Here
and
Now

opinions

Japan: A nation split dangerously down the middle

11 Comments
By Henry Hilton

The man would have loved it. 

The 19 gun salutes, the attendance of the imperial family, the foreign VIPs and the two-hour ceremonies testify to his impact on contemporary Japan. Nothing like it has been seen for decades and you can bet your boots that it will be a mighty long time before anyone even thinks of risking another similar event.

Yes - the queues of people determined to honor assassinated former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe near the Budokan were long and dutiful but those opposed were equally determined and eager to protest at what was seen as an outrage. Any comparison with the thousands of leftwing demonstrators of 1960 and after is certainly overdone but the recent rallies had at least an echo of past - not least because Abe was the grandson of Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi who was forced to resign over the renewal of the security treaty in 1960.

The state funeral for Abe contains lessons galore on what not to do.

First: Beware of holding state funerals for politicians unless you are pretty certain that there is massive public support. If not, the whole thing will obviously backfire and those responsible may find it hard to recover electorally.

Postwar Japan's only precedent was the funeral of former leader Shigeru Yoshida. He was the man who, rightly or wrongly, bore comparison with Britain's Winston Churchill and West Germany's Konrad Adenauer. Few surely would rank Abe's accomplishments with those of Yoshida, who played a major role in Japan's recovery after defeat in the second world war and laid the foundations of the U.S.-Japan security relationship following the San Francisco peace treaty of 1951.

Second: Make certain that you explain the full financial details in advance and provide time for parliamentary debate and approval.

Third: Keep any military trappings to an absolute minimum.

And lastly, don't go overboard with thousands of attendees, massive security on the streets and helicopters in the skies, unless the man or woman you wish to honor has been a unifying, widely recognized, positive force in society.

Mr Abe was anything but this - even his most ardent supporters might admit some day that his impact was mixed at home and abroad. His state funeral has aroused real anger and surely invites widespread questioning over what he really did to get the economy going again, the extent of his links to what is seen by some to be a religious cult, and how substantial his regional initiatives actually were.

 For now just leave the man to future historians.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

11 Comments
Login to comment

What accomplishments?

Abe had only failures!

3 ( +14 / -11 )

Quote: A nation split dangerously down the middle.

It was hardly Brexit. Even if public anger is perceived to be a potential issue, the LDP will simply replace Kishida with a new face, roll out a popular policy, their numbers will perk up, they will then call an election and win it by a mile.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

The man would have loved it. 

Yes, definitely! But...not for himself and not so early. (no, I'm not even be sarcastic here...)

Any comparison with the thousands of leftwing demonstrators of 1960 and after is certainly overdone but the recent rallies had at least an echo of past - not least because Abe was the grandson of Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi who was forced to resign over the renewal of the security treaty in 1960.

There is indeed a striking ressemblance which will not have escaped a lot of people with memories going that far back in time. The size in on-site participation is different (i.e. smaller) but when looking at the polls and even internet polls (the Yahoo opinion poll has one of the highest participation-rate or possibly the highest at 760K participant with 580K against the ceremony https://news.yahoo.co.jp/polls/43486 ,while the change-org appeal for an independent investigation of Akagi Toshio's death gathered a whopping 350K signs https://news.yahoo.co.jp/byline/aizawafuyuki/20200610-00182641 with both being impressive, especially for Japanese standards...).

The ways of showing one's opposition have changed and probably better suit the Japanese public, but the opposition was there and it is not even a recent thing. Public opposition to Abe has been around pretty much since Moritomo, Kakei, the JSDF's lost logs, Akagi Toshio's death started to pile up on Abe.

First: Beware of holding state funerals for politicians unless you are pretty certain that there is massive public support. If not, the whole thing will obviously backfire and those responsible may find it hard to recover electorally.

It is pretty much assumed that Kishida wanted to appease the raving-mad-loony-right-wing-faction (which was Abe's) with the funeral. To them, getting the funeral was a "win", if Kishida gets clobbered and has to step down it would be nothing less than another "win". Kishida has pretty much been the fall guy / fool of the whole story.

Postwar Japan's only precedent was the funeral of former leader Shigeru Yoshida. He was the man who, rightly or wrongly, bore comparison with Britain's Winston Churchill and West Germany's Konrad Adenauer. Few surely would rank Abe's accomplishments with those of Yoshida, who played a major role in Japan's recovery after defeat in the second world war and laid the foundations of the U.S.-Japan security relationship following the San Francisco peace treaty of 1951.

