90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
The New Politics And Economy Of Japan

Between China and the United States. “Abe-nomics.”  Talk of remilitarization. We’ll check in.

A ferry goes by the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo, a single-span suspension bridge over half a mile long. (AP)

A ferry goes by the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo, a single-span suspension bridge over half a mile long. (Itsuo Inouye/AP)

Put yourself in Japan’s shoes for a minute. You had a great run building cars and Walkmen. Grabbed the American market. Got incredibly rich.

Then here comes China, eating your lunch in manufacturing. Getting pushy in the neighborhood. But your constitution — written by Americans — reins in your military.

Now your economy’s in the tank. Your population’s aging. China’s looming. What to do?

Japan just put nationalist prime minister Shinzo Abe back in power. For “Abe-nomics” and, maybe, remilitarization.

This hour, On Point: A struggling Japan looks to restart.

– Tom Ashbrook


Jacob Schlesinger, Japan Editor in Chief at The Wall Street Journal.

Mike Mochizuki, professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs. Co-editor and author of “The Japan-U.S. Alliance and China-Taiwan Relations: Implications for Okinawa” and “Japan in International Politics: The Foreign Policies of an Adaptive State.”

Yuki Tatsumi, senior associate of the East Asia program at the Henry L. Stimson Center and co-author of “Global Security Watch: Japan” and “Japan’s National Security Policy Infrastructure: Can Tokyo Meet Washington’s Expectations?”

Hugh Patrick, founder and director of the Center on Japanese Economy and Business at Columbia Business School and author of “Reviving Japan’s Economy: Problems and Prescriptions,” “Crisis and Change in the Japanese Financial System” and “Asia’s New Giant How the Japanese Economy Works”

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: Election Win By Ruling Party Signals Change In Japan: “By securing control of both houses of Parliament for up to three years, the win offers Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — an outspoken nationalist who promises to revitalize Japan’s deflationary economy and strengthen its military — the chance to be the most transformative leader in a decade.”

The Economist: Man With Plan: “Despite the party’s history of tending to vested interests, it has taken up the economic concerns of a broader slice of the population. In particular, the fizz of ‘Abenomics’, the programme of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms, has caught on with the country. Businesses large and small, along with their employees, are the loudest cheerleaders for the economic revival plan.”

The Washington Post: Can Japan’s Shinzo Abe Deliver On Deeper Reforms?: “Mr. Abe is likely to push to restart many of the nuclear reactors that were shut after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. And he will seek to reinterpret Japan’s “peace constitution” to allow its military to engage not only in ­self-defense but also in collective self-defense — to come to the aid of a U.S. ship, say, if it is attacked by North Korea.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • thequietkid10

    I hope someone asked about the declining population in Japan and what it means for their future.

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      The declining population is very good news for the future, although it has significant short term negative effects. I expect that Japan will continue to push for advances in robotics to supplement labor shortages. The “Black Death” in Europe, over about a 300 year period was a major force that helped set the stage for the industrial revolution. Japan’s problems may well end up being their salvation. If so, the rest of us may find it hard to catch up.

      From : TimeWorld:

      “What’s Behind Japan’s Love Affair with Robots?”

      Watch out Walmart greeters !


      Black Death:

      From page 4
      “The Black Death caused urban

      real wages to rise by as much as 100 per cent in the decades after 1350…” .



      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        plus when they perfect those sex robots I expect their population will really start to drop

        • StilllHere

          especially if they appear as anime characters or school girls

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            they do, don’t worry.  I am sure you will be able to rent one if they are too expensive 

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      they are just replacing them with robots. unlike here where we are replacing people with robots yet we have no shortage of people

      • tagubajones

         Robots don’t buy houses, cars, washing machines…

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          yes they are much more efficient than people

  • John Cedar

    I love the  cheap trick live at Budokan
    I want you to want me…
    Play it like this:

    Its like dancing for your fingers.

  • Shag_Wevera

    If I were an advanced technological society with a small, defensive minded military, I certainly wouldn’t inflate the military to solve my problems.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      it really has not worked that well for us either

  • Jon

    Culture never changes just like Anthony Wiener never changes sexual perversion. The misinterpretation of Japanese culture by Ruth Benedict will lead Americans to backfire for its foreign policy in Asia

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    Did Tom just say he’s spent five years of his life in Japan?

    • hennorama

      TF - http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/tom-ashbrook

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        Thanks. But I am putting myself in the place of Ordinary Listener.

        That’s above-the-fold information. He’s got firsthand observation and knowledge that is valuable on this hour’s topic.

        How many people, by comparison, will I see on TV this week talk about Japan who’ve barely spent a month there?

