Say it with me: “Dentsu”

A full report by an independent committee has been released detailing the scandal has embroiled the Abe administration surrounding faked “town meetings.” Since their beginning under the Koizumi administration, the meetings, which were intended to serve as a forum to include citizens’ opinions in the policymaking process for such initiatives as postal privatization and education reform, most of the meetings have been exposed as frauds, with government officials planting questions and paying participants to provide opinions supporting the government’s position. Moreover, massive cost-padding has been discovered in the administration of the meetings, which cost an average 11 million yen to hold and occasionally featured a staff member being paid to operate the elevator.

Conspicuously missing from English-language reporting on this scandal, including at least one report from a Western outlet, is the fact that the contract for administration of the first meetings was awarded to massive Japanese ad agency Dentsu with no competitive bidding. I’m just a little surprised that the angle hasn’t been more fully explored, since no-bid contracts always ripe for criticism and the Western media have had a great time slicing and dicing the Halliburton corporation for its ineptitude in Iraq.

Dentsu involvement is no secret, but so far even the Japanese-language newspapers haven’t done much to pick up that part of the story. The Asahi’s wording is especially strange:

Another revelation in the investigative committee report is that the government likely overspent on some meetings. The report said the cost of holding a town meeting in the first half of fiscal 2001 was 21.85 million yen, not including advertising, whereas in fiscal 2002 and later years the average cost per meeting was between 7.19 million yen and 12.85 million yen.

The reason is likely that in the first half of fiscal 2001, government officials selected companies to operate the town meetings. In subsequent years, the companies were chosen by competitive bidding.

Hokkaido Shimbun, reporting on the investigation results, noted that Dentsu ran the first 16 meetings since the program began in 2001, costing the Japanese government 395 million yen, or about 24 million per meeting. After the meetings were opened to competitive bidding, other companies including Dentsu managed the meetings, and the costs came down to more than half that.

An excerpt from the 2005 book Dentsu’s True Colors: The Media Industry’s Greatest Taboo, indicates that Dentsu was an advisor to the Koizumi administration from the very beginning. Along with other ideas that came to define the Koizumi administration such as US-style “one-phrase” (sound byte) politics, the town meetings were Dentsu’s idea to begin with, and the government left management of them up to the company’s discretion, leading to criticism from then-Nagano governor Yasuo Tanaka:

That was how Dentsu became involved in policymaking not just on the national level but on the local level as well, and tied it into their business.
It looks as though “town meetings” were just such an instance of Dentsu involvement. The office in charge was placed in the Cabinet Secretariat, but Dentsu was contracted to manage the town meetings with a private (no-bid) contract. One reporter commented that he was surprised one time when he went to cover a town meeting in Okinawa:
“When I went inside the hall, staff wearing Dentsu badges were all over the place. And regarding the content of the meeting, I couldn’t understand the meaning of spending money on such a thing, and the statements of the people in attendance were more like petitions than a conversation.”
The fact is, the average cost to hold these meetings was a staggering 60 times greater than what it cost to hold Nagano Governor Yasuo Tanaka’s powwow meetings, which were started earlier on.

It’s been explained by Japan policy academic Robert Angel that the town meeting scandal resulted from a lack of careful attention to the administration of the meetings, and deference to local leadership, “once the novelty wore off,” led to the planting of questions. But the planting of questions has so far been documented to have begun as early as October 2001, while Dentsu was in charge. According to Asahi, “In fiscal 2001, 185 people asked planted questions at 50 town meetings, although there is no information available to determine if the government paid them to do so.” And as e-mail records (PDF courtesy of DPJ lower house member Daisuke Matsumoto) of preparations for the meeting in Hachinohe, Aomori prefecture show, the planting of questions and guidance came from the town meeting office in the cabinet, not local leadership.

Dentsu has a reputation for being a shadowy manipulator of public opinion, and has been accused of a host of dubious accomplishments from swaying sheep-like voters with flashy pro-postal privatization campaign tactics in the September 11, 2005 general election resulting in a huge LDP victory, to staging the entire “Train Man” phenomenon on popular message board site 2-channel to reap massive profits from pre-planned soap opera and movie adaptations. However, according to an anonymous retired Dentsu official quoted in True Colors, Dentsu relishes this reputation and cultivates it: “Dentsu’s public image, as if they have been involved in national conspiracies, has had the effect of making the company look more powerful than it actually is. Dentsu is aware of this and purposefully neither confirms nor denies this role.”

