DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 3, 2011

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IN APPROPRIATE, A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan, By ARUDOU Debito
New novel IN APPROPRIATE, on child abductions in Japan, by ARUDOU Debito

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Hello Debito.org Newsletter Readers. Two items of note before I start this newsletter:

1) My next Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column will be coming out tomorrow, October 4, 2011. The topic: A discussion of the semantics of “ganbatte” (“Do your best!”,as in “Ganbare Tohoku”), and why I think it’s a counterproductive slogan. Opening paragraphs:

========= EXCERPT BEGINS ==============
“Ganbatte kudasai!” You hear this expression every day in Japan.

“Do your best!” “Try harder!” “Stick to it!” “Don’t give up!” are but a few of the positive messages conveyed. It offered succor 25 years ago when I was in university bushwhacking through the Japanese language: One “ganbatte!” from Sensei emboldened me the rest of the week.

However, recent events have exposed a problem with ganbatte.

It’s gone beyond being a harmless old saw, platitude or banality. It’s become at best a sop, at worst a destructive mantra or shibboleth. It creates a downward cycle into apathy in the speaker, indifference in the afflicted…
========= EXCERPT ENDS ==============

Have a read tomorrow!

[UPDATE:  Here it is:  http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20111004ad.html]

2) I’ve done a dramatic turnaround with my life. Since April 1, 2011, I have gone on a supervised diet and lost fifty pounds! Yes, that’s 23 kgs down in six months. This is not an ad for a diet program. Just some happy news. Some “Before” and “After” photos at http://www.debito.org/?p=9441

Now on with the Newsletter:

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 3, 2011
Table of Contents:

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MOVEMENT ON HAGUE CONVENTION AND JAPAN CHILD ABDUCTIONS ISSUE
1) BAChome: President Obama addresses Japan Child Abduction Issue with Japan’s PM Noda, demands preexisting abduction cases be included
2) BAChome: Official correspondence re nonfeasance and negligence by US Consulate Osaka regarding the Mary Lake Child Abduction Case (allegations of USG refusing assistance to US citizen child)
3) Patrick McPike on USG’s underestimated numbers re Japan’s abducted children (only about 2.6% of J kids see both parents after divorce)
4) CRN: Left Behind Parents launch expert witness, consulting services to prevent International Parental Abduction
5) MOFA invites public comment on Japan re the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, until Oct 31

SEX! YES, SEX!
6) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Sept 6, 2011, “‘Sexlessness’ wrecks marriages, threatens nation’s future”
7) DEBITO.ORG POLL: “For Readers married to a Japanese, how often on average do you have sex with your spouse?”
8 ) “The Douzo Effect”: One case study of a sexless marriage in Japan, by SexyLass

ISSUES OF POLITICS, PUBLIC EXPRESSION, MEDIA, RHETORIC, AND SOCIAL CONTROL
9) FCCJ No.1 Shimbun: “Nothing has changed”, my article on J media blind spots towards NJ residents over the past quarter century
10) NJ topic du jour: Yomiuri, Mainichi, Nikkei pile on re free papers ads encouraging NJ “criminal behavior”, deemed “criminal infrastructure”
11) Allegations of more rough stuff from Rightist Zaitokukai against anti-nuclear demos, yet anti-nuclear demonstrators get arrested
12) Discussion: JK on the oversimplistic panacea of slogan “Ganbare Nippon/Tohoku” etc.
13) Japan Times HAVE YOUR SAY Column offers reader feedback to my Aug. 6 JBC column on how difficult it seems to make long-term Japanese friends
14) Best review yet of my novel IN APPROPRIATE (and no, the reviewer does not rave about the book)

… and finally…

15) Japan Times guest column: “Top 10 most useless Japanese Prime Ministers” (I contribute Murayama)
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By ARUDOU Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter arudoudebito)
Freely forwardable

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MOVEMENT ON HAGUE CONVENTION AND JAPAN CHILD ABDUCTIONS ISSUE

1) BAChome: President Obama addresses Japan Child Abduction Issue with Japan’s PM Noda, demands preexisting abduction cases be included

