Thursday, August 26, 2010

Drama in Japan *add*

add: 08/27/10 the Japanese PM has vowed to take "bold" action against the Yen's appreciation.

I stumbled on this post as I read that Ichiro Ozawa will challenge the current Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan -- they are both of the same ruling DPJ party. Naoto Kan became prime minister just two months ago as the previous DPJ prime minister resigned over the base relocation issue. Apparently, Ichiro Ozawa is very gaffe-prone and Andrew Joyce over at a blog at the WSJ online writes about this.  

Excuse the almost entire cut and paste. 

Step forward, Ichiro Ozawa, the kingpin of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (under investigation for his role in a funding scandal): according to Japanese media (in Japanese), Mr. Ozawa Wednesday referred to Americans as — brace yourselves — “simple-minded”.

“I like Americans, but they tend to be simple-minded,” he said during a speech in the capital, using a Japanese idiom that literally means ‘monocellular’. He also offered some back-handed praise for U.S. democracy: ”I don’t think (Americans) are very wise,” he said, “but I highly rate their ability to put their choices into practice.”

Mr. Ozawa, who may stand for the DPJ presidency (and hence the job of prime minister) in elections next month, also said the election of Barack Obama as the first black U.S. president was something he previously thought “impossible” as he thought a black president “would have been assassinated”.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo declined to comment on the remarks.

This isn’t the first time the party heavyweight has put his foot in it. In November last year, he called Christianity “exclusive and self-righteous” and said that U.S. and European societies were at a “dead end”.

But Mr. Ozawa has some way to go before he can rival some of Japan’s most gaffe-prone politicians from years past, including former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, who used the panic surrounding the mooted millennium computer bug to highlight the differences between Japan and its key ally.

“When there was a Y2K problem, the Japanese bought water and noodles. Americans bought pistols and guns,” Mr. Mori said. “If a blackout happens, gangsters and murderers will come out. It is that kind of society.”
I forget that at times Japan is a pretty large, insular country and that Japan is after all a part of the colorful neighborhood that is Northeast Asia. By the way, I wouldn't at all be surprised if South Koreans made this statement say up until a decade ago. This is after all Northeast Asia. Nonetheless, this entry doesn't mention anything about the super crass former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. I'm guessing the National Organization for Women -- was probably not his biggest fan.

Anyways, Michiyo Nakamoto of FT writes:
The last thing Japan needs with a surging currency and waning economic recovery is more political turmoil. But that is what it is faced with after Ichiro Ozawa, the heavyweight Democratic party politician, decided to challenge prime minister Naoto Kan for the premiership.
It's remarkable that Japan hasn't had a revolution yet. It must be difficult for a country that suffered unimaginable humiliation at the end of World War II and which thereafter prided herself on her economic prowess has just been eclipsed by China recently after two lost decades. The country also, probably out of deference to the West, has also refrained from actively managing her currency in the manner that say China has accorded herself as people seem to see the Japanese Yen as one of the safer currencies left in the world.

(Though it seems this may change)

Takahashi Hirokawa at Bloomberg:

Quiet Since 2004

Japan hasn’t intervened in the currency market since March 2004, when the yen was around 109 per dollar. The Bank of Japan, acting on behest of the Ministry of Finance, sold 14.8 trillion yen ($175 billion) in the first three months of 2004, after record sales of 20.4 trillion yen in 2003.

The pressure on Shirakawa comes as Kan faces intra-party competition from his most powerful rival. Ichiro Ozawa, whose campaign funding scandals forced him to step down in June as the DPJ’s No. 2 official, yesterday said he will run against Kan in the Sept. 14 election for party president. The party’s majority in the lower house of parliament ensures that its leader becomes prime minister.
Anyways, as the country has real (territorial) as well as imagined grievances with all her neighbors and lacks a peace treaty with both Russia and North Korea, let's hope the country does not move towards say how Japan was a century ago. The country has an enormous nuclear stockpile and an indigenously built rocket program.

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