Another post-upper house scenario: A “liberal coalition”?

The unified local elections began their official campaign periods today, with the Tokyo Gubernatorial election emerging as the most interesting to watch, as incumbent Ishihara under fire for a number of scandals and main challenger Shiro Asano looking like a real contender (though an underdog) in early polls.

Still, I can’t say I’m that interested because the elections probably won’t have much direct effect on national politics. I mean, I guess I’m keen to see if localities continue to elect fewer ex-national bureaucrats and “elect representatives who will end the traditional dependence on subsidies and reshape their communities into strong entities through wisdom and innovative ideas” as the Asahi suggests.

But unless the LDP-backed candidates somehow fare absolutely miserably, I can’t really see them having a huge effect on, say, whether Abe will stay in office. So let’s focus on the latest juicy political speculation from Shukan Bunshun:

Signs of “Certain Political Reorganization” after the Upper House Election – Both LDP and DPJ may break up if ruling coalition loses majority
March 20

Political maneuvering with an eye toward what happens after the July upper house elections have begun within the LDP. The scenario is “If the ruling coalition loses its majority, the LDP and DPJ will break up and cause a major political reorganization.” Nagata-cho is squirming this Spring.

On the evening of March 12, 4 influential Diet members gathered at a Tokyo restaurant. They are former LDP Vice President Taku Yamasaki, Koichi Kato, Makoto Koga (the last two both former LDP Secretaries General), and present LDP Policy Council Chief Toshihiro Nikai. Except for Nikai, a member of the LDP senior leadership, the men have all kept their distance from Prime Minister Abe. Their are called the “New YKK,” a name taken from their initials, and also held a top-secret meeting on February 19. This meeting, on the surface, reported concluded with “unanimous support for the Abe cabinet leading up to the Upper House election,” but the content of the meeting had to be different considering who was in attendance.

When the conversation got to the point, Kato brought up the upper house election:

“This won’t be an ordinary election (since unaffiliated votes are moving away from the LDP). It’s going to be a tough election.”

After Kato offered his analysis, Koga and Yamasaki nodded, and revealed their opinions:

“If we lose the majority, then both the Diet and the administration will be very tough to manage.” However, Nikai, his position in the party being what it is, listened intently.

This summer’s upper house election (voting will be held July 22) has been billed as “a battle for supremacy,” but people have started making political maneuvers behind the scenes aimed at after the election. This New YKK meeting is just one example. The key words in meetings like these are “the ruling coalition losing the majority in the upper house” and “political reorganization.” These words were actually used in the above-mentioned meeting. Koga: “If, for instance, the ruling coalition loses its majority in the upper house, there is no need to dissolve the lower house. In that case, we should keep a political reorganization within our field of vision.” (to a group of reporters in Saga Prefecture, March 11)

Yamasaki joined in, saying “If, heaven forbid, the LDP loses in the upper house election, it will be very difficult to manage the political landscape in the 3 years until the next upper house election. In that case, there are people who would call for dissolution of the lower house and a general election, but that would be meaningless since it’s the upper house that would be paralyzed… In order to restore governing ability, there would be no choice but reorganization. (March 9, in an interview with Asahi Shimbun)

An LDP official close to Kato reveals more detail, but prefaced his explanation by saying “This is only if the LDP loses its majority in the upper house.” He went on:

“This is probably an idea thought up by the New YKK, led by Kato. They are aiming to rope in some DPJ members and form a ‘non-Abe, non-Aso’ liberal administration. They have no other options if the LDP loses the upper house election.”

In November, Kato met with Yohei Kono, speaker of the lower house, possibly to test the waters. Kono is well known, along with Kato, as representatives of the LDP’s doves, but the two had a “bad breakup” when the former Miyazawa faction split up. After patching things up, they reportedly agreed at the meeting to “stop the right-leaning rampage and cooperate from here on out.”

Of course, there is a potential partner for this “political reorganization.” The target is the DPJ, Japan’s top opposition party. Party president Ichiro Ozawa, who leads the party, is infamous for shaking things up. Even recently, Ozawa has sounded positive about a shakeup: “The opposition should take a majority (in the upper house election) and if possible realize a political reorganization and a healthy 2-party system… The LDP cannot exist in its present form if the opposition takes a majority in the upper house election. They will split into groups along ideological lines.” (in Tottori city on Feb 10) He has expressed a desire for political reorganization that takes in the LDP as well.

