Friday, November 30, 2012

Japanese Politics: Less Than 3 Weeks to Voting, a New Party Is Capturing the Hearts of Anti-Nuclear Citizens

The Japanese love hopium, and no amount of radioactive cesium would change that.

What kind of hopium this time? Bright future for Japan of course.

What future? you may ask. Let's see...

「卒原発(脱原発)」 - graduate from nuclear power
「活女性、こども」 - happy women and children
「守暮らし」 - protect people's living
「脱増税」 - move away from tax increase
「脱官僚」 - move away from bureaucrats
「誇外交」 - proud foreign policy

What are they? They are the 6 key policies of the new party headed by the female governor of Shiga Prefecture (pictured below, right) which have been rapidly joined by just about every minor political parties except for Japan Communist Party, Social Democratic Party, and New Japan.

If you read Japanese, you see that they use a peculiar way of creating the word. It's almost like the word order for Chinese. I don't even know how to pronounce the second, third, and sixth policies. (Boy do I smell a PR agency...)

Even Mr. Ozawa's party, People's Living First Party, have quickly dissolved itself and eagerly joined Ms. Yukiko Kada's new party, named "日本未来の党" (Japan's Future Party; my translation not their official English name).

Japan's Future Party. For the future where everyone will be able to have hope. (So says the card Ms. Kada is holding in the photo above.)

With less than 3 weeks to the election, politicians have been scrambling to get organized and get some traction with the voters. Almost all of them were caught off guard by Prime Minister Noda's declaration on November 14 that he would dissolve the Lower House and call the election on December 16, one-year anniversary of his declaration of "cold shutdown state".

I don't know anything about Ms. Kada, other than she was a scholar and university researcher before she became the governor of Shiga Prefecture in western Japan (Kansai region). In the news earlier this year, she made a minor news headline when she said she had had no choice but to say yes to the restart of Ooi Nuclear Power Plant because of the pressure from local businesses in Shiga Prefecture who were afraid of potential damage from the rolling blackout.

When I first saw her photo, I thought she was the mayor of Yokohama City who couldn't pass up a bargain of cheap domestic beef after March 11, 2011 and kept feeding school children with her bargain meat. That's not a very good association, but that's what I thought on seeing the photo.

Anti-nuclear people, particularly women, are excited. Now there is an anti-nuclear, "third" party! instead of the boy-wonder's party (the boy-wonder did suddenly declare he was for moving away from nuclear power). And it's headed by a woman! Future, the bright future!

So they dream on, gazing into distance expectantly (just like Panasonic's homepage photo), while ignoring things like:

  • Highly contaminated dirt on the roadside in Kanto and Tohoku;

  • Food contaminated with radioactive cesium sold all over Japan;

  • Refugees from the nuclear accident still living in an abandoned high school building more than 20 months after the accident;

  • Fukushima I Nuke Plant workers continue to get exposed to high radiation, with low pay and no benefit and no free cancer checkups;

  • Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident is not "over"; and politically

  • Ms. Kada has been an ally of the boy-wonder mayor of Osaka City;

  • Her party's deputy president will be Tetsunari Iida, who was an advisor to the boy-wonder and who ran for the governorship in Yamaguchi and utterly failed.

Reality? What is that? Reality-based world is so passe and boring, too many details, too much information!

I am disappointed that Mr. Ozawa throws his party behind the dreamy future with this new party without first addressing any of the problems caused by the nuclear accident (and to an equal degree, by the earthquake and tsunami), particularly when it was Mr. Ozawa who had declared that stopping radioactive materials coming out of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant and ending the nuclear accident was the first and foremost priority for Japan as a nation, and until that was done, there would be no future for Japan.

Well, he caved, it seems. Ms. Kada says Mr. Ozawa will have no official role in her new party.

Dream on, Japan, as that seems to be about the only thing you can handle.


I'm reading the details of the six core policies of Japan's Future Party, and I don't think I like the details which include:

  • Create the Japanese version of NSC (National Security Council) against terrorism;

  • Actively promote free-trade associations;

  • Delegate local control of the national government to [unelected] supra-regional political unions [like the one in Kansai]

  • 312,000 yen per year subsidy per child [and where does that money come from?]

Their energy policy is nothing but what Mr. Iida has been promoting.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, people suck.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of dreaming on...