As much as I’d like to see Dentsu dragged through the mud for their role in this scandal, the fact remains that the government led this initiative to deceive the public and drown out actual public opinion. Given the history of the Japanese government, this comes as little surprise, but these days scandals spread like wildfire over the Internet, people are aware and quick to anger at such flagrant ethical violations, hopefully forcing the political leadership, who increasingly relies on public support to stay in office, will start paying attention to what the public really thinks rather than staging horse and pony shows.

39 thoughts on “Say it with me: “Dentsu””

  1. Dentsu is the world’s largest ad firm. There is no parallel for a monopoly ad firm in either the US or UK or perhaps, anywhere else. Hakuhodo has half of Dentsu’s market share, and then ADK has half of Hakuhodo’s. Dentsu has a total monopoly on all the best media space. They also do campaigns for multiple firms in the same fields – something you don’t really see in the West. Imagine Coke and Pepsi using the same ad firm and sharing information.

    The best way to think of the company is as an unofficial branch of the government in control of the media message. This may sound paranoid, but so be it.

    Whether Dentsu are bad guys or not, they do have adequate control of all media space in order to make a single message become widespread. Know all those “booms” in Japan? Dentsu has the power to coordinate enough media to make any inkling of “trend” in a full-fledged phenomenon. Needless to say, Dentsu was behind the Hanryu Boom among other things…

    But yeah, since every media outlet depends on Dentsu for their biggest sales, no one is going to badmouth Dentsu. Just economic common sense – nothing more sinister.

  2. Perhaps it’s not all that sinister but it’s still pretty sad the article wouldn’t go ahead and name the company that’s the very subject of a government investigation.

  3. From what I understand, the Hanryu boom actually started in China- and in fact the word was even coined there. That of course does not mean that Dentsu did not popularize it in Japan, but it seems that they did not in fact invent the boom from scratch.

  4. Marxy, if you say Dentsu is behind the Hanryu boom you had better back it up with some sources. In Japan, NHK was the first to air Korean dramas, and MutantFrog is correct to note that it happened in China before it hit Japan. Maybe your definition of Hanryu is different from mine, but I don’t see how they could be behind that phenomenon. That would imply that Dentsu started it, and they didn’t.

  5. Tahara’s book was published in 1984… Something tells me the landscape has changed since then. Asahi’s hit a lot of bumps in the road in terms of scandals in false reporting and political backlash on the NHK comfort women program issue. Maybe they’re not really in a position to risk ad revenue now.

  6. Dentsu did boost Hanryu but it was NHK that made it big
    no question about it.
    Obuchi Keizo and Kim dae jung had a deal on renewing the
    bilateral tie and Seoul demand ANOTHER formal apology
    at the summit,this time in written words.
    The cold pizza delivery man agreed to because

    A) Kim was considered to be the most critical about Japan among
    Korean politics,because he has resentment because of his kidnapping
    from Tokyo conducted by KCIA in 74 and Tokyo made a deal with Seoul
    in backdoor to close this case.

    B)2002 world cup was thought to be a great opprtunity to start renewed
    relationship and another apology would ultimately makes past by gone

    Tokyo demanded some kind of symbolic gesture of recomciliation from
    Seoul and that was

    A)Formal word from Kim that no more history card and this is the end of it.
    B)abolition of prohibition of Japanese popular culture

    But after the summit Seoul had insisted that “cultures must flow to both
    direction” and decleared that abolition could be postponed if no korean
    popular culture succeed in Japanese market.

    So the task came to NHK to boost Hanryu from almost zero.

  7. I still think that Tahara’s Dentsu expose is significant. It certainly shows that a media outlet CAN criticise Dentsu. In a way, criticism of Dentsu is old news as there was plenty back in the 1980s and early 1990s.

    I also agree that the Japanese press has been “waiting a bit” before breaking scoops lately because of a whole bunch of misses like the NHK/Comfort Women thing (it is my understanding that Asahi was wrong in the end) and the infamous Livedoor email. But seriously, shouldn’t the “serious” press wait until they have their facts straight before going balls out?

    I agree with Aceface on Hanryu – the NHK explanation is the most common one kicking around in Japanese/English academic circles. I also think that Japanese government involvement in creating such a positive image of Korea in mass media is a very good thing. I wonder why a flub by Ishihara gets major play but something like this — a focused government effort to improve the image of South Korea that actually seems to have worked — is pretty much unknown outside of Japan.

