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  • 2019.06.23 Sunday
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  • by スポンサードリンク

一定期間更新がないため広告を表示しています


The Okinawan Prefectural Referendum

 On February 14th, Okinawan Governor Denny Tamaki announce that Okinawa would hold a prefectural referendum on the 24th concerning the relocation of the U.S. air base to the Henoko area of Nago City. The result of the referendum is not legally binding. However, I believe that the Abe Cabinet should pay much attention to the citizens’ voices.                                                                                    In Japan, a national referendum has never been held, but local referendums are conducted on rare occasions. In 1996, Okinawa held a prefectural referendum demanding to shrink the U.S. military presence in Okinawa, and in the following year, Nago City carried out a municipal referendum opposing moving in the U.S. air base there. Despite the results, the Japanese national government decided in 1999 that the U.S. air base would relocate within Okinawa, from the Futenma area to the Henoko area.                                                                                     Initially, Okinawa Pref. and Nago City accepted the decision on the condition that the air base would be constructed off the coast of Henoko and with its use limited to 15 years. Due to negotiations with the U.S., the Japanese government had to relocate the construction site to the coast.                                                                                    In 2014, Takeshi Onaga, who was opposed to the air-base relocation, was elected as Okinawan governor, and revoked the construction permit in the following year. The Japanese government sued the Okinawan prefectural government in court, and won in 2016. Onaga passed away in 2018, and Denny Tamaki, diehard opponent of the base relocation, was elected with a historically high number of votes at over 390,000.                                                                                      Okinawan citizens of 18 years old or older can vote in the prefectural referendum. The number of potential voting is 1,156,295. They must choose from 3 options on the air-base relocation: approve, disapprove, and no opinion. According to the Prefectural Voting Regulation, when one choice amounts to a quarter of all the electorate, the governor will report the result to both the Japanese and U.S. governments. Opponents of base relocation are aiming at this target, which equals some 289,000 votes. In my opinion, the voting rate must surpass 50%. If not, it means that the majority are not interested in the issue.                                                                                    The result will be known on the 24th of February or the following day. I hope that the Abe Cabinet won’t blatantly ignore the Okinawans’ voice. Also, if the voting rate doesn't surpass 50% or the votes opposing reach the 25% mark, the activist should accept the reality of air-base relocation.

Water Supply Business

    The Abe Cabinet is planning to privatize the water supply. Considering the negative consequences which have occurred in foreign countries, I’m definitely opposed to this policy.                                                                              The water supply has been operated by local governments as public entities. Recently, the finances of such public utilities have been suffering under the burden of increasingly high maintenance costs for facilities as well as the decreasing revenue from reducing water demand as the population shrinks.                                                                             According to the Water Privatization Bill, both tap water and sewerage systems would be owned by local governments, but managed by private firms. This system is called the concession method. Already in August last year, Hamamatsu City sold its sewerage operation to a private company mainly controlled by the French conglomerate “Veolia” for 2.5 billion yen (about 22 million US dollars).                                                                                                                                                   Paris privatized its water supply system in 1984. In the following year, its water bill skyrocketed by 265%. Consequently, its water utility was re-socialized in 2010.                                                                              In Manila, the Philippines, the water bill soared by 5 times in 1997, and lines of children who had to draw water from wells appeared. In South Africa, due to the surge of the water bill, over 10 million people became unable to utilize the tap water.                                                                              The most tragic case was Bolivia. The World Bank, which is controlled by the U.S., made a loan on the condition that the water supply in its third city, Cochabamba, be privatized. After the water supply business was sold to a subsidy of U.S. conglomerate Bechtel in 1999, the water bill more than tripled. Riots occurred, and tens of people were injured and 6 were killed. As a result, the American company withdrew, and the water supply system was returned to public control.                                                                              In the U.K., its water supply was privatized under the Thatcher administration during the 1980s. The British government organized 3 regulatory departments to monitor the water quality and the bill, and to receive complaints from the residents. However, the water supply business operated in the red, transferring their revenues to tax heavens, and skirting infrastructure investments for maintenance. The water bill tripled while the leak frequency increased due to the decay of the pipes. Various survey showed that 60 to 70% of British citizens hoped to re-socialize their water supply in the near future.                                                                              In Berlin, the water supply business was re-socialized by 2013. It cost more than 1.2 billion euros (1.37 billion US dollars).                                                                             A British-based research center reported that the water supply was re-socialized in 235 areas in 37 countries. Once a water supply is privatized, it’s difficult to reinstate the original system, and it takes considerable time and effort. The Abe Cabinet had better not privatized our water supply any time soon.

