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Weekly Highlights From the Japanese Press No. 3

Weekly Highlights From the Japanese Press No. 3
Photo by Su San Lee / Unsplash
Covering Tokyo Shinbun for March 25 to March 30, Weekly Shincho for March 28, and Weekly Bunshun for March 28

Weekly Highlights From the Japanese Press No. 3

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For this week’s edition, I consulted Tōkyō Shinbun, a progressive newspaper available for purchase exclusively in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures. Tōkyō Shinbun is generally representative of the views of liberal opinion in Japan. The type of Japanese whom readers are likely to meet is likely to hold something like the views expressed here.

From the Morning Edition of the Tōkyō Shinbun for March 25, 2024

  • Although every prefecture has public and private domestic violence shelters for women, only 11/47 have privately run shelters for men, and none have publicly run domestic violence shelters for men. According to Metropolitan Police statistics, 30% of domestic violence reports in 2022 came from men.
  • The government submitted a bill to the Diet that, if passed, would give the state the power to deprive permanent residents who habitually fail to pay their taxes or fail to carry their residence cards with them of their residency status. According to the article and the third party experts consulted in writing it, this has already increased fears of deportation among foreigners, is unfairly harsh because failure to pay taxes due to unemployment also falls under the provisions of the law, and it is normal to forget your residence card at home. The government introduced the bill because it is predicted that the coming transition from the technical trainee program to the on-the-job training program1 as well as the expansion of the spheres of employment permitted to trainees will lead to an increase in the number of permanent residents in the country, and would like to normalize the residency system in advance. This is despite the LDP’s firm stance against permitting foreign workers to gain permanent residency
  • An editorial recalls the March 1, 1954 Bikini Atoll Incident, when ash from the Castle Bravo test explosion engulfed a Japanese fishing vessel technically in the safe zone. The captain of the vessel died six months later. The editors define this as the third time that Japan was subjected to nuclear bombing and renew their calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons and nuclear power.
  • Otaru Ainu People’s Association established in order to make possible the repatriation of remains taken before the war for research purposes, and to spread pride in being Ainu, which used to be something that people would hide in order to avoid mockery.
  • Ōya Hanayo, today’s contributor to the Speak Out column2, criticizes UC Berkeley for abandoning its 1960s revolutionary tradition of free speech by suppressing public expression of opposition to the Israeli government as anti-Semitic. She tells us that Claudine Gay was forced to resign because of her criticism of Israel and concludes that the university has no value except as a place for free speech, especially criticism of injustice like what Israel is doing.

From the Morning Edition of the Tōkyō Shinbun for March 26, 2024

  • The editorial tells us that the majority of IS members come from the post-Soviet Caucasus and Central Asia, and that religious extremism feeds on oppression, corruption, and poverty. They say that Putin’s regime should correct social injustices and start by ending the war in Ukraine to put an end to terrorism and religious extremism, because these things cannot be stopped by force alone.
  • In April 2024 a new law, the Law on Support for Women3, will come into effect. This law obligates national, prefectural, and local authorities to strengthen support for victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment, women in poverty, and otherwise to promote women’s welfare, advancement, and rights.
  • The government has decided to extend for another five and a half years, until March 2030, provisions adopted in October 2019 to support the use of daytime, nighttime, and foreigner-oriented childcare facilities that fail to meet national certification standards because they are either too small or have too few caretakers if it would still be difficult to switch to other facilities, for example, on account of the children not speaking Japanese. The state pledges either to make such facilities free of charge or to provide support up of to 37,000-42,000 yen, or about 250 to 275 US dollars, per month per child.
  • In preparation for greater intake of foreign caretakers, Tokyo Metropolis will cover up to half of the introduction fees borne by companies up to 150,000 yen, or about 1000 US dollars, per person. In many cases, companies seeking technical trainees through middlemen companies are made to pay thousands of dollars in fees.
  • On April 6, 2024 the Association of the People of Okinawa Prefecture to Never Let Okinawa Become a Battlefield Again will be holding a demonstration against the construction of the Henoko US military base.