  8. M-Bone:

    I wouldn’t blame foreign correspondents.For their task is to cover the news.
    Which are always man-bites-dog situations.

    I have a episode that Dentsu and others had significant influence over
    Shukanshi,weekly magazine for salary men in the “lost decade”of the 90’S
    and that was the extermination of “hair-nude”.

    I have a college-day friend who is now working in a big publishing firm
    of which name I would only hint as starts with K,told me the word 脱裸入広.
    The editing policy of shyukanshi had shifted to get more ad-fee than selling magazine since people started to cut down their spending due to recession.
    At first they wanted increase more kinky element to restore reader’s loyality
    But Shyukanshi people had soon found out that if you have a picture of
    women’s pubic hair in the magazine in the issue,you lose some precious ads,
    a new trend that had never existed before.

    In 90’S lots of (in J-standard) company were sold to foreign firms and accepted foreign execs as the board members.Dentsu and others discovered that gaijin execs simply rejects hair-nudes as low taste or offensive to women and consider such magazines are worthless for their ads.

    This message was sent directly to syukanshi editors
    “if you want ads ,cut out the hair nudes”and the keyword was 脱裸入広、
    Datsula-nyukou,out the hair nudes,enter-ads.

    It resembles 脱亜入欧 out from asia,entering west.phrase widely known in
    meiji-era to adopt new environment provided by the encounter with the west.

  9. 1) I never said Dentsu INVENTED Densha Otoko. They just ran the capitalization of the original 2-ch plot. How’s that “real” Densha Otoko doing these days? I wonder why nobody ever got an exclusive interview with him…

    2) Dentsu doesn’t have to invent content – like the Hanryu. But they help mobilize resources/editorial/ads to make things look like a national boom. There is a long waiting list of industries (especially in the foods) that get their chance at a “boom” whether it’s mutton, soy milk, vinegar, etc. Just going with Dentsu alone means enough outlets can pick up your story and make it look like a legitimate social phenomeon.

    3) K = Kodansha, no? Mrs. Noda also got rid of Penthouse back in the day.

    4) What makes Dentsu different than other global ad firms is that they do work hand-in-hand with the government to pursue national goals. If Hanryu was a policy decision, they helped carry that out. Same with the fake town meetings. Surely, ad firms and advisors have helped other governments elsewhere, but Dentsu can be counted on to always play this role. The government clearly sees them as an ally and helps maintain their monopoly position because they are useful for their informational goals.

    5) Another thing to look at is the way the ad business works in Japan – providing all services for free with payment coming in the form of an inflated-price “media buy.” Since Dentsu and Hakuhodo control all the media, this basically sets a standard which no other ad firm can replicate. Companies then don’t want to pay smaller ad agencies for individual service performance.

  10. So Marxy and Aceface – do you guys think that Dentsu is a good or bad influence on what you would call the “public space” (what people say and how they say it) in Japan? Or has it been good at times and bad at others?

  11. I don’t think it is correct to call Dentsu an “ad firm”. They are much more than that. Dentsu’s role in Japan is similar to Burson & Marsteller, whatever you want to call them. A “PR company” perhaps. I remember when B&M used to have a great slogan: “Perceptions are real”. That is more like what Dentsu is doing in Japan.

  12. M-bone:

    Economically? Dentsu has done tremendous good for the GDP. This, of course, provides its greatest benefits to those in the highest 10% income bracket. Still, note the low rate of consumer spending and one has to wonder just how good,or if economic conditions trump their efforts.

    At any rate, those in economic power justify the use of such a media conglomerate by saying it’s for the good of the populace – they have jobs, right?

    The use of ‘decide government policy, then rally public support’ strategies is nothing new. It got Bush into Iraq. Given the naive public in Japan, I don’t see anger building up.

  13. Marxy:
    I don’t know about penthouse,but Shuykan Gendai and Syukan Post had a very severe hair-nude battle without honor nor dignity.and it just stopped briefly at the turn of the century.If my memory serves Friday had also lost it’s shine around that time.Could be a kind of urban myths though but it did happen, and that’s what “k” told me.

    Do we all need to know who actually was “densya otoko”
    He is a sort of Johnny appleseed type of figure for 21century Tokyo.