  • Ray in VT

    It is interesting to see the long shadow that World War II has cast, considering how the post war settlement continues to affect Japanese politics and government today.  It also continues to have some impact upon Japan’s foreign relations with China.  One of my former professors spent a year in Shanghai teaching some 25 years ago, and he said that there was a significant amount of animosity towards the Japanese, based at least in part upon how the Japanese occupation impacted the Chinese population.  I would figure that that sentiment may have faded somewhat since then, but there have still been incidents of anti-Japanese violence in China at least as recently as November of 2012.

    • hennorama

      Ray in VT – “the long shadow that World War II has cast” and “a significant amount of animosity towards the Japanese, based at least in part upon how the Japanese occupation impacted the Chinese population” are neither new nor surprising phenomena.

      Your post reminded me of another that I wrote about six months ago. Notice to whom I wrote:

      “Ray in VT – all good points.

      “One also needs to consider the impression that an occupying military force leaves on current and future generations of the local populace. US military occupations have left both positive and negative impressions. However, the negative ones, especially those due to civilian casualties, seem most pronounced and long-lasting. This has led to increased militant insurgency and recruitment and training of terrorists.

      “This is far from a new phenomenon. For example, toward the end of British rule in India, British troops opened fire on a large crowd, killing hundreds and wounding over a thousand. This became known as the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, and was depicted vividly in the 1982 film ‘Gandhi’. This event from 1919 is still well-remembered today nearly 100 years later.

      “While I don’t mean to suggest the US military has done anything like the atrocities of Jallianwala Bagh, it’s certainly true that we’ve been responsible for many civilian deaths. These deaths will be remembered for decades, perhaps for generations, and the resulting negative attitudes are difficult to overcome. Anything that we can do to reduce these deaths will go a long way toward reducing hatred of the US by some who may act on their hatred with acts of terrorism.”


      • Ray in VT

        Sometimes one sees the same issues and/or patterns resurfacing repeatedly, much in the same way as how movements or actions that the U.S. government supported as a part of the Cold War fight against the spread of Communism led to other events that we likely liked even less, such as our support of the Shah or the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.  As for the long memory of events, one can also look at events in the Balkans, and how at least one Serbian commander said that the massacre of Muslims was payback for a circa 1800 attack perpetrated by Muslims.

  • Jim

    Here is my take. Japan refused to admit and/or apologize for the war crimes it has committed. it still has refused to do so. In order to get anything going between its neighbours, especially with China, it has to overcome and be a man to admit to its past criminal behaviour. otherwise, this past history will NEVER NEVER go away in the eyes of its neighbours.

    Japan has America to thank for not apologizing and not repay for the damage it has caused in WWII.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      if they admit to and apologize for their WW2 war crimes does that mean we have to do the same for ours? 

      • Jim

        was the American’s the aggressor? perhaps during the expansion era when it eliminated and committed genocide on indian tribles. since the indians have no power to protest… i guess the US is exempted. not funny by any means.

        and since china, korea (which is kicking Sony and Japan’s butt), maybe the Japanese should think twice…

        not apologizing in the japanese’s perspective is against their economic policy. it does not matter whether you agree or disagree as an American. 

        I understand no one wants to apologize for genocide committed. take what the turkish did to the Armenians and the United State whites did to American Indian Tribes… 

        No one wants to admit to their crimes… the longer Japanese waits… the longer its economy can recover… believe me… their whole generation will collapse due to mismanagement and lack of trade deals.

        • Kurt234

          You should read Flyboys. The entire beginning of the book is used to explain why Japan did the things they did during the war and where they learned it from. The United States by the way. It’s not America bashing either, it just dissects the the issue of Japan’s actions during the war. Not everything is so black and white.  

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          when I wrote it I was thinking about Dresden but your example of our treatment of native americans is much better.
          only the losers are held responsible for war crimes.

          the issues with japan and korea and china go back to way way before WW2 so I doubt that would change their dynamic much.

  • MarkVII88

    Has anyone read Tom Clancy’s Debt Of Honor?

  • Jon

    US needs Japan now just like the US needed Bin Laden then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    so this time its us the germans and the japonese vs everone? oh yeah, I forgot, we have always been at war with Eastasia

  • tbphkm33

    I think the cautionary tale of Japan’s economic issues is the warning it sends to other mature economies.  Not for exactly the same reasons, but the U.S. could easily find itself in a similar deflationary economic state.  Especially with the inability of D.C., Congress specifically, to tackle the longterm structural issues facing the U.S.  Say banking or regulatory reform, amongst many looming issues.  

    It is not good to concentrate so much economic power in a few industries (finance, technology, defense, etc.) or in a small number of large multi-national corporations.  One thing the U.S. really needs to do is concerted efforts to invest and support small- and medium-size (SMEs) manufacturing companies.  Often producing world class innovative products.  A thousand SMEs is much more valuable to a nation than one large multi national corporation.  