From the Morning Edition of the Tōkyō Shinbun for March 27, 2024

  • On March 26, the Cabinet resolved to permit the export to third countries of next-generation fighters developed jointly with Italy and the United Kingdom through revision of the rules for weapons exports developed by the National Security Council. Export is limited by the following three conditions: 1. Only next-generation fighters may be exported. 2. Only countries that have signed treaties obligating them to use such weaponry in a manner consistent with the UN Charter may be considered for export. At the moment, there are only fifteen countries that meet this condition. 3. Fighters may not be exported to countries that are currently at war. The writer of the article stresses that this is a further departure from pacifism and could put Japan in a position to promote conflict.
  • Saruta Sayo, a lawyer and head of private think tank Initiative for a New Foreign Policy, expresses fear that if the recent decision in fact results in arms exports, the Japanese weapons industry could grow to have both political and social influence.
  • The Third Petty Bench of the Japan Supreme Court ruled four to one that a man whose gay partner was murdered is eligible for crime victim benefits. They were not formally married, but were in a “de facto marriage.”
  • The editorial expresses support for the Third Petty Bench’s decision on the gay couple and calls for the expansion of this decision into a system of mental and financial support for sexual minorities. The editors note that this precedent may lead to granting same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual de facto married couples.
  • One article decries the impending starvation of the people of Gaza and calls for Japan to restart funding for UNRWA, as Canada and Sweden already have.
  • One article notes that a policy of waiving university fees for families with three or more children only applies if all three are currently being financially supported by the parents at once, causing frustration for many. This policy was first announced in December 2023.
  • Both left and right at the local and prefectural level in Okinawa have united in opposition to a government white paper announcing its intention to purchase land currently held by a golf course and turn it into a JSDF training ground in Uruma. A public gathering of 1200 people involving local LDP members was held in Uruma to call for a repeal of the white paper. The prefectural assembly voted unanimously for the same. Locals object that the planned training ground is next to Ishikawa Youth Home and near a commonly used kindergarten walking course in the area, and that the training ground would upend daily life at the roots. The writer mentions a resident who remembers the June 1959 US jet crash at Miyamori Elementary and lists a number of other such military incidents. Fuse Yūjin, a “journalist versed in defense matters” consulted by the author, states that this policy threatens to embroil all of Japan in a war for the sake of cooperating with the US to oppose a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

From the Morning Edition of the Tōkyō Shinbun for March 28, 2024

  • The government finalized a list of 16 civilian airports and ports in Okinawa, Hokkaidō, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Miyazaki, Kagawa, and Kōchi Prefectures that will be modified to be used by the JSDF and the Japan Coast Guard in an emergency. During drafting in December 2023, the government initially specified 32 sites, some state-owned and some managed by the prefectures. Prefectures refused to grant the government access to half, leading to the present number of 16.
  • The feminist economics movement, which seeks to include care labor like household chores and childrearing in the sphere of concern of economists, is burgeoning in Japan. The first textbook of feminist economics was published last fall. Tōkyō Shinbun interviews Kanai Kaoru, one of its authors and professor at Saitama University.
  • The editorial bemoans the gradual destruction of Article 9 beginning with the July 1, 2014 Cabinet Resolution establishing Japan’s right to collective self-defense promulgated by the Abe Cabinet. Since then, things have only gotten worse, with Japan under Kishida having legitimized foreign arms sales and the possession of long-range missile systems capable of striking enemy bases, both of which were previously considered unconstitutional. Now military spending is being raised from 1% to 2% of GDP. The editors conclude by stating that to return to the path of pacifism which the Japanese adopted when they swore to renounce war with Article 9, they must reconsider Abe’s defense first policies.
  • Since 2003, the Tokyo Board of Education has been forcing the national flag and anthem on students and teachers, who have since then been required to stand, face the flag, and sing the national anthem during entry and graduation ceremonies or be punished. Despite calls from international organizations like ILO and UNESCO, the Board of Education rejects all appeals from teachers fired for not standing and facing the flag. In 2003, when this policy was first implemented, 193 teachers were penalized for breaking it; in the following year, 210. Since then, practically all have complied, but domestic lawsuits and public rallies continue.

