Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Hatoyama Snatched Democrats' Second Chance Out of Media's Jaws
HANABUSA Masamichi / Former Ambassador to Italy

June 7, 2010
By their abrupt resignations, former Prime Minister Hatoyama and former Democratic Party (DP) Secretary General Ozawa have seemingly afforded democracy in Japan an opportunity to prove its raison d'etre. The political drama in Japan in the past week might have been caused by various yet-untold secrets behind the scenes. But at this writing what has happened is rather easy for men and women in the street to see; Mr. Hatoyama, an inscrutable creature from the space, admitted his failure as Prime Minister and took political responsibility for his failures and Mr. Ozawa, the feared political machinator, was forced to relinquish his position to manage the political fortune of the Democratic Party. The forthcoming month will prove if this is a naive view.

At the last general elections of the House of Representatives in August 2009 the Japanese voters showed their clear political choice by switching their trust from the moribund Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to its contender, the Democratic Party. Sweeping changes as advocated in the DP's 'Manifesto' were, however, difficult to implement, partly because of the lack of administrative experiences on the part of most DP politicians and partly due to strong resistance from various vested interests. It may be that part of such election promises are infeasible from the beginning. Although some political analysts had pointed out that the kind of "change" as promised by the DP would need at least a few years to materialize, the Japanese people are impatient and soon disappointed by meager achievements of the new administration. This writer is of the view that this process of the DP's premature downfall was accelerated by the flawed media system of Japan whose information gathering is almost exclusively based on kisha-kurabu, press clubs and ban-kisha, reporters attached to special news sources. It is difficult to expect good investigatory reportings or balanced overview analyses out of such "passive" media system.

The so-called "issue of politics and money" was a case in point. The issue is not unimportant, but, after all, it is not a new issue in Japan. The media's attack on Mr. Ozawa was particularly vehement; it looked as though there was only one media view-point, namely, anti-Ozawa. In another case, the handling of the Futenma Base issue by Mr. Hatoyama was surely very naive and clumsy, but part of criticism could also be directed against the NIMBY(not in my back-yard) attitude of our own people.

It may not be fair to fault the media alone. Various intentional leaks were made by interested parties. Compared with America, Hatoyama government's press handling was fatally wanting. In politics where the results are all that merits judgment, Japanese people are not used to "seiken koutai", the change of the government and are so impatient. All combined, the media has been allowed to exercise inordinately influential power, which should not be continued.

Whether news-makings of the past 8 months by Japan's mass media, which in effect discredited the DP truly reflected the change of heart by Japanese voters in their party choice, will soon be made clear in the forthcoming House of Councilors elections in the summer. At any rate, it is good that the Japanese voters will have another chance to indicate their judgment, after Mr. Hatoyama snatched his party's second chance out of the jaws of Japan's mass media.

The writer is Chairman Emeritus of the English-Speaking Union of Japan.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

英 正道 / 元駐イタリア大使

2010年 6月 7日


その一例はいわゆる「政治とカネ」の問題である。この問題は大事でないことはない。しかし詰まるところ、この問題は日本では新しい問題ではない。マスコミの小沢氏への攻撃は激烈を極めた。あたかもメディアの切り口は「反小沢」一つしかないように見えた。もう一つの例である普天間基地移設問題における鳩山首相の問題処理ぶりは確かに素朴過 ぎ、無様であった。しかし批判の一部は、われわれ国民の「自分のところへは嫌だ」という態度に向けられてしかるべきだった。


一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Hatoyama Snatched Democrats' Second Chance Out of Media's Jaws