Japan's Revolutionary PM

 
 

Yukio Hatoyama delivered his first policy speech to the Diet as Japanese prime minister yesterday, marking the official start of parliamentary business for the recently elected Democratic Party of Japan. 
 
The speech was big on rhetoric and a little short on policy specifics, especially on how the party is going to fund its numerous campaign pledges. But this is a big moment in Japanese politics–a huge moment actually, after more than 50 years of virtually uninterrupted Liberal Democratic Party rule–so I think it’s OK to cut him some slack. 
 
And as our Japan correspondent, Takehiko Kambayashi, says, the speech was a welcome change from the usual pre-prepared snore-fests. 
 
‘I found myself intently listening to his 52-minute address–it was impressive,’ Kambayashi told me. ‘For example, he talked about an elderly woman he had met in Aomori Prefecture, in northern Japan, who wouldn’t let go of his hand and who had told him she was devastated after her son was so depressed at being unable to find a job that he felt he had no choice but to take his own life.’ 
 
One of the criticisms I heard repeatedly from Japanese before and after polling day was that politicians were out of touch with the day-to-day struggles of members of the public, so Hatoyama’s apparent willingness to broach this subject head on was a welcome sign. As was the inclusive tone of the speech. 
 
Of course, as Kambayashi also pointed out to me there’s an enormous to-do list for the new administration. But for a first effort, Hatoyama did a great job of capturing the sense that Japan is entering a new era.

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