Japan’s Immigrant Dilemma

The Abe Cabinet had had stable support from conservatives. However, the government is currently suffering from a conflict between supporters and measures to alleviate serious labor shortages.                                                                             On October 24th, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated in an extraordinary session of the diet that Japan would accept foreign workers in critical areas. Since the Abe Cabinet revitalized the Japanese economy, many industries have been suffering from serious labor shortages. Especially, construction companies must secure enough workers to build the venues for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.                                                                              In October 2016, the numbers of foreigner workers numbered over 1 million (1,083, 769) for the first time, an increase of 19% compared to the previous year. On the other hand, it is often reported in the media that some companies abuse foreigner workers in terms of cheap salaries or excessive work hours. The Abe Cabinet plans to create a new agency from the Immigration Bureau and will be tackled with employers to secure working conditions commensurate with Japanese workers.                                                                              The immigration overflow problem is occurring in the U.S. and European countries, and the resulting backlash should be instructive. They claim that immigrants deprive employment to citizens, salaries will be depressed, and that crime will increase.                                                                              Japanese place a premium on public safety. Japan’s public safety is the best among major developed countries. And, the majority of Japanese are irritated that many able-bodied immigrants are living on the welfare. In addition, welfare fraud is becoming a serious issue in Japan.                                                                              On the other hand, hardly any immigrants significantly add to Japan’s prestige. For instance, no immigrant has brought a Nobel Prize to Japan while Professor Youichi Nanbu and Prof. Shuuji Nakamura brought Nobel Prizes in Physics to the U.S., and Kazuo Ishiguro brought a Nobel Prize in Literature to the U.K. The reality is that the excellent will almost never immigrate to Japan.                                                                              Prime Minister Abe commented that foreigner workers are different from immigrants. But, I don’t believe so. West Germany accepted “guest workers” from Turkey since 1961. In the 1970s, Turkish workers moved there with their families. In Germany, dirty, dangerous, and/or gloomy jobs are now worked by Turks. They don’t return to their country any longer.                                                                              In Japan, even though many industries are short-handed, over 2 million (2,118,848 as of April) people are living on welfare. About half of them are 65 years or older, but most of the rest are capable of working. The Abe Cabinet should not coddle them, and force them to get a job before turning to worker from overseas.

The Reshuffling of the Abe Cabinet

 On October 2nd, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his cabinet. However, Japanese citizens did not pay much attention to it because, on the precious day, the Nikkei Stock Average hit its highest mark and Professor Tasuku Honjo won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. While Japan is enjoying relative prosperity, Prime Minister Abe should keep in mind that there is a long way until the end of the tunnel.                                                                               Since the Nikkei Average marked the previous all-time high of 38,915 yen set in 1989, it had decreased to only one-fifth of its high within a decade, hitting a low of 7,054 yen in March 2009. Since then, it has more than tripled, reaching 24,245 yen on the 1st. Still, the Abe Cabinet should not be elaborated. The U.S.’s Dow-Jones and Germany’s DAX have increased by over 8 times in 27 years.                                                                               The Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison of the U.S. and Tasuku Honjo of Japan for their independent discoveries of separate proteins useful for the treatment of cancer. 26 Japanese have received Nobel Prizes, including Prof. Youichirou Nanbu and Prof. Shuuji Nakamura, who are U.S. citizens, and British writer Kazuo Ishiguro. Until 2017, the U.S. has overwhelmingly acquired 261 Nobel Prizes, followed by the U.K. (79), Germany (69), and France. Japan is ranked 5th. I hope that Japanese researchers continue to win Nobel Prizes.                                                                               Prime Minister Abe had better brace himself for the fallout from his politics. A survey by the Nikkei Shimbun and TV Tokyo showed that only 28% approved the cabinet reshuffle whereas 45% disapproved. Accordingly, the approval rating of the cabinet decreased from 55% to 50%  whereas its disapproval rating increased from 39% to 42%.                                                                              When he was inaugurated as the prime minister for the first time in 2006, he formed a cabinet of close confidents. He, himself, was free from scandal. However, his fellow ministers were involved in several cases of minor malfeasance.                                                                               I can understand that, as the head of the Liberal Democratic Party, he has to provide his fellow politicians with political appointments. I hope that the cabinet members will behave more honorably then the former ministers did.    