    But then again I’ve just discovered through internet that he DID exist as a real man in 18century Massachusetts.Although I have no other way to probe this
    infornation is telling the truth….

    Public space in Japan is totally preoccupied by mathmedia.but I wouldn’t blame
    Dentsu for EVERYTHING.If it had gone too far, It had gotten pressure to mend to harmonize with the rest of the society.I would say that the real problem in this country is that monopoly taken as a virtue.

    I guess decline of intellectualism,labor unions,regional communities and big family
    had to do with this.and what has left for the Japanese sociallife are school and consumerism and comapany life.There is a word called 会社主義,Japanese version
    of corporatism,instead of the 社会主義,socialism of which a lot of intellectual circles had wanted.
    Dentsu is definitely serves as the ministry of information in the realm of 会社主義.
    But then again I wouldn’t think if we remove Dentsu from the landscape much
    will change,hence it is after all only a beneficiary of the system,not the one regulates it

  14. “I don’t know about penthouse,but Shuykan Gendai and Syukan Post had a very severe hair-nude battle without honor nor dignity.”

    Jingi naki hair-nude tatakai? Awesome.

    Ace – do you really see a decline in intellectualism in Japan at present? I see more and more university academics penning works for popular consumption. Two examples – the recent shinsho editions of “Kakusa Shakai” by Tachibanaki Toshiaki and the new book about the “peace clause” by Ohta Hikara (comedian) and Nakazawa Shinichi (scholar and thinker)… (can’t remember the title). Big sellers and interesting to boot. I also think that Japanese TV documentaries are getting better and involving more and more leading scholars. I think that there is a place for popular intellectual discourse within a consumer enviornment.

    I agree that consumerism has developed in Japan to the point of a religion and that Dentsu plays a major role, however, I’m not sure that this is a “Japanese” thing. I don’t see a big difference between Japanese consumerism and that of other postindustrial societies (on a quantitative level, at least).

  15. M-Bone:
    Intellectuallism is definitely declining here in Japan.
    Today a playwriter named Kinoshita Jyunji died at the age of 92.and he was one of the last of his kind.The card carrying member of the post war liberal intelligetia aristocracy.a dying race.
    Few are still surviving,like Kato Syuichi and Tsurumi Syunsuke.You could add Oe Kenzaburo among them.They are real intelligentsia in western sense.

    Back in the early 80’s.There were group of academic roughly rounded up
    all in one as “new academisim” those who believe in “post-“stuff.
    Names like Asada Akira,Kurimoto Shinichi,Yomota Inuhiko,Ueno Chizuko,
    They were “post-moderist”,”post-constructivist”,”post-post-war generation thinkers”.
    The similarity of “new academics”are
    1) they were unshamingly pedantic
    2)they were not marxist
    3)they were some what of icooclasts,but were little in touch with reality.
    especially politics.

    People had no-idea what so ever with their works but rushed to bookstore to by a
    copy.(perhaps Dentsu had something to do with this!)

    Nakazawa Shinichi was one of them.and he became a kind of hip-star in the 80’s.
    He was actually a cultural anthropologist studying tibetan buddhism,but he hadn’t
    written so much in academic papers for two decades.Instead he wrote about V.I Lenin.Pokemon,praising Aum Shinrikyo guru and now the Japanese costitution!

    Ohta is the skinny guy from comic duo 爆笑問題 and I belong to his generation.
    I remember the atmosphere of the 80’s that if you talk politics,you will be treated like a somekind of freak or misfit who can’t get the groove of the times.
    You gotta pretend like a comic to do the hard talk and this was the time
    Beat Takeshi got his fame as not just a comedian type of a guy.

    The 80’s had brought huge intellectual gap between generations,those who admire high culture.and the younger generation who can only appreciate subculture. Although Nakazawa and Ohta belongs to different generation,I smell the scent of the bubble days of the 80’s just too much.My opinion is they are pseudo intelligentsia and perhaps representing the dimminish of intellectual literacy
    among Japanese public.(now I’m sounding like Alex Kerr!)

    The consumerism in Japan has one aspect that differs from that of the west.
    To some in Japan,consumerism is the only form of self expression which you
    can make by your own selfdetermination,since they have very little alternative
    in real life.such as changing jobs,schools,family life and life plans.

    Old school intellectuals took challenge to these issues and chose to engage in many
    forms such like taking part in politics or joining civic movements.
    But since new academics had started by challenging the legacy of earlier
    generation instead ofd eepening the debates.they had mislead a generation of Japanese to fools paradise.