    Yet, state and federal SME support for exports is lackadaisical at best and counter productive at worse.  Often concentrated around the skills and beliefs of government staff than the actual market needs of the SMEs.  General rule is that the East Coast states focuses on Europe, the South on Latin America and the West Coast on Asia.  All irrespective of where the best markets for any given SME actually exist.  Operational assistance is almost all marketing related, without any consideration to enhancing the international skill sets of SME staff. 

    Anyway, I get off topic.  My point being that Japan can be seen as a bell weather for other mature economies. 

  • http://belacqui.tumblr.com/ Belacqui

    In regards to the issue about Japan’s right of collective defense and China, it seems that China’s spats with Southeast Asian countries over islands in the South China Sea also play some part. Forming partnership of collective defense with the Southeast Asian countries, would act as deterrent against China’s increasing assertiveness, particularly over the two sets of islands. The limitation against the right of collective defense, having even the possibility of considering such partnership constitutionally restricted, I would think, greatly weaken Japan at the diplomatic table, and influence what China perceives it can or cannot do. It appears certainly much more complex than the mere historical baggage that attract more attention.

  • 2begunyam

    As a Japanese, I do give credit to PM Abe on the economy front. His economic stimulus package, so-called Abenomics, have helped uplift the spirits of people here, which I hope lead to boosting spending among corporate Japan and consumers to buoy the long stangnant economy. Having said that, I am worried about how far the right-wingish political agenda PM Abe and the conservative Liberal Demoratic Party are willing to push, including constitutional revisions — a source of political contention with our neighboring countries – a bill to tighten the grip on the freedom of press and opinions. For example, he singled out a former diplomat and lambasted him for his stance on the DPRK on Abe’s official Facebook. The LDP refused any TV appearances and interview requests from a local Japanese TV network for a few days, saying that the party had found the network’s political reporting “not impartial.” Abe’s political campaign slogan, “getting back a strong Japan,” is, I think, out of touch with the times, given that we have bleak prospects for growth going forward. What we need is a wise leader who can lay out specific plans to sustain the current levels of living standards for as long as possible and help guide the fast-aging country to a soft landing, so to speak. The days of “go-go years of Japan” are long over, and we need to find ways to push through needed reforms to deal with a mountain of outstanding problems, aging society, shrinking population and workforce, ballooning national debt, frayed political relations, among other things. 

  • Peter Nozawa Thurwachter

    There is also an economic dimension to Japanese weening itself off of American protection.  Currently, Japan is getting a bargain cost performance wise by hosting American forces, but this also gets used as a bargaining chip in trade talks that are skewed toward favoring US firms and things like this happen;


    This demerit coupled with the potential merit of creating manufacturing jobs that would result from a home grown defense industry, Japan would probably want to eventually have a normal military, and changing Article 9 to read “ONLY defensive Wars can be fought” 

    ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on
    justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a
    sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of
    settling international disputes. (2) To accomplish the aim of
    the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war
    potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

    In the show, “interpretation of the constitution” was brought up, but none of the guests on the program brought up that the right to self-defense is only implied.  Technically, the way the constitution is written, threat of retaliation could also be unconstitutional.  In an extreme interpretation from the other side of the spectrum, this would mean it would be unconstitutional to tell China “If you hit us, we will hit you back” 

    Currently in Japan, the ability for a defensive pre-emptive strike capability is being reviewed and debated again in many circles.  Many in the west may read this and say, well of course that’s going too far because many in the West, the US invasion of Iraq comes to mind when they hear the term Pre-emptive strike. 

    The example that I often hear regarding pre-emptive strike in Japan is, if a North Korean Bomber flies to Tokyo, currently, the JSDF can only fire warning shots.  Nothing more can be done until the bombs are actually dropped and the intent to do harm to Japan is confirmed.  Only after the bombs are dropped can the Japanese fighter shoot down the North Korean bomber.  I think many in the West do not realize how constraining article 9 is.  Many in Japan have the illusion that article 9 is what keeps Japan a peaceful nation.  They do not realize that the American Military presence is what has kept this peace, and those same people do not understand what the ramifications of a shrinking US defense budget means.

    So eventually, Japan will have to defend itself, but the timing for this transition will be key.  The best way would probably be to do this passively, set things in motion now and be ready to stand up when the US eventually reduces it’s military footprint due to budget cuts instead of asking the US to leave like Naoto Kan did, and having that blow up in their face…..AGAIN.

Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

Aug 29, 2014
Beyoncé performs at the 2014 MTV Music Video Awards on Sunday, August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Getty)

Sex, power and Beyoncé’s feminism. The message to young women.

Aug 29, 2014
Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

War moves over Syria, Ukraine. Burger King moves to Canada. Nine-year-olds and Uzis. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

More »
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

More »
1 Comment