"Well, he caved, it seems. Ms. Kada says Mr. Ozawa will have no official role in her new party."

Suuuure. Ms. Kada was approached about the idea by the Iwate governor, a long-time Ozawa ally, Ozawa and Kamei have been working to hatch something for the past three months, most of the people in the party are Ozawa loyalists, the idea to dissolve the Ozawa Party and join hers was publicly expressed just hours after her announcement, Ozawa's party was running at about 1.5-2% in the polls, Ozawa has pulled the strings without an official role before, and he knows that if he takes an official role this party is dead in the water.

A vote for this party is a vote for Ozawa.In fact, it's really his party. Ms. Kada is just a token, or as Ozawa likes to say, a light mikoshi.

Speaking of dreaming, NHK released a poll last week about the issues citizens are most interested in. No nuclear power came in well behind the economy (30+) at around 9%.

And this is the same Iida who couldn't win in Yamaguchi at the height of the anti-nuclear hysteria.

So, now you've got Ozawa, Kamei, and the leftist greens in your corner. Have fun!

Maju said...

What's the stand of the Communist Party? I don't know much about them but they seem reasonably intelligent in general. What's their stand on nuclear energy and the Fukushima catastrophe? All I know is that they were part of the no-confidence motion against Noda in August.

Is CPJ the only realistic option or are they also pro-nuclear?

Anonymous said...

Is there another "major" party against the continuation of nuclear power?
Because it is better to have a policy against it than to have a policy to continue with it, knowing that the chances it blow up again are 100%.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, actually it is quite common in democratic countries ( although may-be not in the US, as far as I know, for plenty of reasons- the major one beeing the run for money - but I might be wrong here) that some parties pop up and seem to gain momentum, picking ideas from here and there, and actually lead to nothing, as they're no real alternative and have no real insight into the very difficult thing that is to actually lead a country.
(I would not want to do such a job ! - just as well as I could not...)
Wait a little and all this will be out of sight.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Maju, Japan's Communist Party is anti-nuclear, and has been. Their party paper has been one of the few that actually report the details of the accident, contamination, etc.

Social Democrats are anti-nuclear.

VyseLegendaire said...

On one hand it seems hopeful that a new party might have a chance to gain power against the entrenched crap parties. But on the other hand, the formation of this party reeks of behind the scenes deals, and their policies are borderline proto-fascist and spell an end to civil liberties, much like has been the trend in Europe and North America.

In that case, they're a shoe-in – the more unrealistic your rhetoric and the more blatant your corruption, the higher likelihood of your victory at the polls, as evidenced well by Mr. Obama's second victory.

Maju said...

"Maju, Japan's Communist Party is anti-nuclear, and has been. Their party paper has been one of the few that actually report the details of the accident, contamination, etc".

Then I'd suggest to choose them. Coherence should pay and it's clear that the excessive power of Capitalist corporate interests is anyhow part of the problem (in Japan, admittedly not in the USSR where the corporation was a totalitarian bureaucracy).

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Vyse, that's quite fitting for a country where 86% of citizens adore US prez Obama because he is not white, and believes any Japanese policy that are in line with that of the US, under the Obama administration, is "right wing".

Very predictably, the faithful of this new party are busy shooting down tweets criticizing their beloved party in any way, saying "We must not criticize the party, because that's what the Japanese mass media wants us to do! We should focus only on electing them to power!"

Anonymous said...

You have the media entertainment factor correct to help elect any clown possible but O'Bummer only won the popular vote by a couple million votes, hardly a mandate for his policies (whatever those are). And he is neither white or black but both, half and half so, looks can be deceiving and manipulated.

All US funding bills originate in the House of Representatives and Republicans held that house and could, if they wanted to, not vote to fund any policies they don't like thus leaving the Senate out of the picture but alas no guts no glory.

Elections come down to corruption lately aided by corporate money and media exposure or lack of it.

Citizens lean towards the status quo, good or bad, because change is not in a passive people's vocabulary.

Scott said...

Thank you for writing about the recent fractionalization of parties. Now I better understand that it's really not much to be excited about. :( But playing Devil's advocate would the new Mirai no To handle running the country any worse off than both the LDP, DPJ, or God forbid the Nihon Isshin no Kai?

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Scott, the answer is probably yes, simply because of Murphy's Law - Anything that can possibly go wrong will go wrong.