    This is a VERY biased observation,you know.

  16. Very biased (^_^) I’m not sure that it is useful to draw a major distinction between Japanese and “Western” academics in this way, however. Just about all of the “big names” in the USA and Europe are either a bit jingoistic (Ambrose, Keegan) or just the types of post-post-whatever that you have described as taking over in Japan (Chomsky, Said, Fish, Fiske, Foucault, Derrida, etc.).

    I do, however, think that the Ueno Chizuko types in Japan have filled a useful political function – they have pluralized Japanese academic writing. Back in the Marxist / activist heyday that you describe, Japanese scholars were still writing about “Japan” as though it were an essential category. Now scholars are much more apt to write about zainichi, ainu, burakumin (in a constructive way, not a domei way). In other words, academics have played an important role in broadening images of what “Japan” is. Academics have also played a role in developing an important counterpoint to this. While some condemn individuals like Hata Ikuhiko as “rightwing” or “revisionists”, he in particular has a rep outside Japan as a solid scholar who has challenged some of the more extreme leftwing viewpoints in very public ways (with a string of strong-selling books, for example). This is good to see – real public debate between scholars on both sides of the ideological divide.

    While Ohta, Nakazawa, Oe and some of the others that you mentioned do belong to a different generation, I think that it is normal for older scholars and writers to get the most credit and get the biggest stage. Almost all of the academics who are widely read and bought in America have either died in the last few years or are on their way out…. As for Ohta and Nakazawa, like em or loathe em, they did manage to produce a bestselling non-fiction work on preserving article 9 – an effective counter-narrative to Abe’s speal. This type of high profile point and counterpoint cannot be a bad thing.

    I agree with you that civic movements (in terms of often violent protests like the Narita airport situation and Anpo 1960 and 1970) are a thing of the past, I don’t think that intellectualism and activism have to mean the same thing.

    It remains to be seen as to whether or not the “freeta” and “NEET” generation will develop its own intellectual direction but I have been consistently impressed by the ability of Japanese academics to produce bestselling non-fiction on issues of current importance (whether, in the case of Nakazawa, we agree with them or not). Take a look at the bestselling non-fiction on sometime (shopping format that appeals to young people) – there are a range of interesting Shinsho among the top sellers (and lots and lots of manga). Then go over and check out — the list is loaded with anti-intellectuals like Limbaugh, Colture, O’Reilly, etc. on the right and the Michael Moore and the usual suspects on the left. That is what Japanese TV is like but there has not been a trend toward this type of thing in non-fiction (Kenkanryu aside).

  17. Ace – that mark after “Very biased” was supposed to be a 🙂 (smile) but it didn’t come out. I think that your post is good food for thought.

  18. M-Bone:
    “The go over and check”
    I guess the readers of Watanabe Shouichi,Tanizawa Eiichi and Kou Bun Yu
    do not trust e-commerce yet.

    I totally agree with you about Ueno and others ,then again I hate to sound like somewhat neoconesque,but I do believe certain amount of essentialism is necessary to pass the intellectual legacy to one generation to another,and the chain of the thought had definitely been cut off in the 80’s.
    Have you ever read Maruyama Masao’s “Thought in Japan”日本の思想 in
    Iwanami Shinsyo?If you do you would understand what I meant and If you have’nt
    I highly recommend it to read.

    Wow we’ve come a long way from Dentsu,M-Bone!

  19. I think that it is great that Ko Bunyu’s stuff is selling so poorly on Amazon (his most recent book, Kenchuron, has only been out a few months and is not cracking the top 100,000!). I also think that Amazon is a very good resource. Most Japanese publishers are stingy with sales figures and it is often difficult to find out if what you are getting is copies sold or copies SHIPPED to bookstores. Amazon gives a dynamic snapshot of one side of the Japanese consumer experience…. and the state of public debate on some major issues

    I’ve read Nihon no Shiso. Liked it a lot (although I don’t agree with all of Maruyama’s ideas). I was actually reading some of the “Maruyama Masao Zadan” series a few days ago….

    While I agree with you that there has been a “break” in the Japanese academic “tradition”, a few good things have come out of it — you have to admit, the Marxist historians and sociologists of the 1960s and 1970s were doing things like writing about how awful Japan was compared to that paradise on earth…. North Korea. There was also a venomous anti-Americanism in a lot of pre-1980 Japanese academic writing (some of it deserved) while more recent efforts have made a shift toward the conciliatory.