From the Morning Edition of the Tōkyō Shinbun for March 29, 2024

  • On March 28, the LDP, the Kōmeitō, Nihon Ishin no Kai, the DPFP, the Sanseitō, and FEFA passed legislation making permanent a time-limited law permitting the JSDF to buy weapons using loans, or rather acts incurring liability on the treasury4. About half of the JSDF budget for 2024 consists of repayments on these loans. Article stresses the fear that this will lead to runaway growth of military spending and in turn to higher taxes, more bond issuances, and reduced social spending.
  • Acts incurring liability on the treasury allow the state to pay for items included in one year’s budget over several years. They are used to pay for large public projects, e.g. by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, or by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. In the case of the JSDF these are informally called arms loans.
  • Because the recording of votes in the House of Councillors was paused in April 2020, it is not possible to know who voted and how.
  • The 2024 budget is the second largest in Japanese history. Out of 112,571,700,000,000 yen , or about 742,580,000,000 US dollars, 7,949,600,000,000 yen, or about 52,440,000,000 US dollars went to the JSDF and 37,719,300,000,000 yen, or about 248,816,000,000 US dollars, went to social spending. Both sums are the largest in Japan’s history.
  • Kamijō Yōko, director of the Heart of Palestine Art Project5, set up an exhibition in Shinjuku to raise funds and awareness for Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation.
  • 7037 residents of Uruma City, Okinawa Prefecture have signed a petition demanding that the JSDF abandon its plan to set up a training site on land currently owned by a local golf course.
  • Journalist Kitamaru Yūji, today’s contributor to the Speak Out column, expresses outrage and disgust at Israeli atrocities and the fact that Japan will soon be able to export weapons of war to third countries.

From the Morning Edition of the Tōkyō Shinbun for March 30, 2024

  • The price of processed foods and condiments is set to rise again in April. Price increases were thought to have calmed down in November 2023, but have once again accelerated. This time around 2806 products will see price increases, more than four times the number in March. The price of 130 tissue products sold by Crecia will see increases of 5-10%, and delivery services Yamato and Sagawa will raise prices by 2% and 7% respectively. These price increases are mainly caused by the weakening of he yen, and even greater increases are predicted for the summer.
  • Today’s Forest of Debate columnist argues that both price increases and the recent problem with supplements sold by Kobayashi Pharmaceuticals are due to Abe’s policies. Kishida seems uninterested in changing those policies, so a change of government is necessary.
  • General Incorporated Association Kodomappu has set up an exhibit to display photos of sexual minorities with children.
  • Morooka Karima, today’s contributor to the Speak Out column, praises the recent UN Security Council decision demanding that Israel implement a ceasefire for Ramadan. According to Karima, it should be possible to enforce it, but that enforcement is unlikely because of the United States. The UN Security Council has been co-opted by the Great Powers, so it may as well be abolished.
  • In order to initiate the Strategy for the Future of Children, which is predicted to cost 3,600,000,000,000 yen, or about 23,750,000,000 US dollars in 2028, the Kishida Cabinet will implement an extra charge of a maximum of 950 yen, or about 6 US dollars, on monthly insurance fees.
  • Japan is set to purchase up to 400 Tomahawks capable of striking enemy bases to be delivered between 2025 and 2027. The Naval SDF has begun joint training with US forces. Writer stresses that since designation of targets will be decided by the US, this will increase Japanese dependence on America.

Donald Trump, Dictator: From Weekly Bunshun6 for March 28, 2024

This week’s installment of Machiyama Tomohiro’s7 “Kotodama USA” is titled not by a single word, but by a quotation from Trump, “My Ultimate and Absolute Revenge.” Machiyama uses this phrase to illustrate Trump’s intentions: revenge against Biden, Merrick Garland, Jack Smith, Christopher Ray, and Albin Black. And that on account of what he calls baseless claims of election fraud.

