asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Things to come 22 January, 2014

Filed under: news — johnraff @ 2:40 pm
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Japan’s rapidly aging population is a problem that the rest of the world will have to face soon enough, so things like this will probably be coming to a place near you before long. A discussion on the radio this Monday, about how old people suffering from dementia could best be cared for, mentioned a recent court case. As far as I remember it went like this: a 91 year old man was being looked after by his 85 year old wife and their daughter-in-law, who had moved from Yokohama to be near at hand so that the old gentleman would be able to continue living at home in spite of his difficulties. This is exactly the kind of “care in the community” approach that has been generally promoted as being in the best interests of both the individual, who could still live in familiar surroundings with a certain amount of freedom, and the community, who would be saved the cost of a place in a home or hospital.

One day, however, the man came back from his day-care centre and while the daughter-in-law was making a cu of tea he walked out of the front door and disappeared. Later he wandered onto a level-crossing and was killed by a train. On top of their grief, the family were hit by a lawsuit from the train company who had cancelled services, paid for buses for passengers etc etc, and the court ruled that the wife and daughter-in-law had been negligent in their care of the old man and ordered them to pay 7,200,000 yen damages.

So people who sacrifice their own time and efforts to save the country from being saddled with another dependent are rewarded by being held liable for any slip in their work! This outrageous ruling, if it becomes the norm, will mean:

  • Family members will be extremely reluctant to offer to help in looking after relatives with dementia for fear of the being held responsible.
  • Old people will be looked on more and more as a liability and danger, and their ability to contribute to society overlooked.
  • Such peoples’ liberty will be more and more restricted – locked doors, maybe even physical restraint.
  • More and more, the only option will appear to be incarceration in some institution, where the level of care is sometimes horrendous, and at best lacking in the warmth of a family, and at high financial cost either to the family or to the community.

Of course the train company were only claiming their rights under the law, but this whole area obviously needs some rethinking.

 

 

Abe – hiding the truth 7 December, 2013

Filed under: news,people,politics — johnraff @ 2:54 am
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Three Tanukis

Just google “japan secret law” or something, to see that the internet is seething with opposition to the Abe cabinet’s new official secrets bill. With the Diet due to finish this year’s session tomorrow Abe & co. were desperate to push the bill through, and it became law tonight.
There’s not much I can add to the chorus of outrage, except to point out, if you hadn’t noticed, that opposition to this dangerously flawed bill is as strong here in Japan as among nit-picking foreign human rights organizations. Over 50% of the population are opposed to it and a succession of prominent people have spoken out, from TV personalities, famous film directors to a group of Nobel Prize-winning scientists. (Check the links below to see what all the complaints are about.) So, with a good chance of losing his hitherto high support ratings, why was Abe so determined to push this through?

The first strand seems to be defence – the government have just set up a National Security Council-type thing copied from the US, who have been putting some pressure on Japan to tighten up on secrecy if they are going to share anything juicy. After the Snowden revelations everyone’s a bit touchy. This is all about getting closer to the US to resist an increasingly dangerous-looking China, who have done Abe a favour by tightening the pressure over the East China Sea at just the right moment to convince the Japanese public that More Military is needed. Japan has a long post-war history of pacifism, but Abe and his friends have a long history of militaristic nationalism and they seem set to try to undo what was accomplished in the last 60 years. There are more things on their list, like revoking the ban on arms exports so the Japanese arms industry can grow, removing from school textbooks any references to unpleasant episodes like the Nanking massacre or the Comfort Women issue and changing the constitution so as to allow the Japanese army to join in overseas escapades with its US friends. Oh yes, and changing the Japanese Self Defence Force into a “proper army”.

But there are people who say the purpose of the official secrets law goes beyond national defence and security. For a start, anything related to fighting “terrorism” is a candidate for suppression, and the LDP government seem to have a broad definition of terrorism. That slimy Ishiba character referred to demonstrators outside the Diet as being little different from terrorists, and the official definition seems to include anyone who tries to change the way things are being done… Journalists are prime targets and so might be anyone campaigning against government policy. If such a group were rounded up and imprisoned, maybe that fact itself might become an official secret? It’s a genuinely frightening prospect, but not out of the question.