Atsuo Ito, a political analyst with experience working for both the LDP and the DPJ, had this to say:

“In Ozawa’s book, the only shortcut to taking control of the government is political reorganization. Ozawa’s political stance has shifted from right to left and back again, but he has been consistent in seeking reorganization and a 2-party system. The now-defunct Shinshinto and Liberal Party were nothing but tool to achieve that reorganization.”

And the rumors in Nagata-cho speculate: “If the opposition takes a majority in the upper house, Ozawa will most certainly try to split the LDP.”

In fact, in the “June Transformation” in 1994 over who would succeed Tsutomu Hata as PM, Ozawa (then president/sec gen of the Shinseito) got former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu to leave the LDP and make a run at the premiership. He also made overtures toward former PM Yasuhiro Nakasone and former Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe (now deceased) and set up a split in the LDP. People are wondering if he’ll try the same trick again.

Still, Kato, Yamasaki and the rest are reportedly unlikely to team up with Ozawa. The above-mentioned LDP official remarks: “[Teaming with Ozawa] might be an option, but that would bring with it a lot of halation. They are probably actually prioritizing the “non-Ozawa” conservative elements of the DPJ.”

The Kato-Yamasaki group is probably eyeing the mid-career and younger conservative DPJ Diet members, such as the Maehara Group. There is some dissatisfaction among the conservative DPJ Diet members with Ozawa, who gives consideration to former Socialist Party factions including Takahiro Yokomichi. Also, one mid-career member from the DPJ explains, “They are tired of being in the opposition and are more and more seeking to join the ruling parties.” If both the LDP and DPJ have potential to split up, there’s a good possibility that the two groups could come together.

Kamei Shizuka of Kokumin Shinto may also prove to be a key player. And since the epicenter of any potential reorganization will be “the ruling coalition losing their majority in the upper house” one mustn’t ignore the actions of Mikio Aoki, chairman of the LDP’s upper house caucus, and Toranosuke Katayama, Secretary General of the upper house LDP caucus. Both men are high-ranking members of the LDP’s Tsushima faction, which is brimming with dissatisfaction with the Abe administration. A political reorganization won’t have much traction only with this New YKK, and it goes without saying that the actions of the Tsushima faction, which is not a leading faction and boasts strong numbers in the upper house.

Lonely Girl wasn’t viral marketing, it *aspired* to be viral marketing

I’d state the obvious and say that Lonely Girl is the lamest bunch of crap that ever existed, but then I might hurt my own chances of a sweet product placement deal with Pocky.

Lonelygirl15 Breaks Ice With Hershey’s

MARCH 20, 2007 –

Lonelygirl15, the pseudo-video diary that became a YouTube phenomenon last year, has signed its first major product placement deal with Hershey’s for its Icebreakers Sours Gum brand.

In a video posted on March 20 on the official Lonelygirl site,, the show’s main character Bree is seen offering her friends a piece of Icebreaker’s gum, and a closeup of the product is shown. The sponsored episode of scripted teen drama is slated to eventually be featured on YouTube and other video-sharing sites in the near future, said officials.

This level of product integration marks one of the more sophisticated examples of branded entertainment to emerge from the rapidly-evolving world of amateur-created online video. The deal was initiated by the Dallas, Texas-based agency TracyLocke. Ad sales were handled directly by the agents from Creative Artists Agency who represent the Lonelygirl creators. “It’s empowering for us to have major international brand like Hershey’s treat us like they would any other major entertainment property,” says Greg Goodfried, Lonelygirl15co-creator. “Deals like this are good for the community – they help us pay our operating expenses, which has been an ongoing struggle.”

(from MediaWeek)

J-Cast on the new Ghibli movie: A chance to “re-educate” Goro

English-only Ghibli fans might be interested to know how people are reacting to the recently announced new Ghibli film “Ponyo of the Cliff top”. J-Cast has the story:

Hayao Miyazaki to Re-educate Son with New Film
Mar. 20

Director Hayao Miyazaki’s latest project, “Ponyo of the Cliff Top” was announced yesterday for a summer 2008 release. The main character, a 5-year-old boy named “Sosuke” was modeled after Miyazaki’s son Goro. Goro directed the Ghibli project “Tales of Earthsea” in 2006, and while the film was a major hit, many slammed how the film turned out. As a result, Hayao is attempting to re-educate his eldest son, and has included a message in the film of how he wants his eldest to turn out. Or at least that’s what everyone is saying.