The Voice of the Japanese People

 As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won the extension of his term as the head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the Abe Cabinet has grown stronger. Now that he has solidified his support, he should not fall victim to hubris.                                                                               According to a survey conducted by the Nikkei Shimbun and TV Tokyo from September 21st to the 23rd, the approval rating of the Abe Cabinet increased from 48% in late August to 55%, the highest since February 2017(56%), whereas its disapproval rating decreased from 42% to 39%. 55% supported the renewal of his term whereas 38% disapproved.                                                                               The Liberal Democratic Party also shows historically high levels of support (48%) whereas the approval rating of the Constitutional Democratic Party, the largest opposition party, was only 6%, a decrease of 4%. Currently, there is no viable opposition to Mr. Abe.                                                                               Regarding policies that the Abe Cabinet should tackle, 49% hoped to strengthen the welfare state, followed by a continuation of economic stimulus (45%), increasing the affordability of education (31%), and improving the foreign policy (30%). Only 13% hoped for the revision of the constitution.                                                                               Prime Minister Abe is planning to submit the constitutional reform bill this fall. However, 68% believed that the bill should be delayed whereas 24% hoped it to be put under consideration as soon as possible.                                                                               On September 12th, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to conclude a peace treaty by the end of 2018, without preconditions. Only 12% supported his proposal whereas 66% believed that the treaty should be concluded only after the territorial issue is completely resolved, and 6% answered that there should never be a treaty with Russia.                                                                               U.S. President Donald Trump is demanding that Japan reduce its trade surplus with the U.S. 66% believed Japan should ignore his demands whereas only 12% answered that Japan should make some concessions.                                                                               Prime Minister Abe had better not forget his failure during his first cabinet from September 2006 to August 2007. At the time he pushed for his policies. The Abe Cabinet should be wary of the fickleness of the average Japanese voters. Haste makes waste.

Prime Minister Abe to Lead Japan until 2021

 On September 20th, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was re-elected as the head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He will continue to lead Japan until September 2021.      The news did not attract Japanese citizens’ attention because his re-election was taken for granted. Since his cabinet alleviated the strong yen, the Japanese economy has been accelerating. Net profits from listed corporations have nearly tripled in 5 years. Citizens in their twenties earnestly support Prime Minister Abe from a viewpoint of landing a job.      The public safety is also improving. From January to June, the number of reported crimes was 398,615 cases, a decrease of 52,054 compared to the same period last year, breaking the record consecutively. According to a survey by the Cabinet Office, almost 3 quarters (74.7%) of Japanese citizens feel satisfied or moderately satisfied with their lives, holding steady from last year.      When asked what they hoped would be the Abe Cabinet’s priorities, 64.6% answered the maintenance of the social security, followed by measures for the aging society (52.4%), and economic measures (50.4). On the other hand, less than one-third (32.8%) hoped for an improvement in defense and security.      Prime Minister Abe is highly motivated to revise the Japanese Constitution, especially Article 9. However, according to a survey conducted by the Nikkei Shimbun and TV Tokyo from April 27th to the 29th, only 41% of the respondents hoped to revise the constitution whereas 48% preferred to maintain the status quo. Currently, there is a reasonable expectation that the revision bill would be denied if there were a national referendum. The Abe Cabinet had better not push too quickly.      He is also motivated to resolve the territorial dispute of the Northern Territory with Russia. The Abe Cabinet should not make a hasty decision. With the advent of shale oil and shale gas, oil and gas exporters are doomed to ruin. Russia is one of them. As time passes, Japan’s position will become stronger.      For the time being, the Abe Cabinet should devote itself to the economy and social reforms. Slow and steady will win the race.        