BAChome: September 23 was an historic day. For the first time ever, the Japan Child Abduction issue reached the highest levels of our government. President Obama addressed the issue, to include both the Hague Convention and resolution of existing cases, in his meeting with Prime Minister Noda in New York yesterday…

AS Campbell: “The President also very strongly affirmed the Japanese decision to enter into The Hague Convention … asked that these steps be taken clearly and that the necessary implementing legislation would be addressed. He also indicated that while that was an important milestone for Japan, …he also asked the Japanese prime minister and the government to focus on the preexisting cases, the cases that have come before. The prime minister indicated that very clearly, he knew about the number of cases. He mentioned 123. He said that he would take special care to focus on these particular issues …as Japan also works to implement the joining of The Hague Convention, which the United States appreciates greatly.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=9398

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2) BAChome: Official correspondence re nonfeasance and negligence by US Consulate Osaka regarding the Mary Lake Child Abduction Case (allegations of USG refusing assistance to US citizen child)

BAChome writes to Beth Payne, Director Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State:

Ms. Payne, Mr. Lake has indicated that he is willing to provide a sworn affidavit that Ms. Vause told him his daughter Mary appeared in person at the Osaka consulate. However, even taking you at your word that Mary Lake called the consulate, we are simply distraught that the consulate employees did not do more to facilitate her rescue and return to her lawful parent…

The State Department’s failure to act during the brief window of time available to rescue Mary allowed her to disappear again into the black hole abyss of Japan, to join the other 374 children abducted to Japan since 1994, none of whom has ever been returned.

We ask you to answer one simple question — if Mary Lake were kidnapped by a STRANGER and held in Japan for six years, and then contacted the US Consulate asking them to “fly her home”, would the consulate actions have been any different, and if so, why? The State Department’s DUTY to Mary Victoria Lake is no different than to any other victim of a felony crime, and for you to treat it otherwise is simply a flagrant disregard for the law…

The State Department has conducted years of meetings, talks, meetings, talks, meetings and talks, but not a single parent has been able to even see their child as a result. This latest incident with William Lake’s daughter only further exacerbates the left-behind parent community’s total and complete loss of confidence in the State Department’s ability to protect our children. What happened to Mary Victoria Lake could have happened to any of our children, and this incident fills us with fear and anxiety that if a window of opportunity someday opens for the rescue of our children, State Department will simply shut that window, as they did with Mary Lake, rather than actually try to return our children.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9390

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3) Patrick McPike on USG’s underestimated numbers re Japan’s abducted children (only about 2.6% of J kids see both parents after divorce)

McPike: Based on research done by both Law Professors in Japan and by Left-Behind Parents, we know that these cases [of abducted children in Japan with American citizenship] number into the thousands.

In the english translation (Translation by Matthew J. McCauley of University of Washington’s Law School) of a paper written by Professor Tanase in 2009 (who has also been used as a consultant by DoS) he states, using statistics provided by various Japanese sources, that:

” Over 251,000 married couples separated in 2008, and if this number is divided by the 726,000 marriages in the same year, roughly one out of every 2.9 marriages will end in divorce. Out of all divorcing couples, 144,000 have children, equaling about 245,000 children in all. Seeing as roughly 1.09 million children were born this year, about one out of every 4.5 children will experience divorce before reaching adulthood. Even with the increase in visitation awards, only about 2.6% of the 245,000 children affected by divorce [in Japan] will be allowed visitation. “

To simplify it: Out of 245,000 children who’s parent’s are divorced in Japan ONLYabout 6300 children will be allowed to maintain some level of contact with their “non-custodial parent” (We’ll get back to how custody is determined). The remaining 238,700 children have one parent ceremoniously cut completely and suddenly from their life — often being punished, either emotionally or physically, by the “custodial parent” if they ask to continue to see the removed parent.