None of the parties have "to-do" lists and are ready to get down to work. All they have is so-called "manifesto". Devil's in the details, as they say.

Beppe said...

@anpontan Antinuclear hysteria??? Are the recent news of 3000 Bq/kg mushrooms from as far away from Fukushima as Aomori, Nagano and Shizuoka hysteria? Or 80 Bq/kg tea from Kumamoto (as far as you can get from Fuku-1 on mainland Japan)?
Mr. Iida run a very short campaign in Yamaguchi and, although he did not win, he achieved very good results. However 10 years to "graduate" from nuclear power is quite long; will the next earthquake graciously wait this long?

Unfortunately Communists and social democrats are the only one advocating zero npp now... How come no one is talking about cutting the 500 trillion yen yearly subsidies to nuclear power now? What are we waiting to have Tepco sell its distribution grid? Why don't we allow owners of Tokyo Gas' Enefarm cogeneration appliances to sell electricity to Tepco at the same price they buy it (22 yen/kwh)?

Anonymous said...

I don't even know what this "graduation" from nuclear power mean. Probably just to differentiate themselves fashionably, but not of substance.

Another thing that doesn't sit well with me is Mr. Iida's total silence about disaster debris burning in Osaka. He submitted a letter of protest when Kitakyushu City started burning, but he has said nothing about the burning in Osaka City. I guess he can't diss his former employer.

Anonymous said...

Hey Beppe where did you get the data on Kumamotos tea with 80bq per kg ? any link ?

Anonymous said...

@1:41 Sorry, it was Kagoshima. Source is Greenpeace, on their Fukushima update of Nov 20th. Also apologies but I can't copy paste a link because iPhone refuses to paste in this text box :( -- and I refuse to type it in manually...

Anonymous said...

Beppe, thanks .. i found a link about it, 80 bq per kg in kagoshima, i cant work it out maybe it was mixed with tea from saitama or shizuoka... blended or mislabelled or something ... i have fallout data for kyushu and it seems very little hit here .... no more green tea for me ...

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Beppe and anon about green tea in Kagoshima, Greenpeace is wrong on its explanation. It's 80Bq/kg from dry tea leaves. 10Bq/kg standard is for brewed tea. If you brew tea with 80Bq/kg of cesium in dry leaves, it would be anything from 0.8 to 1.6Bq/kg in brewed tea.

The Citizens' Nuclear Information Center that conducted the test says it doubts that the tea was all grown in Kagoshima, (where there was almost zero fallout from Fukushima), because as long as 50% of the blend is from Kagoshima they can claim it is tea made in Kagoshima.

Original CNIC report, for those who read Japanese:

Anonymous said...

I think this is the Greenpeace page Beppe mentioned I can't find the tea story but the other stories are just as troubling.

Not only are the mushrooms testing higher than last year but they are also being found in areas that tested clean last year. This means not only is the contamination concentrating it is spreading (or officials lied about the original contamination levels). The experts are at a loss to find an explanation for the increase but ask any plumber and they'll know the answer, shit rolls down hill. This isn't just contamination washing off trees and leaves it is also all the decomposing leaves. If contamination could just be rinsed off surfaces with fresh water decontamination would be a breeze. Without surfactants and pressure only a small fraction of the contamination rinses off many materials (even after repeated rinsing). Also, any washout would just go into the soil the trees are being fertilized with contamination which will help perpetuate the contamination cycle. The Mycelium or vegetative portion of mushrooms is well suited to concentrating nutrients mixed with contamination from decomposing leaves and surrounding soil this in turn concentrates contamination in the Mycelium's fruit (the mushroom. When this process is used for bioremediation it is know as Mycoremediation the problem is you have to collect and store ALL the contaminated fruit for it to work. It would be ridiculously expense to collect all the wild mushrooms in the region and treat them like waste. This is why unrestricted burying of contaminated ash under a certain level is a bad idea it will probably come back to bite everyone in their local mushroom tempura.

"Last year, only wild mushrooms picked in Fukushima Prefecture were found to have cesium levels that exceeded legal standards.

This year, however, wild mushrooms from as far away as Aomori, Nagano and Shizuoka prefectures, all more than 200 kilometers from Fukushima, have been found to be contaminated with cesium."

"A 42-year-old man who works in Towada's tourism industry fretted about the consequences of the ban.