    I do think that there is a very strong continuity in Japanese academic writing — not in the critical tools that are employed but in the subjects that are dealt with and the means of presentation. For presentation and on the subject of Iwanami Shinsho, have you read Showashi (by Fujiwara Akira and a few others)? It filled a certain social function (bringing hardcore academic discussion to mass audiences) and it did very well back in the 1950s. There are some very good 21st century equivalents (Kakusa Shakai is thought provoking). I also love the idea of Iwanami’s “Junior Shinso”. In the USA, England, etc. you do not find good history books for children written by academics. There are one or two but they are VERY rare. In Japan, however, every bookstore and library has installments of this and other excellent series for young readers by some of the country’s leading academics. This is just what we need more of — a variety of advanced perspectives being circulated in popular form. I think that this is a continuity in presentation.

    In terms of continuity in subject, I think that Ueno and others, while lacking the critical depth of Maruyama in some ways, have carried on his essential project — looking at the hows and whys of Japan’s descent into militarism. This remains a valuable discussion and it is great when academics bring it out of the narrow confines of the academy into places like Shinsho and Asahi editorials 🙂

  20. M-Bone:

    I’m just reading Maruyama zadan No7!!

    I am also reading Ian buruma’s”Murder in Amsterdam”
    Have you ever read his “Missionary and the Libertine”?
    Buruma writes about cinematographer Ohsima Nagisa and
    it is quite like what we have been discusing.
    Changing of the attitude of post-war intellectual.

    You got a get my e-mail from Adamu so that we can talk
    more about other issues without messing up Adamu’s blog.

    I won’t be connected from now ,since I got go ad I’ll come back
    on monday.see ya.

  21. “The similarity of “new academics”are
    1) they were unshamingly pedantic
    2)they were not marxist
    3)they were some what of icooclasts,but were little in touch with reality.
    especially politics.”

    Since when did being a marxist have anything to do with being a ‘real’ academic? In fact, since when did being a Marxist in Japan have anything to do with being in touch with reality? Remember it was the inflexibility of the left on Article 9 and its militant stance vis-a-vis for example education that led many Japanese to desert the cause of the JSP, JCP and Nikkyoso over the course of the 70s and 80s.

  22. “Since when did being a marxist have anything to do with being a ‘real’ academic?”

    What I meant, of course was that Marxism was never a prerequisite for academic status.

  23. Bryce:

    Back in the days there were times that marxism WAS a prerequisite
    of a sort to get a tenure in Japanese universities.

    Remember Prof.Fujioka of notorious TSUKURU-KAI,Japanese Society
    of Historical Textbook Reform was a card carrying member of JCP
    before he became born-again right wing?and Nishibe Susumu was
    an activist of BUND?Even the right among the rights were once a marxist.

    Marxist did have strong touch with the reality in early stage of post-war Japan
    1)In developing country ,marxism sometimes give more satisfying analysis
    on socio-economic issues and were taken seriously by decision makers.
    best and the brightest in Tokyo Univ.of 20’s and 30’s were marxist.

    2)Since marxist were oppressed in 30’s and 40’s.They achievd status of “righteous” intellectual in post-war,compared to war collaborationist conservative or liberals who couldn’t fight all the way.Seeking the war-responsibility among professors had been popular pastime for students and being marxist was the easiest way to avoid humiliation or disguise your true colors.
    As well as in schools,marxist ideas filled newspapers and magazines whose circulations are unimaginable scale in other countries,which affected generations.
    (this would take us back to media immersion to the society debate)

    3)They were anti-american,So they could conduct mass demonstrations
    and strikes around U.S bases.or on occasion like extinguished Ike visit,
    security treaty revision during Abe’s grandpa and war in Vietnam.

    These reason gave more or less a leverage to reality for marxist in ivory towers
    before 1970.

    And don’t you forget .”peace constitution” is still standing firmly on political
    horizon despite the ongoing talk of revision,a political objective Japanese left had been persisted for last half century in return of the idea of holding power.
    They may be down but not dead yet.

  24. Marxy, much of what you say is true, but I think you miss my main point which is as follows:

    People who inhabit modern Japanese universities do not embrace Marxism as enthusiastically as in past times, but that does not make them any less ‘academic’.

