Sunday, 7 September 2008

Hitting The Fan

What a time to start blogging about the politics and current affairs of Japan! (Yes, this is a blog about the politics and current affairs of Japan!)

As you'll no doubt be aware, Fukuda is standing down. No - not Fukuda Koichi, the guitarist from Static-X! No - not Fukuda Yoshitaka, founder of the Aiful "consumer finance" company that makes ¥100 billion a year by screwing over home-owners! I'm talking about the important Fukuda!

(No - not Fukuda Asuka, formerly of Morning Musume!)

After just one year as Prime Minister, Fukuda Yasuo is resigning because he wants to "avoid a political vacuum," in a situation that needs absolutely no punchline. He announced his resignation on the 1st, and now his potential replacements are ready to campaign. Let's meet the contenders!

Aso Taro

The Secretary General is already in the lead with the support of 23 out of the 47 prefectures. He is a big manga-reader, and the last time he stood for election in the wake of Abe's resignation everyone was so sure he'd get the job that shares in manga companies rose. Because he's such a big manga-fan, he gives speeches on the streets of Akihabara. Obviously. Outside of the comic-book world, however, he's managed to piss off both America and China, and has claimed that Japan is the only nation in the world to have "one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture and one race".

Upshot: Aso's a racist and a lunatic.

Ishiba Shigeru

The Defence Minister is pretty much only remembered now for talking about UFOs. Last winter some joker in the House Of Representatives raised a question about how the government would respond to an alien landing and the media subsequently freaked out about it. Fukuda managed to dodge the debate by saying, "I myself have never seen a UFO", but silly old Ishiba managed to get drawn into a huge discussion about how the Japanese military would react to an alien threat. Read that article linked, by the way - it's gold.

Yesterday Ishiba made his position on economic reform as crystal clear as it's ever going to get: "I think reforms are necessary, but the pain is spreading all over. If unexpected bleeding occurs, we cannot perform a successful operation without a transfusion".

Upshot: If aliens land, he's the only man who can save us. If the economy needs reforming, God help us all.

Koike Yuriko

Koike was Defence Minister before Ishiba, for just over 50 days. Before that she was Advisor on National Security for 10 months. She was a member of the Japan New Party, then it fell apart in '94. Then politicians from that party founded the New Frontier Party and Koike joined. That fell apart in '97. Then politicians from that party founded a Liberal Party, which she joined. She left it in '00. Then she joined the right-wing New Conservative Party. That broke in '03. And since then she's been in the LDP.

Upshot: If she's elected she'll either leave in a year or merge the Prime Minister position with the Cabinet Secretary and Minister of Finance positions and fill it by grabbing the first person she sees on the street. I very much hope she wins.

Ishihara Nobuteru

I've never heard of this guy before, except that his father is the Governor of Tokyo. He did say something great in the run-up to announcing that he would stand against Aso, though: "Such occasions must be provided where various proposals can be presented. If no one comes forward, I will stand up even if it may cost me my life." He appears to think that this election is going to involve some sort of duel to the death. Out of all the candidates he's my favourite - that kind of melodrama can't go unrewarded.

Upshot: Willing to kill or be killed enroute to Polling Day. Even if he doesn't win, we'll certainly be hearing more from him.

Yosano Kaoru

At 70, Yosano is the oldest of the lot. He's also a complete wuss. "All the candidates have their own characteristics. I’m hoping we can have various discussions before the public, and I’ll just do my best," that's what he said yesterday. Ishihara's going to kill him in seconds. Ishihara's a badass.

Upshot: No chance.

That's all of them. Today they'll be getting out onto the streets, shouting their slogans through megaphones, arguing furiously over whether the economy needs to be reformed, stimulated or left alone. By the 22nd this will all be over. Bring on the death-matches and aliens!