In addition, based on statistics provided by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare (and gathered by Left-Behind Parent: John Gomez):

From 1992 to 2009, there have been 7,449 divorces between an American and a Japanese in Japan.
Of those Americans, 6,208 were men, and 1,241 were women.
According to the statistics, there is, on average, one child per divorce in Japan

So when you take 7,449 divorces (each with an average of 1 child based on the above statistics) and use Professor Tanase’s 2.6% estimate (which should be expected to be higher than would actually apply to foreign parents), that leaves you with approximately 7,255 children of US citizens (just counting data up to 2009) that are being denied access to their US parent…

http://www.debito.org/?p=9402

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4) CRN: Left Behind Parents launch expert witness, consulting services to prevent International Parental Abduction

CRN: Now offering assistance to those with cases of Parental Abduction. Over 50 years combined experience.

PASS provides testimony in order to educate the courts, and put “safe-guards” into place to protect children from being wrongfully removed from the USA. Effective testimony can assist parents in their court cases by educating attorneys and judges about the risks of parental abduction and the dangers associated with it. PASS assists you in making sure that high risk cases are carefully examined by the courts. When needed PASS assists the courts in implementation of supervised visitation and port closure to protect at risk youth.

Testimony includes –
● Training courts on the factors that indicate an individual is likely to commit an international child abduction
● Assisting Judges in assessing the degrees of the risk of international child abduction
● Presenting arguments regarding the sufficiency proposed custody order in preventing a potential international child abduction
● Supplying Data on the likelihood that a foreign country will return an abducted child, and / or allow continued visitation

http://www.debito.org/?p=9432

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5) MOFA invites public comment on Japan re the Hague Convention on Child Abductions, until Oct 31

MOFA: From Friday, September 30, to Monday, October 31, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will invite public comments on the modality of the Central Authority for the implementation of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (The Hague Convention).

The details will be made available on the electronic government (e-GOV) web portal for public comments (http://search.e-gov.go.jp/servlet/Public).

Based on the Cabinet Approval of Friday, May 20, to move forward with the preparations toward the conclusion of the Hague Convention, the Government of Japan has been taking necessary steps for the aforementioned preparations as well as the drafting of the necessary domestic legislation (The Ministry of Justice is responsible for compiling the whole bill and drafting the aspects related to the procedures for return of children , while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for drafting the aspects related to the functions of the Central Authority).

The proposal put up for public comments by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs includes issues for further consideration, based on the points approved by the Meeting of Relevant Ministers regarding the Hague Convention as well as the discussions held so far at the meetings of the Round Table on the Modality of the Central Authority for the Implementation of the Hague Convention to date.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9435

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SEX! YES, SEX!

6) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column Sept 6, 2011, “‘Sexlessness’ wrecks marriages, threatens nation’s future”

Japan Times: In its cover story last month, The Economist newsmagazine looked at the issue of “Asia’s lonely hearts: Why Asian women are rejecting marriage and what that means.” It offered many reasons — including economics, education level, changes in family structures and gender roles, divorce difficulties, and demographics — for why many Asian women (and of course, by extension, Asian men) are marrying later or not at all.

I commend The Economist’s well-intentioned attempt at dealing with an important social issue. But its discussion left one major stone unturned: sex.

At the risk of turning this month’s scribbling into a Hugh Hefner column, I think it incumbent upon those of us planning a life in Japan to consider a fundamentally unhealthy social phenomenon: how sexuality in Japan is downplayed, if not encouraged to be omitted completely, from many married lives.

First, an axiom: Healthy adults have sex throughout their lives, and this should not necessarily change just because people get married.

However, in Japan it often does…

http://www.debito.org/?p=9343

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7) DEBITO.ORG POLL: “For Readers married to a Japanese, how often on average do you have sex with your spouse?”

At the suggestion of one of our Debito.org Readers, following my most recent Japan Times column on the subject of sexuality in Japan, I have created a DEBITO.ORG POLL (see right hand column under my book illustration) asking:

“For Readers married to a Japanese, how often on average do you have sex with your spouse?”

