“Liberals in the lead,” The Economist, http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=3562305, 13 January 2005.
Besides sadness and aikokushin, Japan’s also noted for hyper-interesting local politics
If all politics is local, then 2005 could be a big year politically for Japan. Throughout the year, 136 elections will be held in prefectures and big cities, along with more than 400 local ones in smaller towns. Local politicians have already been gaining prominence in recent years, with independent-minded governors such as Masayasu Kitagawa in Mie, Yasuo Tanaka in Nagano and Shintaro Ishihara in Tokyo grabbing headlines and upstaging national politicians and officials. If these trends continue in 2005, that will be a good indicator of the prospects for reform.
The article drones on and is not all that interesting, but the mentioning of distinctly-Japanese-rightist Ishihara and distinctly-Japanese-leftist was nice. The best introduction to these two monumental figures, both of whom have a shot at becoming Prime Minister, is found in Japan Unbound. From a press release:
Nathan profiles several leaders in culture and politics. We meet Yoshinori Kobayashi, a demagogue and ultranationalist cartoonist. His series called The Arrogant-ism Proclamations, informed by the notion that arrogance is the only antidote powerful enough to rouse Japan from its subservience to foreign ideologies and foreign interests, has sold more than twenty million volumes. Politicians like Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo and the country’s most powerful nationalist, and Yasuo Tanaka, hero and champion of the burgeoning Japanese left, are also featured.
In the book, Ishihara is a politician the American Right could love. Proudly patriotic and a defender of Taiwan’s interests, he’s also a “can-do” Governor of Japan’s largest prefecture. Yasuo is a polar opposite, comfortable with stuffed animals and schoolchildren. He leads a prefecture laden with debt from the Nagano Olympics.
What will Japan’s future hold? I have no idea. But with great work like Japan Unbound in the bookosphere, and The Economist‘s reporting, we will know in time.