    As for the notion that Japan’s radicals are still not ‘dead’, the only evidence I’ve seen supporting that view lately is a few old ladies waving signs around Nagatacho. I might well agree with you that Abe will face an uphill battle if he wants to change Article Nine, but this will be due to what Glenn Hook has referred to as an ’embedded norm’ of pacifism in Japanese society. The marxists may have played a valuable role in promoting and popularising that norm during the early postwar years, and the norm still remains, but that doesn’t mean to say that Marxism itself is anything to write home about in modern Japan.

  25. On the subject of “Article 9” — a lot of the recent reporting about the chances for revision is trying to fool people. At this point, a majority of Japanese support revision of the constitution. However, the Associated Press and others have been talking like constitutional revision = scrapping Article 9. The last Article 9 specific poll that I have seen suggests that upwards of 60% are in favor of keeping it (the remaining 40% either wanted to scrap it or were undecided, there was no breakdown). I really think that it IS an uphill battle for Abe and this is partly due to a longstanding pattern of anti-militarist thought that was established by the (no largely dead/retired) Marxist academics.

  26. Anti-militarism was not entirely a product of Marxist academics. The LDP followed the Yoshida doctrine of sidelining the military in favor of economic development for a good while too, and they basically helped the Left spread the doctrine of pacifism and then used it as justification to resist US pressure to send troops to Korea and Vietnam.

    I can totally believe that a majority is in favor of constitutional revision in some fashion, but are there any specific proposals that have wide support? Or is it just a matter of “we should have a constitution that wasn’t translated from English, I guess.”?

  27. Maybe everybody else is forgetting now that all this start from Dentsu….
    Today I found new revised version of Dentsu no shoutai”増補版電通の正体” at the bookshop.It says Tahara Souichiro’s wife’s funeral was conducted by former CEO and honarable chairman of Dentsu!!

    It’s me you’re talking to ,not Marxy,I think.And I thought what you’ve asked was whether marxism was a key to J-academia.and my answer was,yeah it was until 1970.On others, I totally agree with you.

    M-Bone and Mutantfrog:
    I’ve been thinking Macarthur constitution(it ain’t PEACE costitution for me!)was partly guilty of creating defacto one-party state of post-war Japan.Think of Meiji constitution.I don’t have accurate number but back then there were more frequent regime change than post-war period.This is one of the reason I want to have constitutional revision.

  28. There was a certainly a lot more turnover in government of the pre-war period, but is that really traceable to the constitution itself? I think you need to point to something that specifically shows causation, and not just correlation. Is there something about the text of the current constitution that makes it easier for one party to remain in power? Let’s not forget the role of the CIA in undermining the Japanese political Left in the cold-war era, a very significant external factor what had no equivalent in the pre-war period. What would the post-war political landscape have looked like in Japan without the Right being backed by the US? And for that matter, without the Left being backed by the USSR and DPRK?

  29. Mutantfrog:
    There is a element in current constitution that makes easier for 1 party to remain power compare to Meiji constitution.That is Article 9

    Any leading party will face the deadlock in foreign relation and national security because of it.So you will have to make a choice whether to ignore constitution to certain degree to fit the needs in reality or stay away from the administrative power by keeping the idealism of article9
    JSP and JCP could always pretend they are commited democrat for they obey the ideal of the article9 and respecting the constitution, While LDP maintains power but gets canned by media and public opinion as no good quasi-democrat and would be militarist.

    This impression is being summed up by accusation from foreign government JSP and JCP could cultivate political gains at the expense of LDP and perhaps national interest.which eventually escalate into political crisis.
    These internal and external factor bring devided-we-fall-kind of weak parlimental order.Hence most of the works of the nation are run by the initiative of bureaucrat.
    and the lawmakers simply follows them.

    Bureaucrat and big corporation needed ally for stable and sustainable political order.which must have the ability of
    a) coorperative to the interest group
    b)taming both oppositons in and out of country.
    for a) LDP established corporate state sturucture
    for b) they kept article 9 untouched so the political rivals do not nake any fuss

    JSP and JCP discovered they cannot outpace the holy trinity of LDP ,bureaucrat
    and Big companies,they’ve settled with the agenda of goken護憲 selfproclaimed
    guardian of the article9.and unofficialy abandoned the task of regime change. Pacifist supporters agreed to this passive perticipation to parlimental democracy.

    I KNOW I’,m overly simplifying

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