will. The people thought that voting militarist nutjobs and even going as far as volunteering in coups back then thinking it would get them out of the recession back then. The fascists would not have came to power with out the willingness of the people in the first place.

    The great depression hit Japan hard, the response of the general public was to boot out politicians they where not satisfied with. The general public voted willingly for right-wing militarists and volunteered willingly in coups. This was their say, the general public thought that by scrapping “western ideals”, free-speech and western democracy and submitting to militarism is the only way to revitalize Japan.

    #33 says:
    “You think every single Japanese person supported the war?”

    Many Japanese are taking a victim stance towards wars though. They will claim that they had no choice, or that it can’t be helped or its because they just happen to be born into situations due to poor fate. Sure there are Japanese that want article 9 and diplomacy to remain, in terms of being anti-war, the scale of anti-war protests which you see in the west makes Japan look indifferent.

    In Japan it seems like all the pro-war ultra-right nationalists even if they are few in numbers is practically taking most if not all the public spotlight in Japan in terms of political protests. “Peaceful” Japanese might not like the image they are projecting towards outsiders, but they aren’t doing anything about it. The typical emotionless responses of “we are not racist warmongers but…….” isn’t really helping at all.

  • With apologies to Debito for the tangent, but the topic is dear to this blog and I wonder what readers will make of it once they see Miyazaki’s new film. Two of the key characters in Kaze Tachinu are NJ. One is Caproni, the Italian aircraft designer who developed a series of successful heavy bombers during WWI. He recurrently appears in Jiro Horikoshi’s dreams as a seemingly benevolent fatherly figure and takes him on his superb aeroplanes full of lovely big-breasted Italian girls and cheerful children; at the end, when Jiro begins – at last – to show some dismay at the fact that his creations are becoming a massive graveyard, Caproni cheers him up and tells him that what matters is that he achieved his ideal of making beautiful planes and that his dead beloved, Naoko, is now awaiting him in some beautiful place. The other NJ is a nameless big-nosed anti-Nazi German man, who plays Cupid and, in an important scene, exhorts Jiro to plunge into love and forget about the impending War disasters: German and Japan will become the world’s foes and will be destroyed, shikata ga nai, so just focus on what really matters and carpe diem…

    Anyway, just a cue for future debate, here or elsewhere. This film is definitely problematic under Japan’s current predicament and Abe’s sinister plans, so I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion ahead.

  • I’m late to the discussion, but I wanted to chime in on the new Miyazaki movie.

    Amidst the rubble of the Great Kanto Earthquake, any number of people probably did selfless sacrifices of the kind shown in Kaze Tachinu. In a capitalist system, these peoples’ stories function as easy-to-sell commodities. Their popularity comes from their ability to present viewers with an image of harsh “reality” and make it easy to find redemption therein.

    Despite the backdrop in an ostensibly historical setting, Miyazaki’s story is, needless to say, not snapshot of reality, but an ahistorical construct. During the actual Kanto Earthquake, society violently fractured along the ideological lines of ethno-nationalism and politics. One would think that if the director were a humanist who intended to extol life–all life–he would be would be obligated to treat the massacres of political dissidents and ethnic Koreans in a serious fashion.

    Instead, he seems to marginalize and eliminate them from his tale as either bad for business, too controversial, irrelevant, or the Other. Perhaps he has an extremely shallow knowledge of the disaster that does not extend to massacres, or perhaps he just doesn’t care. Given that he freely chose to animate this story, none of these scenarios lend themselves to a particularly generous interpretation.

    I imagine that Miyazaki is a nice man in person, but he his art and politics are not made valid simply because he expresses distaste for the most flagrantly reactionary government policies. As a powerful public figure, he could potentially alter mainstream discourse on nationality, ethnicity, and economic violence. But his criticism stops where that of other establishment liberals stops. Particularly on issues of nationality and nationalism, he seems to have far more in common with the LDP than not. Given that he positions himself as a member of the left, he ends up effectively reinforcing hegemonic beliefs.

  • “Instead, [Miyazaki] seems to marginalize and eliminate them from his tale as either bad for business, too controversial, irrelevant, or the Other.”

    I agree with that, and the 1st factor you point out is probably the one which weighed most heavily in his treatment of the materials. Miyazaki’s films are commercial and he’s always been quite candid about that. A bleaker portrait closer to the historical truths wouldn’t sell as much, would it? Which reminds me of the fate of Li Ying’s Yasukuni documentary (2007), which also portrays, in a way, a Jiro Horikoshi-like figure, the sword-maker Naoji Kariya. He devoted his life to an ideal and just wanted to make beautiful swords. Yet the documentary manages to show the disturbing, devastating implications of this blind commitment in a way that Kaze Tachinu doesn’t. But, again, the purposes of the two films are radically different.

    “As a powerful public figure, he could potentially alter mainstream discourse on nationality, ethnicity, and economic violence. But his criticism stops where that of other establishment liberals stops. Particularly on issues of nationality and nationalism, he seems to have far more in common with the LDP than not.”

    That’s a key issue in view of the current election, the ever-intensifying media manipulation, and what might be in stock for Japan’s future. What conditions will there be for a genuinely public and articulate debate on constitutional reform, military conscription, etc.? The blatant lack of a politically committed, fearless and coherent intelligentsia who can rock the boat and agitate for the causes you refer to is one of the issues that often makes me despair of Japan and feel so pessimistic. Not that I nurture utopian hopes in this respect, but the quality of a country’s intelligentsia is surely a sign of its civic and democratic health. With the exception perhaps of Kenzaburo Oe, most respectable Japanese intellectuals are dead – Shuichi Kato, Yoshie Hotta et al. – or living abroad. And the latter seldom dare to speak up in Japan. Well, who’s ready to put up with the degree of harassment by the uyoku that someone like Oe has had to over the years, and continue to live and thrive here? (see for example: http://japanfocus.org/-Steve-Rabson/2716)

    Things are not looking good – and Miyazaki’s recent clumsy statements (e.g. http://shisaku.blogspot.jp/2013/07/excerpts-from-miyazaki-essay-on.html) are a symptom and all we can get in the current climate. Still better than silence, I suppose.

  • Baudrillard says:

    XY,I agree and add that as Miyazaki holds postmodernist views i.e. doesn’t want to be categorized on either the right or left, he created a postmodern fiction, naturally. (“exploitation is not only found in communism, capitalism is a system just like that. I believe a company is common property of the people that work there. But that is a socialistic idea.”)

    He has made films with clear anti fascist themes, e.g. “Porco Rosso”, but according to XY above this does not extend to include imperialist Japan in his new film, its an ahistorical construct and not valid except as children’s entertainment.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ XY #42

    Fashionably late, I see!

    I think you are right, and agree that ‘Miyazaki is a nice man in person, but he his art and politics are not made valid simply because he expresses distaste for the most flagrantly reactionary government policies’.

    After all, look at Debito.orgs next thread about constitutional changes. If Miyazaki really believes in protecting the constitution and all that other stuff, why didn’t he make a film about the 1930’s that shows how hideously oppressive and exploitative it was, in order to engender some civil societal discussion against Abe’s proposed changes? it’s a ‘Miyazaki:FAIL’ moment at best.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    #Jim, DK, XY, Baudrillard

    As Debito mentions, Miyazaki’s film stands apart from critique of revising (manipulating) national constitution. As far as I read Penny’s review in Japan focus (http://japanfocus.org/events/view/189), Miyazaki’s film seems to tackle on different but not necessarily secondary or trivial issue–which is the politics of mechanical reproduction that leads to the establishment of capitalism. What comes to my mind is Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936). Core of his argument is that art in the age of mechanical reproduction, in the absence of any traditional, ritualistic value, would inherently be based on the practice of politics. He illustrates the impact of mass technology on the original work (which he describes as authentic art rooted in tradition) that could turn into a deadly force.

    Here are the quotes from the last chapter:

    “The destructiveness of war furnishes proof that society has not been mature enough to incorporate technology as its organ, that technology has not been sufficiently developed to cope with the elemental forces of society. The horrible features of imperialistic warfare are attributable to the discrepancy between the tremendous means of production and their inadequate utilization in the process of production – in other words, to unemployment and the lack of markets. Imperialistic war is a rebellion of technology which collects, in the form of “human material,” the claims to which society has denied its natural material. Instead of draining rivers, society directs a human stream into a bed of trenches; instead of dropping seeds from airplanes, it drops incendiary bombs over cities; and through gas warfare the aura is abolished in a new way.”



    — I hate to say it, but I think this is getting to the point of overintellectualizing. I’m about ready to draw the Miyazaki discussion to a close, as it’s not covering any new ground, or relating itself back to the topic of this blog entry properly. Post any further on this thread at your own risk.

  • Winning Gold at Dressage Doesn't Count says:

    “During the actual Kanto Earthquake, society violently fractured along the ideological lines of ethno-nationalism and politics. One would think that if the director were a humanist who intended to extol life–all life–he would be would be obligated to treat the massacres of political dissidents and ethnic Koreans in a serious fashion.”

