A worrying vibe in Japan

by Chris Zappone

Toru Hashimoto. That’s a name we might hear more in coming weeks. He is the mayor of Osaka. In the current election in Japan, he has aligned with author, nationalist and former mayor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara to form the Japan Restoration Party. They are hoping for a sizable showing in Japan’s elections.

Hashimoto (and Ishihara) wants to turn the page on the endless backroom consensus politics endemic in Japan and “restore” the nation’s pride. Hashimoto is anti-nuclear power but pro- military. He wants to reform parts of Japan’s economy and social state. Oh, yeah, he thinks that to jumpstart Japan’s reform, the nation needs a dictator checked by a legislature, elections, the media. “Politics must be by dictatorship within this balance,” he has said.

And yet, in a country that has been adrift in a world of mainly depoliticised consensus, you can see how his politics may have some allure. His critics call his politics Hashism. Ishihara, for his part, has once denied the Rape of Nanking occured. Much more recently he helped esclate the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute with China.

And look at the linkages.

Politicians who wants to restore Japan’s pride, facing a larger Asian nation/antagonist that by a huge coincidence, wants to reassert its top place in the pecking order in Asia. On the Japanese side there is the feeling of impotence after years of post-war US occupation followed by economic stagnation. For the Chinese, not only is there the deeply held belief that the country is finally assuming its rightful place, there is still a living memory for the atrocities committed by the Japanese against the Chinese.

What could possibly go wrong here?

The JRP is not expected to win a majority although it may place second in the vote. How well it fares will say a lot about the current desire for glory in Japan.