“I have been following Japanese politics for 40-45 years now. Never in my experience, since the post war period, the public has been so united to agree the political system is wrong. Something is going to blow up.” (Gerald L. Curtis, Burgess Professor of Political Science, Columbia University)
Tokyo – 20.07.11
From the mid-1960s, Gerald L. Curtis has been one of the most widely quoted foreign observers of Japanese politics and the author of numerous works on the subject as well as on government and foreign policy. He currently divides his time between Columbia University and Tokyo.
Kan gets a lot of praise from foreigners, and he does deserve credit for not being for nuclear power. “But a leader has to know how to communicate to the public. The problem is he cannot make things happen”. He said on Wednesday, at a press conference in Tokyo.
What Curtis has observed and that is positive in this enormous Japanese political crisis is an emergence of affected local political leaders. “In Tohoku, governor of Miyagi, they have a strategy its like a breeze of fresh air.” Because in Tohoku, people cannot wait that the central government takes decisions.
Curtis said the Japanese central government in Tokyo should transfer money to local governments in order to help them take immediate action. “We’re seeing very local changes and movements, I encourage reporters to spend less time in Tokyo and go visit what is happening at the local level. Listen to the reports of these local politicians.”
In April this year, Kan told Curtis that his plan was to collect ideas and concepts from the Japanese people itself: “kokumin no ironna concept o mochiagete kuru”. According to Mister Curtis, it is the leader who has to come up with the concepts. At this point, what the central government should do is to transfer more power to local governments. “This tragedy in Tohoku is a real opportunity to change the current bureaucratic system”, Curtis said.
Curtis also said that another consequence of the mess in Tokyo is that we never had the private sector to play a big role in humanitarian assistance. The private companies are filling a vacuum left by the authorities’ lack of action: “There is a new emerging sort of activism from the side of the private sector.”
The third positive element is the level of volunteer work. From Tokyo and elsewhere, there have been many young people taking a night bus from Shinjuku on Friday evenings after work and helping the victims in Tohoku region to clear up the debris and the mud, sleeping in tents, and coming back on Sunday evening before starting to work on Monday.
“These are new types of development that are taking place in this country to encounter the central government’s mess.”
Curtis said there is a new type of pride and values emerging from the young people. Nadeshiko Japan has also helped reinforce this view.
Curtis also said, after Prime Minister Kan’s departure, it will be hard to see the next PM getting things done. Too many people in the rival parties want to get their opposition down, the LDP wants to get rid of the DPJ. Cooperation between them seems unlikely to be possible.
“I think the problem is the way the Japanese media cover the politics. They are too rough, and tend to cover “seikyoku” politics, meaning peddy politics. This coverage is all about stirring public emotions, that’s what the Japanese media has done to politics. The media should help the people understand the essential issues.”
“The next PM will have trouble with the energy issue. It’s not a reason to keep Kan in office. I think Japan cannot give up nuke tomorrow! The adjustment will be very huge. A lot of the companies will move to other countries, but it is not a reason to keep Kan in Office.”
“Some ambitious politicians, will need to move beyond nuclear energy. The infected beef cattle is only the beginning of the numerous things we will start to discover. But in terms of nuclear energy policy, there is no going back to before 3.11. Something will have to change in energy policy.”
“The difference with the previous political mess in Japan is that this time there is a disaster. Tohoku cannot wait. But Tohoku is not that important for the Japanese economy. The biggest danger about Tohoku is that people forget them.”
Nathalie & Kyoko