    But that’s simply not how quality films based on a protagonist work. The story is centered on the Horikoshi, and probably when it comes down to it shown from “his” (that is, the character’s) point of view. Unless you can show some reason in the narrative why that, albeit horrible, historical incident should develop his character or move the plot forward, it would merely be tokenism. And driving political points home just because they are political points doesn’t make good cinema or literature. Plus, for a lot of middle class educated Japanese, the 1930s *were* an ideal time, *at* the time. I think that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? We as viewers (and certainly the vast majority of Japanese as viewers) know what was going on behind the scenes, and it is made clear both by the presence of a foreigner who is the only ethical voice in the movie, and at the end when the protagonist finds out it was all made of shit. Of course, you could have goose stepping scar-faced kempeitai running about harassing the characters consistently, but it wouldn’t have been as convincing, and other films already do that.

  • Loverilakkuma says:


    I forgot to add the last part on my posting. So, here’s my final thought on Miyazaki, and I’ll let other posters speak.

    So, bringing this(#46) to the critique of Abe’s “Japan as a beautiful country” narrative, I think Miyazaki’s “Kaze Tachinu” provides food for thoughts to his audience. I think the film challenges us in a way to think how the politics of art and technology for mass production could compromise our value judgment on Japan’s national history (i.e., war responsibility), as it keeps influencing our understanding of social value that is eroded by the threat of capitalism in the 21st century. In that respect, Miyazaki’s dissent/distaste to Abe and LDP leaders over language of national constitution makes sense. The film’s objective is neither about same old nostalgia nor overly self-recriminatory view on Japan’s past. It’s about the danger of artwork/technology for mass production and reproduction that walk through perilous time and to post-war era. That’s the one desensitizing people’s rationality and thought about history and memory. That’s the reason why many critics worldwide see mass production/reproduction of art/technology as cultural hegemony. I think Miyazaki is trying to shed light on that path.

  • I’m not as informed as many people here, but I just note that it seems to me this election was lost by the left rather than won by the right. The DPJ were largely seen as a failure in office and this election was won by the LDP partly because most of the leftists just couldn’t be bothered to vote (as suggested by the low turnout and my own anecdotal conversations with people), they didn’t see a party they really supported and partly because the LDP focused on some simplistic narratives which appeared to be true based on reporting in the 6 months running up to elections (i.e. Abenomics is working and China and Korea are out to destroy us). The LDP better be careful though, any high profile mistakes, such as one of their own making some dumb-ass extremist remark, a major scandal or a reversal of the economy could open the way for a newly organised leftist group, they also have to hope that Abenomics actually does deliver and that China and Korea aren’t too peaceful.

    The real concern now as I see it is defending the constitution, if left-orientated voters don’t come out for that vote, it could be disastrous – need to move the debate beyond article 9 on to civil liberties, just hope high profile liberals and progressives can get some exposure in the press.

  • @Gold

    I don’t think the point you’re refuting is one I made in my last comment. The question is not so much how Miyazaki told his story as why he’s telling this particular tale in the first place.

    Suppose that Miyazaki’s characters and setting really do obligate him to ignore the contemporaneous dehumanization and murder of ethnic and political minorities. By virtue of his decision to (re)create those characters and setting out of all possible characters and settings, he still must bear responibility for his artistic output. Having chosen to write a story against the backdrop of the Great Kanto earthquake, the director is faced with several options:

    – Portray the natural disaster as well as the subsequent massacres
    – Portray only the natural disaster
    – Portray only the massacres
    – Portray some people or other entities who were somehow unaffected by the entire thing

    If for whatever reason he didn’t want to deal with the immediate and obvious political implications* of his choice, he would have been better served by either creating a fictional setting or using an alternate real setting. Good politics alone may not make for good cinema, but neither do the derecination and decontextualization of actual events.

    You seem to argue that the nature of story-based filmaking precedes directors from providing a bird’s-eye view of any given historical period or event, but I consider the movie Kabee to be a strong counterargument. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a fairly recent movie set in the early Showa period which respects the historical character of its setting without ever being a simple anti-war polemic. It portrays visits from members of the Kempeitai, who are not transformed into the grotesques you conjure up in your comment. Fortunately, artists are not in reality faced with a duality of gross screed or ahistoricality.

    “Aviator resists repressive government and warfare to follow his dream”is also a story that has been told before in Wings of Honneamise. Does that mean Miyazaki shouldn’t have bothered? Of course not. But why then do you take such a been there, done that attitude toward the depiction of oppression of minority groups?

    (*The choice to portray only members of a majority group in an disaster that affected specific minorities at least twice as acutely is political. I respectfully submit that if you believe that any of these four choices [particularly the last four] are apolitical, you have likely naturalized hegemonic beliefs to the point where you are unable to recognize them as such.)

    Thank you, Debito, for allowing me to make this long post.


Comment navigation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>