Tokyo Notes

Stand Up, Japan!

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Tokyo Notes

Stand Up, Japan!

Can a new party of 70-somethings really be the voice of Japan’s future?

Stand Up, Japan! That’s the curious name of the latest party set to enter the sometimes entertaining, sometimes bemusing world of Japanese politics on April 10.

To be headed by Takeo Hiranuma, a former trade minister with conservative social ideas and a desire to rewrite the Constitution, and Kaoru Yosano, a former finance minister whose mantra is fiscal consolidation through higher consumption tax, the nascent party is already the subject of raised eyebrows and the odd titter. Both Hiranuma, Yosano and the three members set to give the party its necessary five-member status for political subsidies are all aged around 70, creating an instant image problem. Together they give the impression of a gaggle of disgruntled Liberal Democratic old boys desperate for a last political hurrah.

Referring to the age issue, former transport minister Takao Fujii, one of the five, reportedly said at a press conference yesterday that while they might be called ‘the Silver Generation or the Twilight Generation,’ political forerunners had a responsibility to lay the groundwork for the next generation.

Whether this really does lead to a vibrant new party that can attract younger members or results in the LDP itself coalescing around a younger leadership remains to be seen.

But perhaps of deeper interest is the chasm existing between members of the new party on the issue of postal privatization. Yosano and former LDP acting secretary Hiroyuki Sonoda favored the privatization drive of the Koizumi government in 2005, while Hiranuma, Fujii and Yoshio Nakagawa rejected the idea. And that wasn’t just mild opposition. Hiranuma and Fujii bolted from the party as a furious Junichiro Koizumi took the issue to the people in a dramatic snap election.

So, will they be able to put forward a coherent stand on the issue now? And if they can’t, how will that affect the new party’s overall credibility?

Then there’s the name of the party. Tachiagare Nippon (in Japanese) sounds more like a rallying call than the name of principled political entity. It conjures up conservative-nationalistic images of a Japan regaining its economic strength and standing up for itself politically. While it’s not significantly worse as a name than Minna no To (Your Party) or the names given to numerous other parties that have come and gone over the years, it’s the kind of thing you’d expect the author of ‘The Japan That Can Say No’ Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara to come up with.

And it turns out it was.