The options are:

===============================
More than once a week.
About once a week.
Less than once a week but more than once a month.
About once a month.
Less than once a month.
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If this poll applies to you, please vote. Your answers strictly confidential, of course. We’ve had more than 300 responses so far, and the results are quite enlightening.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9345

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8 ) “The Douzo Effect”: One case study of a sexless marriage in Japan, by SexyLass

SexyLass writes: So we were married. After a short honeymoon in Australia we went back to Japan and we never had sex again unless I insisted on it or initiated it. It was demoralising. It was shameful. Even in the first week of marriage I found strange messages on his phone of meeting rendezvous arrangements between him and various people. I thought they were potential girlfriends but in hindsight I think they must have been prostitutes. I confronted him and said I wanted an annulment. I didn’t care anymore and even told his parents about it, his parents screamed at him and he never did it again. Looking back I should have relied on my instinct. If you feel something is wrong in your relationship, well it is. If you think your partner is playing up, they generally are, what you feel is not imaginary.

It was like a prison sentence, not a marriage. I felt like I was in a sexual prison. The life sentence was that I would never have sex again with my husband but not with anyone else either because in the hope that things could get better I chose to be faithful to this man. I would get angry about it, then I would argue with him, then he would do something nice for me, take me out or buy me a present or tell me that he loved me. Each time he convinced me to stay in the marriage with him for love. This pattern continued for years. I would get angry and confront him and he’d convince me to stay, then I would calm down for a while always hoping for the best, thinking that one day our marriage might become slightly sexually normal. By normal I mean possibly we might have sex once a year or once every six months. I know now that if things don’t start out as you’d like they are not going to change into what you would like. I really seem to need to learn the hard way…

http://www.debito.org/?p=9352

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ISSUES OF POLITICS, PUBLIC EXPRESSION, MEDIA, RHETORIC, AND SOCIAL CONTROL

9) FCCJ No.1 Shimbun: “Nothing has changed”, my article on J media blind spots towards NJ residents over the past quarter century

No.1 Shimbun: In the quarter century I have been examining the treatment of foreigners in both the English and vernacular media, I have seen little improvement. In fact, in many ways it’s gotten worse. The foreign element has been increasingly portrayed as the subterfuge that will undermine Japanese society. To crib from a famous book title, Japan has become not only the “system that soured,” but also the “media that soured.”

When I first got here in the mid-1980s, at the start of Japan’s bubble era, non-Japanese (NJ) were seen as quirky “misunderstood outsiders,” treated with bemusement for their inability to understand “Japan’s unique culture.” NJ were here to help Japan learn English and internationalize itself into its hard-earned echelon as a rich country in the international community. After all, Japan had just surpassed the per-capita gross domestic product of its mentor — the United States — so the media was preparing the public for Japan’s new role as oriental ambassador to the West…

The next phase, which has essentially continued to the present day, overtly began on April 9, 2000, when recently elected archconservative Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara made his famous “Sangokujin” speech. He claimed that some NJ were “repeatedly committing heinous crimes,” and called for the Self-Defense Forces to round up NJ in the event of a natural disaster as they would (unprecedentedly) riot. Even in light of the Tohoku disasters, where this has been proven as utterly false, there has been no amendment or retraction. But this speech emboldened Japan’s reactionaries (particularly its police, fortified by its new internal “Policymaking Committee Against Internationalization”) to see rampant NJ bashing as politically viable…

In sum, the “blind spot” of Japanese media is that hardly any of it treats NJ as actual residents, with needs, concerns, and a stake in Japan. Local media do give spots on how NJ community events are faring, with the occasional update on social problems facing stricken foreign families. But that generally happens in areas with “high” concentrations of registered NJ residents (around 10% of total local population, achieved in increasingly fewer places as the NJ population drops). Rarely does NJ community news leak into more national arenas (unless, of course, it concerns foreign crime). Hardly anywhere in the Japanese-language media is a constant “voice” or venue granted to NJ regulars to offer an alternative viewpoint of life in Japan. (Please note, and this is not meant as a criticism, but tarento regulars like Dave Spector are first and foremost entertainers, rarely spokespeople for minorities, and foreign tarento have in fact visibly declined in number compared to their bubble era heyday.) Thus, unabashed bashing of NJ in the Japanese media goes unanswered without check or balance.