The Execution of the Aum Guru

 On July 6th, the Ministry of Justice announced that they had executed Chizuo Matsumoto as well as his 6 other senior members who played leading rolls in the Tokyo sarin subway attack of 1995. There are death penalty abolitionists in Japan. However, none of them objects to the execution of the cult guru even though some criticize the execution of his followers.                                On March 20th, 1995, a cult “Aum Shinrikyo” committed gassed subways in Tokyo with sarin, killing 13 people and injuring over 6,300. Mass violence almost never occurs in Japan. Its 13 top leaders were sentenced to death.                                 Chizuo Matsumoto was born in 1955 in Kumamoto Prefecture, from a Korean father and a Japanese mother. Unfortunately, he was blind in one eye. But, he was a boy full of vitality with an overinflated ego.                                           In 1984, he launched a yoga class in Tokyo, which was renamed “Aum Shinrikyo” in 1987. He brainwashed his students and garnered over 10,000 disciples who worshiped him.                                                       The families of the brainwashed disciples formed a group to deprogram their children or other family members, and brought a lawsuit against the cult. However, their lawyer was murdered along with his wife and their 1-year-old boy in 1989.                         In 1990, Chizuo Matsumoto ran for a Lower House election, but could acquire only 0.3% of the votes. He believed that the result was due to a plot by the nation. Hence, he planned a coup d’etat to take over Japan, and committed his acts of mass murder in 1995.              The European Union, whose members agreed on abolishing death penalty, criticized Japan’s execution, and objected on the ground that there is no effect of death penalty on crime.                                                       Japan’s public safety is overwhelmingly the best among major countries. And, even the U.S. is better than European countries. Once the U.S. virtually abolished the death penalty, its recidivism rate soared. Therefore, most of its states have reinstated the death penalty.           The Japan Bar Association has advocated abolishing the death penalty. Nonetheless, none of them are opposed to Chizuo Matsumoto’s execution even though some criticize the execution of his followers. If the admit the exception, they should clarify the criteria.           According to the latest survey in 2015, 90% of Japanese citizens supported the death penalty. On the other hand, if life imprisonment were introduced, the support would decrease to 51%.                                                  Whether or not to abolish the death penalty is a domestic matter with which foreign countries should not interfere. Japanese put a premium on the pubic safety. And, I prioritize bona fide citizens’ lives over criminals’ lives.                               

Living in Harmony with Cats

 

  A decade ago, yearly about 300,000 dogs and cats were euthanized in Japan, Nowadays, however, the number of animal euthanasia cases are decreased by two-thirds. Still, around 100,000 dogs and cats are killed every year, and the majority are cats.      

                                                                    

  On Tashiro-Island in Miyagi prefecture, is very famous as an island of cats. Its population is only 80 people while 100 cats are living there. And, more and more tourists visit the islands every year. In the aftermath of the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, hordes of cat-lovers donated over 100 million yen (some 1 million USD) for the rebuilding of the cat island.    

                                                              

  On Tashiro-Island, since sericulture (the production of silk from silkworm) was practiced, the residents kept cats in order to keep away rats, the natural enemy of the silkworm. Fishermen fed unsold fish to cats.   

                                                            

  According to an old story, one day, fisherman was picking up rocks for weights for his fishing nets. Accidentally, a rock felled and crushed a cat to death. The fisherman’s boss felt sorry for the cat, and berried the cat. Since then, all the fishermen experienced a greater catch and no shipwrecks occurred. As a result, the cat was worshipped as a god, and residents treasure cats to day on the islands.      

                                                            

  Ogi-Islands in the Seto Inland Sea also became famous 3 years ago when a photographer introduced the island as an island of cats. Its population is about 180 while cats number around 200. Different from Tashiro-Island, the opinion among the residents is divided. Some insist on becoming an island of cats whereas others opposed to the idea. Some residents complain that visitors trespass on their property in search of cats and feed the cats, which has the effect of luring wild boars from the mountain.      

                                                              

  Omichi city in Hiroshima prefecture is famous not only for the local ramen but also as a cat town. Many tourists visit the city to taste the ramen or see the cats. Last year, its tourism association launched a tour to see the cats. On the other hand, some residents complain of excessive cat feces and uneaten cat food soiling the town.      

                                                            

  I believe that each area should decide what to do on their own. At least, however, we should not let alley cats proliferate in order to decrease the future victims of euthanasia. The Human Society advocates spading and neutering all pets as a preventative measure.      

                                                            

  In Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, a volunteer group captures alley cats and tries to find them homes. While a home is being found, veterinary clinics house and fix the cats. The ward subsidizes the medical and hospitalizing fees. Since 2011, Chiyoda ward has euthanized no cats.      

                                                            

  No euthanasia nationwide is next to impossible. And, irresponsible pet owners should be blamed. Still, in order to decrease innocent victims, we should do whatever we can.                                