Other topics that the bureaucrats who will administer this secrecy might like to cover up could be any spillage of radioactive materials from the broken Fukushima reactors. People have even hinted that Abe is eager to get this in place to prevent some of his own shady background from coming out.

It’s awful, but this is what Abe is all about, and there’s plenty more where that came from. By the way, have you noticed he hasn’t really done anything to improve the economy yet? It’s all been talk, and the only ones to benefit have been a certain wealthy group in Tokyo. This nationalist agenda is what he really wants to get done. If you’ve read this blog before you may have gathered that I dislike Abe. I think he’s living in a dream world and has the potential to do Japan great harm. This time however he might just have overreached himself. Some people say with three years before he has to face re-election he can afford to sit tight, and people will soon forget it all as they enjoy the benefits of “abenomics”. Others say he might well be headed for a re-run of his last prime ministership in 2006 when he forced unpopular measures through the Diet and ended up resigning in ignominy. You can guess I’m hoping for something like the latter case.

Here are some links if you’d like to read more about all this.

The Daily Beast – Japan’s new Secrets Bill Threatens To Muzzle The Press and Whistleblowers
Shhh. The lights go out for whistleblowers and (possibly) journalists
Japan: Even The Secrecy Bill Briefing Is Secret; Abe-gumi Pushes Ominous Secrecy Bill Towards Law
Japan Times – Japan: The new Uzbekistan of press freedom
Japan Times – State secrecy bill could have a chilling effect on reporting
Bloomberg – Japan’s Secrets Bill Turns Journalists Into Terrorists
New York Times – Secrecy Bill Could Distance Japan From Its Postwar Pacifism
Human Rights Watch – Japan: Amend “Special Secrets” Bill to Protect Public Interest
Independent UN experts seriously concerned
The Diplomat – Japan’s Evolving Security Architecture
A New State Secrecy Law for Japan? 新たな秘密保護法?
Japan Times – Cheer over Reagan’s arrival won’t trickle down to most Japanese

 

Abe, again. 19 December, 2012

Filed under: news,politics — johnraff @ 3:10 pm
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This is just too depressing. Even the LDP didn’t expect this landslide win. They’ve now got a 2/3 majority in the Lower House, if combined with their Komeito allies, enough to force through bills blocked by the Upper house. Enough also, if they can get a similar majority in the Upper house next year, to change the Japanese Constitution…

You can read analyses of the results all over the web, so I won’t (today) go into the possibly unpleasant results of having a right-winger in power and the even more right-wing Renewal Party of Ishihara and Hashimoto standing by to lend a hand, but what possessed the voters to choose this lot? No-one seems to have any expectation that the tired old LDP, still less the recycled Abe, will be able to fix Japan’s problems. There are many such problems, some of them shared with the rest of the world and some uniquely Japanese. Some possibly amenable to a solution, and some basically insoluble. There’s no escaping death and taxes, right?

Part of the reason for this extreme result is the mess of new little parties that sprang up, and the lack of time for them to establish some kind of identity. Many voters just chose a candidate at random. The other big one is that people are just as Fed Up now as they were at the last election, and it’s the turn of the ruling DPJ to get the blame. The economy just gets worse and worse, and the 24% of people who voted for the LDP just hoped they might be able to do something about it.

It remains to be seen if the LDP can actually bring back the Good Old Days. I’m not an economist, and opinions vary as to whether browbeating the Bank of Japan into triggering inflation will improve things or not. What the LDP are more likely to deliver on is some distraction like changing the Self Defence Force into a Self Defence Army, changing the constitution to allow Japanese soldiers to fight on behalf of an ally (the US likes this idea), “doing something” about education (nationalistic indoctrination?), and, last but not least, continuing the use of Nuclear energy. The LDP are the only party not to have promised to phase out nuclear power. The great majority of Japanese don’t want nuclear reactors around (or any of the other things on that list), but the business community want cheap (for now) electricity and of course the power companies who have invested huge sums in nuclear energy want to be able to go on using it.