Have things improved since March 11?…

http://www.debito.org/?p=9372

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10) NJ topic du jour: Yomiuri, Mainichi, Nikkei pile on re free papers ads encouraging NJ “criminal behavior”, deemed “criminal infrastructure”

Related to my FCCJ article above, we have the J-media now piling on about “harmful ads in the free newspapers aimed at foreigners”, encouraging criminal behavior. This is a national issue of course (as I argued before, articles/campaigns about foreign crime take priority, even drown out good news (or any news) about NJ residents in Japan), and essentially the same article becomes common to the major papers (submitter JK sends the Yomiuri, Mainichi, and Nikkei).

JK comments: I find it odd that on the one hand, the NPA is focused on ads in free papers enticing foreigners to perform criminal acts, whereas on the other hand, the NPA has, to my knowledge, yet to report on the number of pachinko parlors that paid out tokens / goods to players which were converted into cash (read: gambling, a criminal act!). To me, it’s obvious that the NPA is being selective in investigating potential criminal acts because in the case of the ads in the free papers, NJ are specifically involved.”

Yomiuri: Many ads encouraging criminal behavior such as working illegally and entering into fake marriages have been carried by free newspapers aimed at foreigners, according to a police survey.

The survey, conducted by the National Police Agency in May and June, said 736 harmful ads were found in papers distributed in commercial and entertainment districts around the nation.

The NPA will ask publishers of free papers not to run ads encouraging criminal activity. It also may pursue criminal charges against publishers allowing such ads to appear in their papers.

Mainichi adds: The NPA has named the services and means of communication that promote crimes as “crime infrastructure.”

http://www.debito.org/?p=9377

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11) Allegations of more rough stuff from Rightist Zaitokukai against anti-nuclear demos, yet anti-nuclear demonstrators get arrested

There have been demonstrations against nuclear power recently in Japan (one in Tokyo that at one estimate attracted 60,000 demonstrators). And of course there have counter-demonstrations against the demonstrations. However, one group, claimed to be Zaitokukai in a video below (with its own history of violent and property-damaging demonstrations) gave exhortations to police to inflict violence on the anti-nuke protesters (if not getting rough with the protesters themselves). Yet as usual the Japanese police do not arrest or hinder the Rightists, instead taking action against the Leftists — arresting two in the following video. One Japanese woman and one French man. The two arrested offer their account of what happened here. FCCJ Press Conference on this issue today, along with an eyewitness account of the demonstration from the H-Japan listserv reproduced below.

FCCJ: Are the Japanese police trying to silence political dissent through a systematic campaign of intimidation against the young in particular? Are the democratic rights to protest being observed in practice by those who claim to be protecting Japan’s social order? This event is an opportunity to reflect upon these crucial issues.

Scholars, writers and political analysts have issued a joint statement denouncing police suppression of the September 11 rally. The harsh measures against a peaceful protest may have enormous implications for the future in Japan.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9424

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12) Discussion: JK on the oversimplistic panacea of slogan “Ganbare Nippon/Tohoku” etc.

JK: I’ve been pondering the following question — “If I had to boil down the essence of what it is to be Japanese using a single expression, what would it be?”.

My answer is “Ganbare”.

And the situation in Kamaishi-shi epitomizes this.

Brief synopsis of Kamaishi-shi: it is 90% mountains and 10% flat land — the former is basically a glorified fishing village that was wiped out by the March tsunami.

I did some research, and it turns out that this place has been flattened by tsunami, not once, not twice, but three times prior to 2011 (specifically, 1896, 1933, and 1968).