 


The Right to Choose One’s Own Lifestyle

  The Abe Cabinet aims for a society where all citizens play an active role. And, feminists advocate that women should also enter the workforce and be equally promoted. I believe, however, such authoritative affirmatives are not only unrealistic but also antithetical to what most citizens want.                                                                                      In Japan, the majority of students advance to universities. There are many housewives who have graduated universities. Some people believe that they should given special support by the government to facilitate their desire to work.                                                                                       “My Voice. Com”, a research firm, conducted a survey of 1,000 housewives having university degrees from March 7th to the 10th. Over two-thirds (67.2% ) of them became housewives by their own volition. Only 32.8% unwillingly quit their jobs due to difficulties in balancing their job, housework and/or childcare. Over 70% (72.9%) of the respondents opposed the slogan “Women Activation.” 16.5% even felt it unpleasant. 7.2% felt it burdensome, and 49.2% believed it’s unrealistic. Only 15.2 % agreed with the slogan.                                                                                      Customarily, when Japanese women marry, they become housewives. And, after the Lehman Shock, their preference for housewives is on the rise.                                                                                       Many married women have to continue to work because their husbands’ income is not enough. After the Lehman Shock, companies increased contract workers. They are underpaid although they work the same as regular workers. Day care workers are also underpaid even though they are in high demand.                                                                                       Many men give up marrying because they cannot earn enough money to support a family. Many couples give up having a child because of insufficient income. It’s no wonder that the childbirth rate has declined.                                                                                       Fortunately, the Abe Cabinet has started to pay attention to the underpaid. I believe that the Abe Cabinet should deregulate labor laws so companies can fire ineffectual employees so that they can then hire better regular employees. Until then, companies will only hire contract workers as a defensive move.                                                                                       Article 13 of the Japanese Constitution guarantees the right to pursue happiness. Japanese citizens should be given the right to choose their lifestyle by themselves. Whether or not married women work should be decided by themselves.           

Cycling Becoming Trendy in Japan

  In recent years, bicycling to work is gradually catching on in Japan. It is practical as being energy-efficient, environmental, and healthy. I believe that Japan should develop its biking infrastructure and clear rules for cyclists. We should show a good example for prospering Asian countries.                                                                                                                                         In terms of the number of bicycles per capita, the Netherlands tops the world, followed by Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The top 5 are dominated by Europe. Japan is ranked 6th. The U.S. is 11th, and China is 17th.                                                                                           China used to be a bicycle mecca. During rush hour, the roads were flooded with bicycles. However, its government has since placed great emphasis on the car industry. Cars have multiplied, which has contributed to the infamous air pollution known as PM 2.5. In Beijing, lung cancer patients have increased by 60% in the last decade.                                                                                                As ASEAN countries flourish, an increasing number of citizens have cars, which results in heavy traffic congestion and air pollution.                                                                                        India is also rapidly developing. In the capital, New Deli, PM 2.5 is 3 times thicker than in China.                                                                                                Japan has not yet developed improvements in cycling infrastructure. I believe that main streets should be fully equipped with modern bike lanes.                                                                                      The laws and regulations have not been modernized either. Cyclists are allowed to wade their way on the roadway and the sidewalk. A high-school cyclist whizzed by on the sidewalk and killed an old woman.                                                                                      I don’t believe that cycling on the sidewalk should be prohibited in all cases. For example, mothers with small children in safety seats and seniors use bicycles to run errands. They should cycle on the pavement, not the road. On the sidewalk, I believe, the speed should be limited to 8 km/hour, double the speed of walking.                                                                                      Motorized bicycles are popular among seniors. Such bicycles stop motoring over 25 km/hour. However, for cycling, 25 km/h is too speedy. In my opinion, the motoring should be limited to 10 km/h.                                                                                      Whether one should be obliged to wear a helmet is debatable. It is pointed out in Europe that requiring cyclists to wear a helmet may discourage people from cycling. In fact, there are ladies in Japan who hate wearing a helmet because they don’t want messy hair. And, slow cyclists on the sidewalk don’t have to wear a helmet. Hence, for the time being, wearing a helmet should be recommended, but not required by law.                                                                                      In Japan, social expenditure has been increasing. We can expect cycling to improve public health and curb medical costs. The Japanese government should develop improvements and regulations to promote cycling.                                

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