Trump says that he wants to get rid of communists, Marxists, racists, and far-left criminals in government, but Machiyama, ever the voice of reason, tells his readers that there just can’t be that many communists in government, so-called far leftists are just liberals and Democrats, and so-called racists are just critics of white supremacy.

In order to replace bureaucrats with Trump supporters, the Heritage Foundation has been collecting resumes in the Project 2025 Presidential Transition Project Presidential Personnel Database. And although the various unconstitutional measures that Trump attempted to implement during his first term, like banning people from Muslim countries from entering the US, throwing illegal immigrants in concentration camps, and deploying the military to strike down illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border, were struck down, 6/9 members of the Supreme Court are now Trump appointees.

According to Machiyama, Ukraine fears a Trump victory most, because he intends to cut off all aid to Ukraine and hand over 20% of its territory to Russia. Further, Trump didn’t criticize Putin’s cyber interference in the 2016 election, because he owed his victory to it.

Machiyama concludes with two stark predictions. First, if Trump gets his way, the Pax Americana will end, rogue states will invade other countries at will, dictators will trample on democracy, and the world will be plunged into chaos and disorder. Second, and in this he follows Liz Cheney, Trump may try to establish a lifetime presidency. He did, after all, say that he was jealous of Xi Jinping.

A Uniquely Japanese Approach? From Weekly Shinchō8 for March 28, 2024

This week’s installment of Sakurai Yoshiko’s9 serial column, “Japan Renaissance,” titled “Hope for Humanity from a Mixed Up World,” treats Itō Jōichi, a venture capitalist, the current President of Chiba Institute of Technology, head of MIT’s Media Lab from 2011-2019, and founder of NSIT, the Neurodiversity School in Tokyo.

According to Sakurai Yoshiko, Itō is contributing to the world using ideas and methods that are uniquely Japanese.

Itō’s thing is as follows. Most geniuses, people at MIT, and big tech founders are neurodivergent. But Japan and the wider world are built for neurotypicals and so are hostile to the neurodivergent. What is needed is a mixed up world where the neurodivergent and the neurotypical can both work, one where diversity of thinking is possible.Subscribe


育成就労 ikusei shūrō. I don’t know if there is an official translation of this term yet, but the meaning is essentially that the employment will ostensibly be for the purpose of training and nurturing the employees.2

本音のコラム honne no koramu. 3

女性支援新法 Josei Shien Shinhō.4

国庫債務負担行為 kokko saimu futan kōi. 5

パレスチナのハートアートプロジェクト Paresuchina no Hāto Āto Purojekuto. 6

週刊文春 Shūkan Bunshun. The weekly edition of 文藝春秋 Bungei Shunjū, the single most widely read general interest magazine in the country. Known for being the first to discover and publicize major scandals in the world of entertainment. Boasts a circulation of about 600,000 copies each week, significantly more than the next most widely circulated 週刊新潮 Shūkan Shinchō at about 390,000 copies each week.7

町山智浩. An editor, film critic, and popularizer of America in the Japanese press who lives in Berkeley. His series in Weekly Bunshun is on its 715th installment as of the publication of the March 28, 2024 issue. In each installment, he chooses a single English word or term and uses it as a way to discuss a current trend in American politics.8

週刊新潮 Shūkan Shinchō. The weekly edition of Shinchō, the most prominent monthly literary magazine in the country, and issued by Shinchōsha, publisher of the novels and collected works of the most prominent Japanese writers, including Mishima Yukio. Unlike Shinchō, which consists entirely of short stories, serialized novels, and poetry, Weekly Shinchō is a far-right opinion magazine that features such controversial figures as Sakurai Yoshiko and Hyakuta Naoki. This should give the reader an idea of what the Abe-supporting mainstream far-right is like.9

櫻井よしこ. One of the leaders of mainstream far-right traditionalism in Japan, director of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, Genron TV, People’s Association for the Creation of a Beautiful Japanese Constitution, and the Colloquium of Experts “21st Century Japan and the Constitution.” Her series in Weekly Shinchō is on its 1091st installment as of the March 28, 2024 issue.

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