The city council is floating various reconstruction plans, but…

http://www.debito.org/?p=9383

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13) Japan Times HAVE YOUR SAY Column offers reader feedback to my Aug. 6 JBC column on how difficult it seems to make long-term Japanese friends

Here are some comments from Japan Times readers regarding my August JUST BE CAUSE column, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Foreigner”, how difficult it seems to make long-term Japanese friends. Good stuff within, as well as the prerequisite hate mail. A friend commented that I’d probably still get hate mail if I posted a cure for cancer!

http://www.debito.org/?p=9366

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14) Best review yet of my novel IN APPROPRIATE (and no, the reviewer does not rave about the book)

The thing a writer likes most, aside from (hopefully) the craft of writing itself, is to be read. The second thing is, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, is praise. But praise (or even agreement) is a huge luxury in my field. This is why whenever I put something on the market (as I have with six other books), I hope that reviewers, if they give a negative review, will at least do me the courtesy of reviewing the book, not the author. But in this small literary corner (i.e., books in English on Japan) where we have very few rewards (or awards) for quality, having a professional review one’s book professionally is also a huge luxury.

That’s why I’m pleased to mention Amanda Harlow’s review of my most recent book, novel “IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan”, which came out on the Being A Broad website last month. She doesn’t really dig the book. But she actually DOES talk about the book both in terms of content and context, and offers ways in which the book might have in her opinion been better. The job of the reviewer is not simply to say what’s right or wrong about any work, but also to suggest improvements — offer the creator something he or she could learn from this experience to put into the next effort. Amanda does this, and I thank her for it…

It’s a pretty nasty world out there, and it’s easy to be a critic. It’s harder to be a good critic, and people like Amanda Harlow I would like to salute and thank for a critique well done, even if she didn’t like the book much. I of course don’t agree with all her assessments, but I think this review is fair and I can learn something from it.

http://www.debito.org/?p=9360

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… and finally…

15) Japan Times guest column: “Top 10 most useless Japanese Prime Ministers” (I contribute Murayama)

I was invited two weeks ago to contribute a bio of who I thought was one of Japan’s “most useless” Prime Ministers. I was surprised to find that Murayama was not taken. So here’s my writeup (#5, ordered by when they held office). There are nine other biographies done by some very knowledgable writers and observers of Japan, so have a read of them at the Japan Times from this link here. Enjoy!

JT: Short tenures, imprudent public statements, poor character judgment, weakness under pressure — when we think of useless prime ministers, all this seems like standard operating procedure. However, Tomiichi Murayama’s particular brand of uselessness was peerless. Essentially, everything he touched turned to sh-te.

It’s not as if Murayama had a hard act to follow. His predecessor, Tsutomu Hata, only lasted two months, and was most famous for arguing (when agriculture minister) that beef imports were unnecessary because Japanese have long intestines.

But Murayama was a case study in gutless leadership. His pattern of playing evasive games with the media and the Diet served him poorly during 1995’s Kobe quake, when it took him a day to recognize the disaster and send assistance — and several days more before he even visited the site.

Even potentially notable acts stunk. Murayama’s general apology for Imperial war atrocities was caveated into meaninglessness by both sides of the political spectrum, not to mention overseas observers. He barely developed a concrete platform beyond the perpetual narrow-focus leftist issues (the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution), while ironically giving even more power to the already very-powerful Japanese police (through the Anti-Subversive Activities Act, a reaction to the Tokyo sarin gas attacks).

He was the first Socialist Party prime minister, and the last. Having made a Faustian bargain to take the top job, he then proceeded to sell his party’s soul so blatantly that in his wake the Socialists were moribund and fractured. He proved to Japan’s voters that the left cannot govern, putting the corrupt Liberal Democrats back in power for 13 more years.

No other PM can be credited with setting back Japan’s development into a two-party democracy while killing his own party in the process. Yet. For that, he gets my vote not only as Japan’s most useless, but also its flat-out worst postwar prime minister.

The other nine Most Useless Japanese Prime Ministers can be found on the Japan Times at

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110927zg.html

Comments on this entry at http://www.debito.org/?p=9419

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All for now. Thanks for reading!

ARUDOU Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org, twitter arudoudebito)

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER OCTOBER 3, 2011 ENDS

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