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(Mainichi Japan) May 30, 2011
Falling confidence in 'Japan brand' more than just a domestic problem

The nuclear power plant in Fukushima has completely tarnished the "Japan brand," which enjoyed a reputation around the world as being safe, clean, and high tech. All of that has been wiped away now by the black cloud of radioactive contamination.

Along with the "Japan brand," the popularity of Japanese food -- whose "health food" reputation had until recently attracted fans around the world -- has plummeted.

In an attempt to bring back customers, one overseas conveyor-belt sushi restaurant has gone as far as to post a sign saying that none of its ingredients are imported from Japan.

Efforts to help rebuild the reputation of Japanese food have begun, however, in Hong Kong, where there are an estimated 600 to 800 Japanese restaurants.

The ramen noodle industry there got the ball rolling with the campaign slogan: "Let's all eat ramen."
まずラーメン業界が口火を切り「万人 食 拉麺(ラーメン)」(みんなで食べよう、ラーメン)キャンペーンを始めた

While Japanese ramen is of Chinese origin, Chinese people consider it Japanese food.

Therefore, as Japan's reputation has plunged from the ongoing nuclear crisis, Hong Kong locals' appetite for ramen has waned, dealing a blow to the Hong Kong ramen industry.

Other Japanese restaurants and Japanese-style pubs have followed suit with "Love Japanese Food" campaigns of their own.
▲日本料理店や居酒屋などの業界も「愛 日本料理」運動で続いた。

Although most of the ingredients for Japanese food served in Hong Kong are imported from the Kyushu region, it's all the same Japan to local consumers, who do not differentiate between the southwestern island of Kyushu and the Tohoku region where the Fukushima plant is located.

To dispel concerns over the safety of Japanese food and to make its way back into consumers' good graces, the industry in Hong Kong has held sushi-tasting events and given discounts to diners.

In addition, local authorities are planning to implement a preferential financing system for small- and medium-sized businesses to support them.

Meanwhile, in Deauville, France, where the 50th anniversary ceremony of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the G8 Summit were being held, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan stated that Japan was aiming to draw lessons from the ongoing nuclear crisis and achieve "the highest standard of nuclear safety."

His declaration may be explicit, but unless he delivers results, the "Japan brand" will not be able to regain the trust it has lost -- which, as we have already seen, has repercussions beyond Japan's borders.

("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)
毎日新聞 2011年5月30日 0時02分

by kiyoshimat | 2011-05-31 07:24 | 英字新聞

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:へこたれました /東京


(Mainichi Japan) May 29, 2011
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: What we can learn from the troubles of a famous novelist
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:へこたれました /東京

I recently read the news that a letter from famous novelist Ryunosuke Akutagawa to poet Kyukin Susukida was discovered.

According to the news, both men were employees of the Osaka Mainichi Newspapers at the time, with Susukida being managing editor of the cultural news department.

I was surprised. "Had Akutagawa been a newspaper reporter?" I wondered.
Apparently, however, Akutagawa didn't come into the office, working from home instead.

We might feel envious of Akutagawa, being able to work from home, but it seems Akutagawa himself was far from a happy man.

This can particularly be gathered from a postcard he sent from Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, where he was receiving medical treatment.

"I can't seem to recover from my nervous breakdown," he wrote. "My will is broken."

Akutagawa is said to have suffered from insomnia, strong anxiety and depression, and six years after sending the postcard, he took his own life at the age of 35.

It is clear that Akutagawa was gripped by one or more psychological disorders, although experts are divided on which ones.

There are also some who say Akutagawa's exposure to his dark side is what allowed him to write what he did.
Here, however, I would like to look at Akutagawa in a different way: even people of his stature have worries and expose their weaker selves to others.

Looking at a list of his accomplishments makes Akutagawa's life sound wonderful.

While a student at Tokyo University, he released the famous short story "Rashomon." He established himself as a famous writer while still young, married and was blessed with three boys.

He conducted observations overseas and became an instructor at Bunka Gakuin, a college in Tokyo.
The overall feeling is that he was advancing rapidly on the path to becoming a part of the literary elite.

And yet, even as he led this bright life, Akutagawa was constantly trapped by dark feelings.

Of course, he could not truly reveal those dark feelings to us, the general public.

However, looking at Akutagawa's life story, I believe we can carry some lessons away for ourselves: No matter how famous or successful a person is, they worry and suffer;

it is only natural that people sometimes feel down;

and it's not good to think too much about things.

Maybe we should try to just enjoy each day.

And, there is one more important thing:

when we have problems, we can do as Akutagawa did and show weakness to those around us.

Next time I feel down, I think I will copy Akutagawa and say, "My will is broken."

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

毎日新聞 2011年5月24日 地方版

by kiyoshimat | 2011-05-30 07:41 | 英字新聞



--The Asahi Shimbun, May 27
EDITORIAL: Use solar and wind power to achieve new energy target

Prime Minister Naoto Kan made public a new plan to drastically move up the target date to raise the ratio of natural energy to 20 percent of total electric power supply from 2030 to "the earliest possible time during the 2020s."

It is no doubt an ambitious target, but the government and the private sector must use their ingenuity to tackle it.

The accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant virtually made it impossible to build new nuclear power plants as planned.

To advance measures to fight global warming, we cannot go back to the use of coal and oil.

A dramatic increase in the use of natural energy is indispensable to secure needed energy.

Politicians, on their responsibility, may set a deliberately high goal.

Only then can the government employ all policy measures to promote technological innovation aggressively.

However, the ratio of natural energy, including large-scale hydroelectric power generation, currently makes up only slightly less than 10 percent.

The path to realize the 20 percent goal is difficult.

Analysts say natural energy, easily influenced by weather conditions, lacks stability. Unless costs are reduced, consumers would bear a heavier burden in the form of increased utility charges.

The prime minister also announced plans to install solar panels on the roofs of 10 million homes.

He clearly attaches importance to solar energy as the key of natural energy sources.

As if to respond to the government move, Softbank Corp. and local governments across the nation announced a project to install solar panels in fallow rice paddies and abandoned farmland.

The government must consider drastic deregulation and incentive measures to make the most of ingenious ideas developed by the private sector and local communities.

The reduction in solar energy costs can be realized not only through the efficiency of volume production but also by technological advancement.

Given the target date of slightly more than 10 years from now, achieving the goal with solar power alone seems difficult.

International trends show that the spread of wind power generation, which is less costly than solar power, is pronounced.

Some statistics show that the volume of wind power generation facilities is 4.5 times that of solar power.

Japan can focus more on wind power as an energy source that can be put to immediate use.

The Kan administration must quickly draw up a concrete plan on how to achieve its target by attaching importance on which area with what means.

Meanwhile, in his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the prime minister said he will continue to actively use nuclear power generation after ensuring its safety.

How does the shift to natural energy sources link with active use of nuclear power?

It is time to start full-fledged debate on what to do with nuclear power generation itself.

It might be too late if we wait for the results of investigations into the accident.

by kiyoshimat | 2011-05-29 05:54 | 英字新聞



--The Asahi Shimbun, May 26, 2011
EDITORIAL: Neutral, powerful panels needed to investigate Fukushima accident

A prominent expert in the study of failures has been tapped to probe a colossal crisis management failure.

The government chose Yotaro Hatamura, a University of Tokyo professor emeritus of engineering, to head a committee that will soon be appointed to investigate into the disastrous accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The study of failures advocated by Hatamura is aimed at preventing major accidents by disclosing all the facts about small system failures, whatever they may be.

This time, Hatamura's mission is to inquire into a huge accident after the fact.

Still, scrutinizing the Fukushima disaster from Hatamura's viewpoint can contribute greatly to efforts to prevent similar crises at nuclear power plants around the world.

What is crucial for getting to the bottom of the accident is to make sure that all relevant facts are revealed.

The success of the investigation hinges on whether the people involved will tell the truth while offering information that could threaten their positions or interests.

The way the investigation panel works, as described by the government, raises concerns about this point.

There is no existent law that directly requires people involved to respond to the panel's requests for interviews or the submission of materials.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has said government employees who refuse to cooperate with the panel can be disciplined punishment under the law governing their profession. But that is not enough.

This issue is particularly important for the investigation because the panel will have to deal with the so-called "nuclear power village," a community of people with vested interests in promoting nuclear energy bound closely together by mutual dependence.

The President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, the investigation panel set up by U.S. President Jimmy Carter after the 1979 accident at the nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, tried to examine the disaster from a position independent of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

But the panel was apparently dependent on the country's nuclear power community for necessary data.

The Japan Transport Safety Board, which conducts investigations into airplane and train accidents, has strong investigative powers under the law enacted to establish the entity.

New legislation should be enacted to give sufficient power and independence to the panel tasked with inquiring into the devastating accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station.

The panel's members should include competent and influential people recruited from outside the nuclear power village.

It would be a good idea to seek opinions from overseas experts and get critics of nuclear power generation involved in the probe.

Such outsiders would help pressure people in the village to cooperate with the efforts to uncover the truth.

The separate committee in charge of examining the management and financial health of the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., should also be given strong powers.

This committee's mission is to ferret out waste in the utility's management as well as its disposable assets in order to secure as much money as possible for compensation for damages caused by the accident. The panel will face many big obstacles to accomplish its goals.

Companies have a general tendency to conceal or try to avoid revealing information unfavorable to them.

In addition, electric power companies farm out a wide range of tasks and operations to other firms.

To get the whole picture of an electric utility's operation, it is necessary to require its many layers of subcontractors to disclose relevant information.

The work to assess Tepco's ability to pay compensation requires a group of experienced lawyers and accountants skilled in negotiating with businesses.

The government is facing two important challenges concerning the Fukushima disaster: learning necessary lessons from what happened to prevent future nuclear disasters and ensuring swift and fair compensation for the damage caused by the accident.

The success of efforts to tackle these two challenges depends on whether a neutral and powerful panel will be created for each.

by kiyoshimat | 2011-05-28 07:44 | 英字新聞

東北の水産業 大胆な改革で沿岸漁業再生を


Rebuild Tohoku fisheries to be better than before
東北の水産業 大胆な改革で沿岸漁業再生を(5月26日付・読売社説)
The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 27, 2011)

Ports and facilities of Pacific Ocean fisheries in the Tohoku and Kanto regions were severely hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The industry should not simply be restored to its former state. Instead, people and organizations concerned should take the opportunity to incorporate drastic reforms in their rebuilding efforts, creating a revitalization model for the nation's fisheries industry as a whole, which is on the decline due to a graying workforce with a lack of successors.

In areas hit by huge tsunami, about 320 fishing ports and 20,000 fishing boats were destroyed or seriously damaged. Fish markets, processing facilities and other infrastructure have been almost completely lost in many places. The damage is estimated at about 900 billion yen.

Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture and Ofunato in Iwate Prefecture hosted bonito and tuna fishing boats from all over the country. Reopening of such core ports for offshore and deep-sea commercial fishing is an urgent necessity.

The central and local governments must cooperate closely to accelerate repair work on wharfs and removal of underwater rubble and debris.


Change in way of thinking

Reconstruction of coastal fishing is an important subject because many people work in this industry.

Coastal fishing includes oyster and scallop cultivation, as well as fixed-net fishing of mackerel and sardines, which are mostly small, family-run businesses.

These businesses were directly hit by the giant tsunami. The loss of boats, equipment and facilities has left many of them unable to operate, and many are even thinking of closing down for good.

If the coastal fishing industry is to recover, a new way of thinking is required.

To promote the entry of new individuals and companies into the coastal fishing industry, the current system that gives priority in operations to local fisheries cooperatives must be revised.

A "fishing industry reconstruction promotion special zone" initiative proposed by the Miyagi prefectural government at a meeting of the government's Reconstruction Design Council is an idea worth considering.

The Fishery Law and other relevant laws have to be revised, and special zones should be created in quake-hit areas. In the special zones, private companies that catch, process and sell fish and other marine products will be given easy access to fishing rights.

The system is designed to reconstruct coastal fisheries by introducing the vitality of those formerly outside the fishing industry and also aims to expand employment opportunities for young people.


Revise closed nature

Opposition has been voiced against the initiative in some local fisheries cooperatives. Fearing that their rights may be infringed upon, they argue that the good points of fishing villages as communities will be lost.

However, the closed nature of such communities must change. Otherwise, the decline of coastal fisheries cannot be stopped.

They should not adhere to their vested rights but must change their way of thinking to promote the fisheries businesses in their local communities.

We hope administrators in the central and local governments and fishermen thoroughly discuss the matter and seek the best solution with an eye toward the future.

What is urgently required now is the wisdom to protect Japan's fish-eating culture and give an impetus to the recovery of the fisheries industry.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 26, 2011)
(2011年5月26日01時22分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2011-05-27 07:26 | 英字新聞



--The Asahi Shimbun, May 24
EDITORIAL: Independent panel needed to investigate Fukushima nuclear crisis

Few days pass without news that makes us wonder if the government is telling the truth about the disastrous nuclear accident triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

On May 23, the Lower House special committee on reconstruction from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami asked about the government's suspected involvement in the decision to temporarily suspend the injection of seawater into a crippled reactor the day after the accident broke out at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The government said it was a voluntary decision by the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). But the answers from government officials to the questions failed to dispel suspicions that the prime minister's office influenced the company's decision.

It is easy to imagine the utter confusion within the government and TEPCO at that time.

Efforts to uncover what actually happened should be made carefully.

That is all the more reason why it is essential to get an independent entity to look into the nuclear crisis in an inquiry clearly separated from policy debate on recovery and rebuilding in the devastated areas.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has pledged to set up a committee of experts for an investigation into the accident. He should announce the specifics of the envisioned fact-finding committee as soon as possible.

There are two important factors in appointing the committee.

One is to secure its independence and neutrality.

To be able to carry out careful examinations and fair assessments, the investigation panel should be clearly independent of the people and organizations involved in dealing with the accident, including TEPCO, Kan, the other Cabinet members concerned, the Nuclear Safety Commission and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

In selecting the committee members, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that the core members will not include anyone who is affiliated with the "nuclear power village," the close-knit community of politicians, industry executives, scientists and other people with vested interests in promoting nuclear energy.

To earn international confidence in the panel, it is also important to seek some forms of cooperation from relevant international organizations and foreign experts.

From the viewpoint of the principle of separation of powers, which requires the legislature to check the government, the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party's idea to set up an investigation committee within the Diet is worth serious consideration.

There is, however, concern that the panel could degenerate into an arena for partisan warfare under the divided Diet with the opposition in control of the Upper House.

Following the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, U.S. President Jimmy Carter created a special committee that included experts in areas other than nuclear energy and local community representatives.

As he recognized the importance of allowing outsiders to take part in the probe into the accident, Carter decided not to leave the task solely to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Japan should learn from his bold action.

Secondly, the panel should be given strong investigative powers to accomplish its mission, which should be clearly defined as preventing another nuclear disaster.

Depending on the results of the investigation, some of the people responsible for dealing with the crisis may have to be held strictly accountable.

What is more important than putting the blame on someone, however, is to learn valuable lessons from the Fukushima disaster that will help efforts to minimize the damage through the best possible responses should a similar situation arise somewhere in the world.

There are also tasks that need to be done before the start of the planned investigation committee.

All the necessary materials and records concerning the entire chain of events should be safely kept, while all key people involved should be interviewed for testimonies while their memories are still fresh.

As a country that has experienced one of the worst nuclear accidents in human history, Japan should make an exhaustive investigation into what happened and fully disclose the findings.

That's the only way for the nation to regain the trust of people both at home and abroad.

by kiyoshimat | 2011-05-26 06:22 | 英字新聞

海水注入問題 原発に政局持ち込むな


(Mainichi Japan) May 24, 2011
LDP should not use nuclear crisis for political maneuvering
社説:海水注入問題 原発に政局持ち込むな

The stern manner in which the largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) criticized the government in a recent Diet session for its response to the meltdown at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant suggests that the party is using the crisis for its political maneuvering.
LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki brought up the issue during a House of Representatives special committee meeting on earthquake recovery held on May 23. He pointed out that the injection of seawater into the plant's crippled No. 1 reactor -- which started on the evening of March 12 in a desperate bid to cool down its core -- was suspended for 55 minutes.

The opposition leader then cited news reports that the injection was suspended at the instruction of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and worsened the situation.
Kan categorically denied the reports saying he never gave such an instruction because he had not received any report on the seawater injection in the first place. Tanigaki pointed out that his statements and other government officials' remarks on the matter were inconsistent and held the prime minister responsible for the confusion within his administration.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) began injecting seawater into the reactor at 7:04 p.m. on March 12 -- the day after the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit the power station, but suspended it 25 minutes later before resuming it at 8:20 p.m., TEPCO records clearly show. However, Kan, leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and Tanigaki failed to clarify through their debate why the seawater injection was suspended.

This is a good opportunity for the LDP to grill the prime minister over the government's poor response to the crisis in a bid to throw the administration into disarray. If the LDP were to prove the injection was suspended at the instruction of the prime minister, it could hold him responsible for both giving such an instruction and making a false statement on the matter. It is all the more a good opportunity because the government was already confused over the matter: It once announced that Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan (NSC) Chairman Haruki Madarame had warned of the possibility of the reactor having "recriticality" -- a recurrence of nuclear fission reactions -- if seawater were to be injected, but later corrected the announcement.

Still, the discussions between the leaders of the two major parties have raised two questions.

The first question is how far the 55-minute suspension of the seawater injection contributed to the worsening of the reactor's condition.

It is widely believed that most of the fuel in the No. 1 reactor had melted by the morning of March 12 -- long before the seawater injection began.


The other question is how far such a debate will adversely affect Japan's national interests. Discussions on the matter are feared to damage the international community's confidence in the announcement of the cause of the nuclear crisis and specific measures to bring the crippled plant under control, which Kan will make during the upcoming G8 summit.

Needless to say, it is of great importance to clarify the cause of the nuclear crisis that has worsened to the current state.

To that end, the government should set up an independent third-party fact-finding panel at an early date for the sake of not only Japan but also the world.

TEPCO officials should be asked to testify over why it suspended the injection of seawater into the plant's No. 1 reactor in a bid to confirm what actually was behind the decision.

It is inevitable for the LDP, as an opposition party, to employ a strategy of pointing out the government's poor handling of the nuclear crisis while looking for the right time to submit a no-confidence motion against the Kan Cabinet to the powerful House of Representatives.

Still, members of the LDP, which had been in government for nearly half a century and is now aspiring to take over the reins of government from the DPJ, would be better served to discuss how they would respond to the current nuclear crisis and what they would do if the party takes over the reins of government.

毎日新聞 2011年5月24日 2時31分

by kiyoshimat | 2011-05-25 07:52 | 英字新聞

西岡参院議長 首相「退陣勧告」の意味は重い





Nishioka's demand for Kan to quit has weighty meaning
西岡参院議長 首相「退陣勧告」の意味は重い(5月20日付・読売社説)
The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 21, 2011)

House of Councillors President Takeo Nishioka demanded the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Naoto Kan in an article he wrote for The Yomiuri Shimbun that was carried in its Thursday morning edition. He repeated this demand at a press conference later the same day.

Nishioka was furious over Kan's responses to the Great East Japan Earthquake and the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

Shrugging off this criticism, Kan said, "There is no reason at all for me to resign at this time."

However, Nishioka's pressure on Kan to step down has grave implications, as the upper house president has considerable authority over the fate of bills in the so-called divided Diet.
Nishioka became upper house president at the recommendation of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, although he left the party as is customary because he must remain neutral in his post.


'Not fulfilling duties'

The upper house president insisted Kan had not fulfilled his duties as prime minister since the massive earthquake occurred.

He said Kan's establishment of so many councils and headquarters had confused the chain of command, and he questioned the way information related to the nuclear crisis was disclosed, among other things.

Nishioka emphasized these points in calling on Kan to resign. "Before everything drops behind, I strongly repeat my demand that you step down from the prime minister's post as soon as possible," he said.

His views are reasonable and may be considered respresentative of the general public's.

Recent opinion polls carried out by major media organizations show the disapproval rate of the Kan Cabinet is almost twice the approval rate.

A majority of the people are dissatisfied with the prime minister's lack of leadership.

However, many people believe the prime minister should remain in power until a certain level of antidisaster measures have been established. They probably would not want domestic politics to become even more confused.

The Kan administration is trying to avoid extending the current ordinary Diet session by delaying submission of the second fiscal 2011 supplementary budget to August or later. This budget is designed to fund full-fledged restoration programs.

However, Kan's lackadaisical attitude to the current situation only invites criticism from the opposition parties that the prime minister is placing priority on the survival of his administration rather than antidisaster measures.


Submit 2nd extra budget

The government must submit the second supplementary budget to the Diet as soon as possible and take necessary legislative measures.

If the current administration does not function well in this respect, a new political arrangement is needed.

A number of people believe the DPJ and the Liberal Democratic Party should agree on key policy measures and form a grand coalition to proceed with restoration steps.

In a recent Yomiuri Shimbun poll, 56 percent of the respondents supported a grand coalition for that purpose.

A few ideas are emerging in both the DPJ and the Liberal Democratic Party about forming a grand coalition with Kan's resignation as a precondition.

Neither the ruling or opposition parties should allow the stagnant state of domestic politics to continue.

It is time for them to seriously discuss the establishment of a political system to prioritize antidisaster measures and carry them out swiftly and flexibly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 20, 2011)
(2011年5月20日01時41分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2011-05-24 08:17 | 英字新聞



--The Asahi Shimbun, May 21
EDITORIAL: Nishioka's call for Kan's resignation can only lead to political turmoil

Politicians should have the freedom to call for the resignation of a government official or a Diet member they disapprove of.

But that doesn't mean that the chief of one of the three branches of government should be allowed to urge the head of another branch to step down.

Such an action by a person in one of the highest offices in the nation is outrageous and outlandish.

Upper House President Takeo Nishioka sent a letter to Prime Minister Naoto Kan urging him to "resign immediately."

Nishioka also called for Kan's departure at a news conference and in an article he wrote for The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Nishioka, who was a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan until he assumed his current post, cited Kan's inept responses to the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear disaster triggered by the earthquake as the reason for his high-profile political attack against the embattled premier.

Nishioka went so far as to argue that if Kan refuses to step down, the opposition parties should submit a no-confidence motion against his Cabinet to the Lower House before this year's Group of Eight summit, slated to be held in France on May 26.

Public distrust of the Kan administration has been growing by the day due to its poor and delayed responses to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and its failure to disclose adequate information about the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

It is hardly surprising that criticism of Kan's leadership has also grown in the Diet.

However, for the representative of the legislature to argue for the resignation of the prime minister, who heads the administrative branch--without any decision by the legislature--is an ethical transgression that cannot be overlooked.

By convention, the Upper House president, like the Lower House speaker, leaves his or her political party in order to perform their duty with fairness and political neutrality.

Nishioka's remarks clearly exceed the boundaries of the role he is expected to perform.

In addition, Nishioka is the president of the Upper House.

In the designation of the prime minister, the Lower House's decision takes precedence over the Upper House's.
Only the Lower House has the power to pass a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet.

In other words, the Upper House is expected to act as the seat of common sense that distances itself from any power struggles.

By making a public call for the prime minister's resignation, Nishioka is making the house look like an arena of political conflict.

This is no time for discussing whether Kan should remain in office, in the first place.

When the nation is going through such a crisis, lawmakers obviously should join hands in tackling challenges instead of trying to undermine the efforts of their colleagues.

We are fed up with the nation's political situation where common sense doesn't prevail.

Quoting the phrase "Don't change horses in a midstream," Nishioka said Kan doesn't even have the determination to cross the rushing stream. He asserted that the risk of allowing the current situation to continue is bigger than the risk of changing horses.

The anti-Kan group within the DPJ is echoing Nishioka's criticism of the prime minister.

If the opposition parties submit a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet, the DPJ group led by former party chief Ichiro Ozawa and its political allies within the party may vote for the motion, ensuring its passage.

But there are wide differences over key policy issues between the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, which is calling for the abolition of the new childcare allowance program the DPJ-led government has introduced, and the Ozawa group, which has vowed to keep the program alive.
There will be no prospect for a workable ruling coalition between the LDP and the Ozawa group if they join forces to force Kan to resign. There can only be deeper political confusion.

We have no choice now but to give spurs to our horses in order to cross the rushing stream in front of us.

Debate on whether Kan should leave office should wait until the crisis is over.

by kiyoshimat | 2011-05-23 02:39 | 英字新聞


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 20
EDITORIAL: Competition needed to stoke innovation, creativity

As expected, the Great East Japan Earthquake caused great damage to the nation's economy.

Gross domestic product for the January-March period showed an annualized drop of 3.7 percent in real terms.
GDP has contracted for two consecutive quarters since the October-December period, when the economy started to level off.

Before the March 11 disaster, the nation's economy was expected to go on an offensive in an increasingly multipolar global market following the recovery of the U.S. economy. But the earthquake took the wind out of Japan's sails.

The April-June quarter is also expected to undergo economic contraction, according to private-sector estimates.

While demand for reconstruction rose smoothly after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the situation this time differs mainly on two points.

One is the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

With the decline in electric power supply centering on the Tokyo metropolitan area covered by TEPCO, prolonged restrictions on economic activities are unavoidable.

Second, the supply chain, or a highly mutually dependent supply network of parts that developed in the assembly-oriented manufacturing industry, suffered serious damage.

For example, assembly plants of many automakers would stop if a semiconductor plant is unable to make microcontrollers for electronic controls.

The earthquake put before us a new question: What should be done for the Japanese economy to continue to provide top-level products and services to meet the needs and purchasing power of various markets around the world?

Japan must come up with highly advanced products that cannot be found anywhere else to overcome the yen's appreciation and continue exporting.

However, manufacturing centers of such products tend to be concentrated on one site when volume efficiency and other factors are taken into account.

Such risks were exposed by the severing of the supply chain by the earthquake.

There is also a possibility that international customers may re-examine their overdependence on Japanese parts and materials.

Manufacturers are urged to disperse production centers and take other measures to prevent customers from going elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the expansion of the service industry is attracting attention as a growth strategy.

Still, there is a need to review Japan's real capabilities comprehensively when we think about the failure of two giant service companies--TEPCO's nuclear power plant accident and Mizuho Bank's system trouble--both triggered by the earthquake.

Large corporations protected by monopoly or oligopoly may be suffering from systemic fatigue more than we realize.

Such a situation may be standing in the way of innovation and nipping creative ideas in the bud.

If so, creating an environment to make companies stronger through competition becomes more important than ever.

Kaoru Yosano, minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, expressed confidence for the future, saying, "The resilience of the Japanese economy is sufficiently strong."

But instead of simply relying on natural resilience, we should sort out our strengths and weaknesses and cultivate the power to transform ourselves and open up the future with new ideas and ingenuity.

by kiyoshimat | 2011-05-22 07:05 | 英字新聞