"We are unable to offer mushrooms in tempura or potted stew form that 80 percent of our customers order," he said. "It is taking a heavy toll on business."

He said there are many repeat visitors who crave the opportunity to eat wild mushrooms.

"I also don't want to explain why we can't provide the mushrooms because that could lead to negative publicity that radiation is also a major concern in Aomori," he said."

The guy from Towada's tourism industry is a perfect example of why things will only get worse and I'm sure most of the locals feel the same about bad publicity.

Anonymous said...

my personal policy is that mushrooms (which I love) have very little nutritional value and a high risk associated to them, therefore they have been banned from my family diet -- regardless of their declared provenience. Same goes for green tea -- which I also love :(
A problem with mushrooms is that if you cultivate them on contaminated compost you can obtain contaminated mushrooms even in Okinawa (which happened last year).
Green tea, like anything else, can be mislabeled; the good news is that sales of food from Tohoku are recovering very well so incentive to mislabeling is decreasing.

Anonymous said...

TEPCO failed to respond to dire warning of radioactive water leaks at Fukushima

"Tokyo Electric Power Co. dawdled on measures to prevent leaks of highly radioactive water during the Fukushima nuclear crisis, despite the plant manager’s warning that “we are idly waiting for death.

"It's like my heart could stop at any moment when I think about the water levels," he said. "I request quick installation of a mechanism to monitor water level variations both remotely and accurately."

But Ichiro Takekuro, a senior official at the head office, only gave a halfhearted response.

"I think we will probably be able to discuss things tomorrow, including setting really concrete goals," he said."

"We have confirmed a worst-case situation," a plant official said. "Water with very high radiation levels, exceeding 1,000 millisieverts per hour, is flowing into the sea."

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the end of the Who song titled "We won't get fooled again"

"Meet the New Boss
Same as the old Boss"

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Anonymous said...

This is pretty sad the new "anti-nuclear" party hasn't really address many nuclear issues beyond a vague buzzword. This sounds like the "tell people what they want to hear" party how are they going to move away from tax increases when the bills are coming hot and heavy with no end in sight. The government didn't double the consumption tax on a whim there were people who wanted to triple it. Ms. Kada has already shown she can be "forced" into decisions with a little pressure from local businesses. How is she going to deal with powerful national business interest when they apply pressure that can create diamonds? "I wanted to dump nuclear BUT big business wouldn't let me, now hush up and eat your mushrooms".

Speaking of mushrooms if they are restricted in an area that depends on them for seasonal business I'm sure there are lots of uninformed people that are picking their own private seasonal favorite. (Especially when the locals are reluctant to say why mushrooms aren't available). Then there are people like anpontan who would thumb their nose at any suggestion that there is a problem, let's hope those people eat their fill and then some.

Anonymous said...

I would never listen to a person who stretches to speak into a microphone that they are holding.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

I don't think I like her mannerism as she talks about "curriculum" for "graduating from nuclear power" (don't like the curriculum talk either):

JAnonymous said...

Those policies are just jokes. It's kanji with english reading. Takes some, getting used to. I'll help for this time. The six policies, exposed :

「卒原発(脱原発)」 - Sotsu genpatsu (english: So it's genpatsu... means pro-nuclear)
「活女性、こども」 - Katsu josei, kodomo (english: Cat's jaw say : code homo... feed gays to lions ? sound's like old rome)
「守暮らし」 - Mori Kurashi (english: More He Crush... no idea who He is)
「脱増税」 - Datsu Zou Zei (english: Dat's zo they... Pitying the germans for their broke economy [and english accent], while not looking at their own trillions-debt-ridden navel)
「脱官僚」 - Datsu Kan Akira (nope, not Ryou) (english: That's can-Akira... return to cannibalism to literally 'eat' the aging/retirement problem out)
「誇外交」 - Ko Gai Kou (english: Cog-eye Co. ... this one the most dangerous, recalling the name of the company that manufactures replacement eyes with clockwork/digital implements powered by reality distorsion fields. Hopium for everyone)

If Obama is really at 86%, let them write-in Obama. I will be very amused to see how the 51th state fares in the union.

(Oh and please, look at Obama/Romney poll for french people, it's even more ridiculous. Stats somewhere on bbc website)

Anonymous said...

@JAnonymous, what are you on man? take your blathering elsewhere

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