Amen. Constitutionality or legality put aside, the man, the international context (it was a way for Japan to become again a member of the international community and allow for all to turn a blood-soaked page of history), the national context (which pretty much tied into the international one) made it possible, possibly even called for a ceremony.

Was there a legal foundation to hold the ceremony: possibly not. Did Yoshida "deserve" one: undoubtedly yes, if only to benefit the whole country as a member of the international community. The Abe ceremony only benefited the man's trying to gloss over his more than dubious image and the ego of a few old men with even older ideas and who are waaaaaay over their expiry-dates.

Second: Make certain that you explain the full financial details in advance and provide time for parliamentary debate and approval.

This is an important one but by no means a "recent" one.

One only needs to look at the last decade under Abe: trillions spent on ego-trips, white elephants and shiny but useless stuff (Linia anyone), opacity (e.g. all the talk about the raise in defense spending but none on what is to be achieved by it). Essentially, spending overdrive without any planning (or purpose) whatsoever has been the LDP's "business" for decades: using tax-payers money to help Japan's (ahem) "image", their friends' "businesses" and their own bank-accounts. Nothing new under the sun here.

Third: Keep any military trappings to an absolute minimum.

With all the talk about increasing military spending is this one in general and (unfortunately) a complete no-go.

Mr Abe was anything but this - even his most ardent supporters might admit some day that his impact was mixed at home and abroad. His state funeral has aroused real anger and surely invites widespread questioning over what he really did to get the economy going again, the extent of his links to what is seen by some to be a religious cult, and how substantial his regional initiatives actually were.

 For now just leave the man to future historians.

With all the opinions expressed by: researchers, essayists, writers, journalists, economists, current and former politicians and senior public servants in and outside of Japan covering fields such as economics, finances, society, history, diplomacy, politics, etc, has Abe's dubious image and lackluster legacy already pretty much be finalized, what may still be defined is the scope of things. Abe himself will not amount to more than a footnote, but everything around him, around politics and society will need research and volumes to summarize.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

Japan has not split down the middle. Wild statement seeking attention.

By the next General Election, most of it will be forgotten.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

the queues of people determined to honor assassinated former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe near the Budokan were long and dutiful

Who were these people?

They should have made a doc about this. It would be interesting to hear why they think Abe should have been respected and adored. Also why they would condone such an event costing so much money and time in the process.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Kishida was literally between a rock and a hard place...

Abe's 'Seiwa-kai" faction is the largest in the LDP - they wanted a state funeral to venerate their departed leader...if Kishida opposed it, they'd throw their support to someone else and he'd gave to step down as Party Leader and Prime Minister...

This, and the Unification church scandal, will take a hit on his popularity....but it's not like the public has another choice. They still remember how disastrous the last time the opposition was in power, and know they can't be trusted with governing...

So he'll limp along, until the LDP decides it needs a new face, that most likely being Taro Kono...

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The state funeral and its ceremonies are just a distraction.

What you don't see is what should worry you.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

That’s just only overestimated by foreign media. The opinions were split about that funeral, yes, but in reality no one really cares, now that the event took place anyway. Everyone has other problems in daily life and to make ends meet somehow every month. That’s the real and uniting factor, not the temporary opinion split about the state funeral. That’s forgotten in one week or two.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Liked this article and agree with what blue said.

What accomplishments?

Abe had only failures!

Exactly!!!

the queues of people determined to honor assassinated former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe near the Budokan were long and dutiful

Who were these people?

I'm guessing right wingers and their families. I mean I can't think of anyone else who would care enough to stand for hours to pay homage to this clown.

They should have made a doc about this. It would be interesting to hear why they think Abe should have been respected and adored. Also why they would condone such an event costing so much money and time in the process.

Yeah- I'm curious too. Another thing I'm curious about is how all those people were able to take time off work.. I mean his funeral was in the middle of the day on a weekday..

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Japan has survived nuclear meltdown, nuclear bombs, tsunami, why wouldn't it survive a funeral ? If you look for a nation dangerously split by political division I can definitely give you a better example.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Surprise Huh? 25,000 people formed the long line to mourn on a week day from all over Japan. If it was a week end or holiday, it would probably be a lot more

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites