The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 1. 2013    

January 7, 2013    
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Sato Manabu, Japan at a Turning-Point: An Okinawan Perspective on the Return to LDP Government

On December 16, 2012 the Abe Shinzo-led Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) trounced Noda Yoshihiko's governing Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in elections for the Lower House (House of Representatives) of the Japanese Diet. The landslide victory, delivering Abe (and his coalition partner, New Komeito) 325 of the seats in the 480 member House of Representatives (294 LDP plus 31 New Kometo), opened the way to the second Abe cabinet (following the Abe government of 2006-7). It was remarkable in several ways.
Firstly, it was, in a sense, unconstitutional, according to Supreme Court rulings that the regional discrepancy in the value of a single vote under the current electoral system is too wide. But virtually no one paid this any attention. Secondly, forty-one percent of the voters (roughly 11 million people) did not vote at all, a higher absentee figure than in any post-war election, and of the 59 per cent that did vote, less than 30 per cent favoured Abe (in the proportional sector the figure was 27 per cent). Thirdly, the LDP vote actually crashed even when compared with 2009 (a disastrous year that saw the DPJ achieve its landslide victory), from 33.4 million votes in the local constituency sector to just 25.6 million, and its proportional bloc from 18.8 million to 16.6 million. Its victory therefore rested on unprecedented mass absenteeism and the collapse of the DPJ rather than positive endorsement of its agenda. Fourthly, especially notable was that young people, who will determine the country's future and bear the burdens created by their elders of this and previous generations, had little interest in the election. While the figures for 2012 are not yet available, in the 2010 Upper House election the average voter age was 56 and the turnout rate for eligible voters aged between 20 and 24 was 33.68 per cent while for those aged between 65 and 69 it was 78.45 percent. Those with most at stake in the election are less and less involved in it. In 2012 that trend could only have sharpened. Japan faces an increasingly gerontocratic future.

Sato Manabu is a professor of politics at Okinawa International University. This is his monthly (December) column for the Okinawan daily, Ryukyu shimpo, published on 31 December, 2012. For a 2007 essay by author Sato: "Forced to 'Choose' its Own Subjugation: Okinawa's Place in U.S. Global Military Realignment," August 27, 2006,
Gavan McCormack is a coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal, emeritus professor at Australian National University, and author, most recently (with Satoko Oka Norimatsu) of Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, Rowman and Littlefield, 2012.

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  Yuki Tanaka & Satoko Norimatsu, Remembering Nakazawa Keiji

Nakazawa Keiji, atomic bomb survivor, peace activist, and creator of the famed Hiroshima-themed manga Barefoot Gen passed away on December 19, 2012 after a long struggle with cancer. He was 73. Asia-Pacific Journal Coordinators Yuki Tanaka and Satoko Norimatsu offer their memories of Nakazawa and thoughts on his life and work.
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