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In a shameless act of selfish disregard for the feelings and situations of others, Makiko Tanaka, the long suffering former for- eign minister and the daughter of the late PM who gave us the Joetsu bullet trains and the Lockheed Scandal, chose to resign her diet seat on August 9th, the same day your humble editor was on board the aforementioned Joetsu bullet train heading for a much deserved vacation sans computer, sans email access, sans everything. As a result, this report is not up the usual on-time and up-to-date standards of the CJT. (In fact, it may actually be faster than that—DL)

Much of the twisted path to this resignation has been painfully documented in previous CJT’s. However, the final straw came a few days before the 9th when Tanaka was called before the diet to answer charges she had misused her secretary’s pay. As your humble editor understands it, Tanaka gave most of the salary in question to four secretary’s instead of one and all four together didn’t add up to the original amount (Reaganomics), which may or may not have been paid by one of Tanaka’s privately owned companies. The Powers What Are presented their case, vague as it was, and let Tanaka answer. Unfortunately, her response was equally vague, especially on why she delayed in paying the full amount. Most of the public kind of went “Huh?” and it was clear her days were numbered. It’s also clear that the PWA were privy to some inside information from one of Tanaka’s companies. At one point in the “interview” she seemed surprised at the accuracy of the information presented. A few days later, Tanaka decided that the current environment didn’t allow her to function as a diet member on behalf of her supporters (translation: the pork train stops here. More on pork later, by the way.) and she decided to resign. The PWA in the LDP tried hard not to gloat. A few of them succeeded. Others seemed worried about the fallout, of which there has been very little.

Muneo Suzuki, by the way, despite another series of bribery indictments, remains both behind bars and a member of the diet.

In more up to date news, Tanaka, the once and future governor of Nagano smoked his rivals in yesterday’s gubernatiorial election. Tanaka garnered over 60% of the total vote (he only got 49% in his first election) and out distanced his closest rival, Keiko Hasegawa, 822,897 votes to 406,559. For the record, the turnout was 73.78%, up from around 68% in the first election.

Tanaka’s reelection was so certain that none of the major parties in Japan would publicly support any of the candidates. Instead the candidates ran as independents or as representatives of one of the prefecture’s various diet factions. Hasegawa, a smart, photogenic lawyer entered the race late and quickly became the opposition’s best hope for an upset. However, rather than focus on the issues at hand--Dams vs No Dams--she chose instead to agree with Tanaka’s no-dams policy but assert that the former governor was too weird to be an effective leader. To make matters worse, when the opposition began quietly supporting her, and businessmen began showing up at her rallies, she backed off the no-dams policy and simply focused on personality. The result was what one pundit called a “useless election.”

For the record, the pro-dam argument asserts that Nagano would lose a fortune in revenue if the dam projects were to be killed. They say that although they are willing to consider a no-dams policy, Tanaka has thus far failed to provide either an alternate source of funds or another plan for flood control. Your humble editor’s better-half calls this argument a load of, er, bovine scatalogy. If there’s revenue to be made, it will not end up in the coffers of the prefecture, but the pockets of a few politicians and businessmen. Either way, one of the leaders of the anti-Tanaka movement apologized to the citizens of Nagano for “bringing about political disruptions.” On the other hand, one journalist has reported that the diet may try it again and slap Tanaka with yet another no-confidence motion. Stay tuned.

Yet another major corporation has been caught abusing the beef subsidy system set up by the Agriculture Ministry to solve the BSE problem. This time, the culprit was Nippon Foods, a subsidiary of Nippon Meat Packers (Nippon Ham) the sponsors of the always middle of their baseball division Nippon Ham Fighters.In typical fashion, Nippon Foods relabeled foreign beef as domestic in order to take advantage of the subsidies.

When the relabeling was discovered, apparently by accident by someone in Nippon Ham, it was reported only up as high as a vice-president who ordered the meat removed from the industry clearing house and shipped back to Nippon Foods where he gave orders to have it incinerated. This of course aroused the suspicion of the clearing house which launched an inquiry. (All meat “eligible” for the subsidy is gathered by a single industry clearing house which collects the money and distributes it to the members.)

Nippon Ham apologized, but this didn’t stop grocery stores and grocery chains from pulling every single Nippon Ham product from their shelves. Also, once the Men in White Gloves enter your offices bearing boxes and exit bearing all your documents and discs, they go after everything and it has been recently discovered that other subsidiaries have been peeling the labels off out dated ham, beef, etc. and putting on new labels with new expiration dates. (This helps explain why your humble editor and his better half once had pork only two days old suddenly turn a curious shade of green well before the listed expiration date.)

The Agriculture Ministry, for its part, has admitted that they may have been a bit “hasty” in establishing the subsidy system, especially as it seems to rely on the honesty of the industry, and the major players in the industry, rather than government oversight.

There have been, however, no serious calls for the Agriculture Minister’s resignation.