Even the much-maligned American electorate aren’t so stupid as to elect the party that promises to do the opposite of what they want. Are the LDP as loopy as the current US Republican party? Maybe not quite, but the difference is that they are in power, or will be very soon.

 

The cost of no-nukes? 28 November, 2012

Filed under: news,politics — johnraff @ 1:47 pm
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We’ve had a spate of announced price rises from electricity companies the last few days – first Tokyo, then Osaka and yesterday Kyushu. Not small either, in the region of 10%~20%, and most unwelcome to us consumers and industries alike. The word is that closing down nuclear reactors has meant more use of oil and gas which have to be bought on the increasingly tight world market.

These rises still have to be approved by the government, which will probably trim them down a bit, but there’s a strong message coming out that denuclearization will cost money. A lot of money. Of course this is coming just before an important general election of which the outcome is totally unclear, and in which abandoning nuclear energy is becoming a major issue. It has overwhelming public support and more and more polititians are jumping on this bandwagon in a desperate effort to get re-elected.

Electricity companies, and the business community in general, have invested a lot of money over the years in nuclear power and are strongly opposed to change. Of course burning oil and gas is not a long-term option either, and alternative renewable energy sources will be expensive, especially at first, but the timing of these price rise announcements is rather suspicious…

Kepco’s electricity bill increase has industries worried | The Japan Times Online.

 

Hatoyama gone? 23 November, 2012

Filed under: news,politics — johnraff @ 1:27 pm
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The first DPJ prime minister, who made a mess of pretty much everything, now announces his retirement. Maybe.

‘Alien’ Hatoyama left wacky legacy | The Japan Times Online.

 

A Panda is Born 10 July, 2012

Filed under: news — johnraff @ 2:15 pm
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“We interrupt this programme”, they said the other afternoon, as I was listening to the radio in Raffles’ kitchen, “to bring you a news bulletin.” The Important News was that a baby panda had been born in Ueno Zoo. The next day the street in front of the zoo was full of TV cameras, and since then there have been queues of people lining up in case they might get a glimpse of the 100 gramme scrap of panda-flesh being nursed by its mother. The talk is of a boost to the economy of over 100 million dollars as sales of Panda Goods take off. Panda cakes, panda bread, panda knickknacks…

OK it’s somewhat unusual for pandas to be born in captivity so no doubt the people at Ueno were feeling pleased with themselves but it does all seem a bit over the top. The pandas all belong to China anyway. I doubt they’d make this much fuss if a new member of the Imperial Household was born. A plot to take people’s minds off the less interesting things that are being foisted on them by the establishment? …sigh…

 

Kawamura again 23 February, 2012

Filed under: news,people,politics — johnraff @ 2:21 pm
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Kawamura’s been shooting his mouth off again. As time goes on the total emptiness of this guy’s head becomes more and more obvious. At first his agenda of halving the numbers, and salaries of over-paid city councillors and passing the savings on to us taxpayers seemed to make sort of sense, but a flat tax cut of 5% always looked like a present to the rich, and we still haven’t seen much after 3 years. Now the “tax cut” theme’s running out of steam he’s been looking around for other bandwagons to jump on. Copying Osaka’s Hashimoto, he’s been pushing for a more powerful Nagoya area Local Capital thing. Power To The Regions or something, joining Hashimoto and Tokyo’s Ishihara in an unholy trio of populism, fascism and racism. Now Hashimoto seems quite clever and Ishihara has at least written some books but Kawamura’s just an idiot.

His latest exploit was to deny the Nanking massacre took place, to a visiting Chinese delegation from that city, no less! That atrocities took place in Nanking in 1937 seems to be established beyond doubt – check the Wikipedia for many links to authoritative sources – but Kawamura’s father was there in 1945 and the local people were nice to him, so there couldn’t have been a massacre. Right?

Japan has its share of Nanking deniers, like the Holocaust deniers, but history is history. My own country, Great Britain, was responsible for numerous abuses during the years when our armies walked over the world, but the Japanese can’t use the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as an excuse not to face the truth, any more than the Israelis can justify their oppression of Palestinians by the Holocaust.

The Chinese of course are Not Amused.

 

 
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