Japan. Japan entered a fairly quiet phase during the year. The economy – the second largest in the world – stabilized and the banks, which have been shaken by the Asian economic crisis and difficulties in recovering so-called bad loans since the 1990s, were again willing to give credit. GDP grew by 2% and, according to joint analysts, Japan can look forward to several years of stable growth if nothing drastic occurs.
According to CountryAAH, major public holidays in Japan include Independence Day (April 29) and New Year (January 1). Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was replaced in September by the successor he himself elected, 51-year-old Shinzo Abe, also he from Japan’s dominant party, the Liberal Democratic Party, and known as quite conservative. Abe refused to reveal whether he intended to follow in Koizumi’s footsteps and continue the criticized visits to the Yasukuni Temple in Tokyo, which have been erected in memory of Japan’s war dead – among them several convicted and executed war criminals. However, he has been there several times before he became head of government. The representative’s annual visit has upset neighboring countries China and South Korea, which were severely affected by Japan’s invasions in the 20th century. Koizumi had decided that it was time to leave. The support that both the LDP and Parliament gave Abe can be seen as confirmation of the success that the charismatic Koizumi achieved during his reign.
During the year, royalist Japanese were pleased that the emperor’s family received a male supplement. A boy was born on September 6 by Princess Kiko. Dad is Prince Akishino, younger brother of Crown Prince Naruhito. Naruhito and his wife Masako have daughter Aiko but no son. Female succession had been debated, but the debate was broached in the traditionally bound Japan with the birth of little Hisahito.
A growing problem was North Korea’s provocative policy. In early July, North Korea launched seven robots landing in the sea off Japan On July 15, the United Nations adopted a resolution aimed at North Korea. That did not stop the Stalinist country from carrying out a new provocation on October 9 – its first explosion of a nuclear charge. The result was a new resolution on October 14 in the UN Security Council with decisions on punitive measures against the Pyongyang regime. Japan was one of the countries that wanted to go the longest. Tokyo banned North Korean vessels from entering Japanese ports and severed trade relations. The North Korean Nuclear Test sparked a debate in Japan about the possibility of acquiring nuclear weapons – a topic that has been almost taboo since the US nuclear bombs against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Prime Minister Abe admitted he believes the constitution allows Japan to have such weapons for self-defense, but stressed that the country should remain nuclear-free. By contrast, Abe wants to change the constitution, which was then imposed on the then heavily militarized Japan by the United States at the end of the war. It prohibits Japan from having military forces. But Tokyo has interpreted the text so that self-defense is allowed. Now the Japanese military and LDP want to expand the military’s role. Among other things, the possibility of a robotic defense against possible North Korean attacks is discussed.
Also at the summit of APEC, the Pacific Cooperation’s Economic Cooperation Organization, in Hanoi on November 17-18, North Korea became the main subject. The meeting was attended by Abe, President George W. Bush, President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Hu Jintao.
Pyongyang was asked to participate in six-party talks with the United States, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan But in November, the communist regime demanded that the Japanese be excluded because they are “politically imbecile” as they do not recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapon.
An approximation was noticed between Japan, China and South Korea after Abe’s entry, although it was about small steps. The Prime Minister traveled to Beijing and Seoul, and an agreement was reached with Beijing to resume high-level military meetings after three years’ stay.
The US massive presence in Japan has long disturbed its citizens, especially in the south where Okinawa houses about 47,000 American soldiers. On April 24, Japan and the United States finally agreed to move 8,000 of them to the American island of Guam.
Japan’s support for the US alliance in Iraq in the form of 600 soldiers working on reconstruction ceased with the take-home in July of all Japanese soldiers. The home opinion was always strongly opposed to participation in Iraq. Not a single soldier was injured – however, several other Japanese were killed.
Relations with Russia were disturbed by the conflict over some islands in the Kuriles. A fisherman on a Japanese crab fishing vessel was shot dead by the Russian coastguard in August.
Japan’s hunting for dolphins and whales are concerned about environmental activists and animal friends. In January, Greenpeace accused a Japanese whaling vessel of hitting its Arctic Sunrise in the Pacific. However, no human was injured. Greenpeace accused the Japanese of catching whales in a protected area.
LDP regime towards the downfall
After the election, Koizumi made an unexpected statement: After five years in power, he would retire in the fall of 2006. Shinzo Abe took over the prime minister’s post. The new LDP government soon became embroiled in domestic political scandals. The result was a historic defeat in the July 2007 general election: For the first time since 1955, the LDP lost the majority. With Japan’s Democratic Party (DPJ) at the forefront, the opposition could now block the LDP government’s decision.
After the 2005 general election, however, the LDP, together with the coalition partner Nye Komeito, occupied more than two-thirds of the suburbs. The LDP could thus, in turn, overturn the House’s decision. In this group, where each of the major parties dominated each chamber, the political system went into lockdown. The monkey government emerged as the lamb of action.
Shifting, weak governments (2007–2014)
Following the election failure, Abe abruptly resigned as prime minister in September 2007. He had then tried in vain to renew Japan’s support for US operations in Afghanistan: refueling of US Navy vessels in the Indian Ocean. By virtue of its newly won majority in the upper house, the opposition could now block the government’s proposal for continued support. On November 1, the Japanese naval vessels, a destroyer and a supply ship, set course for their homeland. However, after a two-month break, they were back in the Indian Ocean. The situation was very special: For the first time since 1951, the government used its two-thirds majority House to overturn the House’s decision to recall the vessels.
Like Shinzo Abe, opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa also came in severe weather. After the general election, he was honored for the biggest domestic political shake in many years. Many now believed Japanese politics would now be concentrated on two major parties, with Ozawa’s center-left-oriented DPJ as a hard-hitting challenger to the conservative LDP. But contrary to his own election promises, he entered into collaborative discussions with LDP – and stirred up revolts in his own ranks. Ozawa resigned as party leader, regretted and then regained the leadership – with diminished prestige. The moderately-conservative LDP veteran Yasuo Fukuda took over the prime minister post after Abe. While Abe, who declared a nationalist, wanted to change the “pacifist constitution” and give Japanese military freer armies during foreign missions, Fukuda followed a more cautious line. During a growing economic crisis, Fukuda resigned on September 1, 2008. Successor Taro Aso became Japan’s third head of government in just one year.
Except for a period of 11 months in 1993, the LDP had held the government uninterrupted for over 50 years. Since Koizumi’s relatively long period (2001–2006), party support has dropped dramatically. LDP was more divisive than ever after persistent factional struggles. Internal scandals and frequent leadership changes led the party to a bottom level ahead of the 2009 election campaign. around the party finances.
As a fresh DPJ chairman, Yukio Hatoyama led the party to a historic victory in the August 2009 general election: DPJ took 308 of the 480 seats, compared to just 112 in the 2005 election. The formerly sovereign LDP, on the other hand, was almost demolished by the constituency and had its mandate reduced from 302 to 119. The roles of the two major Japanese parties were swiftly changed.
Rising unemployment was one of the central themes of the election campaign and will be a challenge for an unproven DPJ government. The center-left-oriented DJP was generous with election promises about greater focus on health, families with children and the elderly. The party advocated for tax cuts, especially for small businesses, and will remove the toll systems. This will counteract an increasing tendency for temporary employment in the companies. Foreign policy, the new government wants a solid but less reverent relationship with the United States. Japan’s support for the Afghanistan War (refueling of US naval fuel) is ending.
The proportion of women in the Lower House was nine per cent after the 2014 election. This is a marginal decline since the 2009 election, and the gender balance has been the subject of criticism.