As many of you already know, once every ten years or so Japanese Education undergoes a serious analysis and reform. This involves the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MONBUSHO) setting new standards, issuing new curricula and calling for new textbooks. The changes this time have been remarkable and controversial. To wit:

The "Five Day Week."
This year, the five and a half day week was scaled back to five days triggering a honne (reality/truth) versus tatemae (the face to meet the faces that you meet) crisis in education. Although many acknowledge that teachers are usually quite busy and often take work home, the appearance of a two day holiday for teachers, while most workers suffer an (unoffical and illegal) six day week, has led to teachers being forced to teach extra classes on Saturdays and to attend school every day during the summer. (Before, they were allowed to stay at home as long as they showed evidence they had done some work.)

Faced with increasing truancy and students who simply refuse to attend school (in your humble editor’s district, public school teachers are now required to home tutor students who refuse to attend school) and a general increase in unruly and disruptive behavior at all levels, MONBUSHO concluded that students were reacting negatively to boring lectures and excessively difficult curricula. As a result, the ministry issued lowered standards in math, science and English, and insisted that all textbooks be revised to meet these standards. One English textbook was rejected, for example, because it introduced 400 words rather than the approved 250. The reaction against this by both students and teachers has been massive and MONBUSHO has now ordered a re-revision of the revised textbooks. Unfortunately, MONBUSHO won’t touch the problem of the two exam hells (The high school admissions tests and the university admissions tests) which create unimaginable stress for the students and essentially make classroom teaching irrelevant as most students are also attending Cram Schools at night. Also, there are no calls for any sort of standardized tests, meaning students either have to take more than one test if they want to apply to more than one school, or hedge their bets and try for an easier school.

"Period for Integrated Study"
This year also marks the start of regular English instruction in Elementary schools via the PIS. This is a "free" 110 hours per year that can be split up into different lessons as the individual schools and boards of education see fit. The number one use for this time is English study, followed closely by computers and extra math instruction. This means that ALT’s are extremely busy and many companies are now offering Elementary School Teaching-only positions. Although its goals are still vague, the PIS, especially when used for English is a truly remarkable reform designed to foster the notion that English is fun (there is no formal testing) and to foster in students a “zest for living.” (That’s a direct quote from MONBUSHO’s Practical Handbook for Elementary School English Activities, page 121.)

Anita Chida, whom long term sufferers will remember as the Chilean woman who happily received over 5 million dollars stolen from Aomori Prefecture, lost a key court decision this week when the government of Aomori started reading Chilean law.

Anita, for her part, has been flaunting/enjoying the new found celebrity that being a reasonably attractive “woman of questionable past” can bring. She’s appeared on TV, written a book and boasted how she’ll never give back a single yen of the money. She seems to have drawn quite a substantial following of supporters and sympathizers.

Unfortunately for Anita, Aomori prefecture has been doing its homework and it suddenly occurred to them that Chile is a Latin American country and as such remains pretty much male dominated. In fact, they discovered that under Chilean law, all property and wealth is owned by the husband and not by the wife. They then sued under this law to get the house and as much money as possible. Chile, faced with sacrificing a Chilean woman to foreigners or its tradition of Male Domination forever, opted for male domination and forced a government auction of Anita’s large house. The auction netted the Chilean government over 100,000 dollars and Aomori about 500,000. Anita seemed stunned, but promised to fight on.

This year marks the introduction of a national registration number designed to help Japanese citizens speed through the remarkably dense bureacracies of both the local and national governments. As it is now, in order to register a new address, get a new driver’s license or have national insurance transferred, Japanese need to get several copies of their birth registration, their family register and various other forms. If they’re lucky, their town will issue several copies at one time. If they’re not, they will have to come back to the office every time another town office requests a copy. The new system is designed to allow Japanese to use only the registration number and allow the proper information to arrive via computer rather than repeated trips to various offices. (Foreigners living in Japan already use such a system via our gaijin cards.)

It is essentially the equivalent of what the United States Social Security Number has become used for after nearly 6 decades of “mission creep.” (US citizens of the more paranoid, conspiratorial variety should remember that the Social Security law forbids the use of the SSN as a personal ID number and allows you to refuse to give it out to your video store or university. Prepare yourself for a shitstorm if you invoke this, however.) In Japan there is the usual rash of “Big Brother is watching you” and “mark of the beast” paranoia which, while somewhat legitimate, is uttered by people who sheepishly walk in and register their address with the government every time they move as required by law so that Big Brother can watch them.

Finally, the scariest news out in a long time was that the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has systematically covered up major and minor accidents, structural failures and leaks in 29 of its 30 nuclear power plants. For former Niigatans, it should be noted that this includes the nuclear plant in Kashiwazaki for which some of you received “hazard pay” from the Japanese government while you lived nearby. The details are sketchy at this point, but it appears that over 100 people have been involved in the cover up which included fudging tests, forgery and outright lies. More news as it’s reported.

Sleep well.



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Tanaka Out | Tanaka In | Green Eggs and Nippon Ham | Education Re-reform | Man's World | Eleven | Shiny Happy

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Created October 2002