A trend comes and goes in Japan. It is not restricted to fashion but includes many areas that should be neither trendy nor passing. A recent phenomenon of the interest in Kyoyo (教養) might be another trend that comes and goes.
While the Japanese economy has seen the beginning of its recovery from the fifteen-year recession in recent months, the tension with China and South Korea heightened over the last week. This was largely due to the visitation to Yasukuni Shrine by 168 members of the Parliament. Both China and South Korea reacted and voiced their frustration over the incident. Later, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke about the issue of colonization vis-à-vis South Korea, which angered officials in Seoul. All these things can have troubling economic implications insofar as the foreign trades are concerned.
The current mood of Japan is all for Abenomics. It is very surprising to hear many commentators and columnists writing so positively about Abenomics and its monetary policy. It was not too long ago that many of them were quite hesitant to welcome Mr. Abe and the Reflationists’ policy. It is as if the whole nation repented and converted.
On November 15, 2012, Shinzo Abe, then the leader of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), announced his request to the Bank Of Japan to create a moderate inflation of 2-3%. The market reacted immediately since many thought the LDP would win the general election, which would make Abe the next prime minister. The interest rate of ten-year government bonds began to decline and the inflation expectation to surge slowly. By the beginning of March, the Nikkei exchange reached over 12,000 yen (41% increase from the day prior to Mr. Abe’s public request) and the value of yen reached over 95 (15.5% increase). After the appointment of Haruhiko Kuroda as the new chairman of the Central Bank, the Nikkei reached above 13,000, and the value of yen is about to surpass 100 yen per dollar.
Once again the peace and security in East Asia are in danger. The surprise visitation of South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak to the Liancourt Rocks (or Takeshima/Dokdo) caused a great domestic and international stir. Back in 2008 when he took the office, President Lee has expressed his willingness to look beyond the historical disputes between Korea and Japan, so the recent event has perplexed and angered many Japanese people.
It is hard not to hear anything about school bullying these days in Japan. The Olympic fever has somewhat helped to subside the hyped media attention on bullying, and yet reports continue to come to surface.
On July 20, Japanese government announced five members for the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission (原子力規制委員会), scheduled to begin operating in September. The head of the group is Mr. Shunichi Tanaka, the former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission as well as the president of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan. Both organizations have been the core in promoting nuclear energy in Japan.
Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) held an experts' committee meeting on July 13 and proposed the general direction for the reform of electric energy industry. The proposal envisions to free the energy companies' monopolies by unbundling generation and transmission of electric power as well as deregulating the retail of power. During the summer, METI is going to draw the Basic Energy Plan, which hopefully is going to reflect the proposal and its direction.
Many people in Japan are angry about the current administration's unwillingness to hear vox populi concerning the restart of nuclear plants. The anxiety continues to grow over the way Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's administration has handle the issue. Some have likened the situation to the Japanese government's forceful signing of New Security Treaty with the U.S. in 1960. This demonstration is also similar to that of 1960 because it lacks a strongly ideological agenda.
There has been a major current shift in Japanese politics since last week. After the three-party agreement on June 15, the bill on tax hike and social security reform was going to be put to the vote by June 22 in the House of Representatives. After the decision to prolong the current Diet was made on June 20, Former Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Leader Ichiro Ozawa announced that his group will definitely vote against the bill.