The 5-year-old Lead Resembles Hayao’s Son

goro-nni20060814ti7miyzk01.jpgThis will be the first film from Hayao Miyazaki ever since Howl’s Moving Castle achieved huge box office totals of 19.6 billion yen when it was released 4 years ago (November 2004). The new film is a story of Ponyo, a goldfish princess who wants to become human, and the five-year-old Sosuke. Producer Toshio Suzuki explains, “This is kind of like Miyazaki’s version of ‘The Little Mermaid.'” Tales of Earthsea, which came out last year, was supposed to have been directed by Hayao himself — he negotiated the film rights with the original author 20 years ago — but the director changed to his eldest son, Goro (pictured). As J-Cast reported earlier:

“Ghibli’s Suzuki said in an interview ‘(Hayao) said that “it would be inconceivable for Goro to take the helm.” In other words, he was totally against Goro directing it.'”

Afterward, Suzuki convinced Hayao to go along, but while the production ended up being a hit, the movie received less than favorable reviews from viewers and the original author.

The father-son feud was reported as follows in a March 20, 2007 article in Sports Nippon:

“Sosuke was modeled after Goro Miyazaki, Hayao’s 40-year-old eldest son. Goro made his directorial debut with Tales of Earthsea last year, and Hayao interpreted his son’s actions as a rebellion against his father, reportedly expressing remorse: “Things turned out this way because I was working all the time and didn’t spend time with Goro when he was 5 years old. [I’m making this] so there won’t be any more children like Goro.”

It looks like this will be a film about regrets over raising an eldest son.

“Thank goodness it’s Hayao!”

Since Hayao Miyazaki has made several statements indicating he’s retiring from directing, rumors had been circulating on the Internet wondering if there would be another Hayao-directed film. Perhaps influenced by such concerns, there are lots of blog entries from Yahoo, Livedoor, and Excite-hosted blogs placing their hopes in Hayao:

“Thank goodness it’s Hayao!!! But it looks like the kid is modeled after Goro…”
“Yes!!! YES!!!! I LOOOOOOOVEEEE Miyazaki’s movies!! Goro’s movie was just so poorly received I still haven’t watched it [Translator: Same here!], but I wonder how Earthsea turned out? Hayao’s movies almost never fail to please, so I am simply looking forward to it.”
“I am looking forward to this. Since this is coming after Goro Miyazaki seems to have misjudged the public, I am interested to see how people react to this one.”

Will this new film feature the father’s overwhelming dignity and serve to re-educate Goro?

Comment: This looks like a continuation of the human drama initiated and encouraged by Ghibli (who printed Goro’s blog that detailed the feud and an interview with Suzuki that explained more about it) since it was learned that Earthsea would be directed by the inexperienced Goro. Since, as J-Cast notes, Earthsea ended up being a hit despite bad reviews, perhaps the promoters and investors (which include notorious hit-generators Hakuhodo and Dentsu) see this reality-show spectacle as an effective way to generate hype. The personal stories probably resonate with fans of Studio Ghibli, which was voted Japan’s top-ranking brand name in a 2006 poll of consumers conducted by Nikkei BP:

Miyazaki magic

Studio Ghibli stepped up from second place in the 2005 survey, receiving fairly high marks in two of the four categories the survey conductors determined to be key factors in creating brand power. The two categories were friendly and outstanding.

The animation studio has spawned an array of popular films, such as “Howl’s Moving Castle”, released in 2004, successfully connecting with consumers on an emotional basis.

Resonating with consumers is the ultimate goal of corporate marketing.

Micro micro broadcasting

Buried in the second half of a Japan Times story about Japan’s dogged pursuit of resolution over the North Korean abduction issues was the following.

A Japanese citizens group is one step closer to getting approval to air Japanese-language programs intended for Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea.

The International Telecommunication Union, a Geneva-based body set up to standardize and regulate international radio and telecommunications, informed the government Monday that it is prepared to allocate a shortwave frequency band to the group, sources said.

 Seriously? They want to actually broadcast programs specially prepared for a population which is at most 8 people, but which North Korea claims is actually zero? Personally, I have always suspected that North Korea was being entirely truthful when they said that the remaining abductees are all dead, but that they are probably trying to cover up the circumstances of their deaths, whether by suicide, execution, starvation, or whatever unpleasant means it was.

But even if North Korea was lying and the 8 are still alive, this is still an absolutely mind-stunningly dumb plan. First of all, there is the fact that short-wave radios are entirely banned in Korea-the only radios permitted for non governmental use can only be tuned to government preset stations, which presumably does not include “Japan Abductee News.” And think about the staggering inefficiency of this plan. How much effort exactly do they propose to spend on preparing radio broadcasts that have a virtually zero chance of getting to the intended audience, which let us remember is only eight people to begin with! I can sort of understand the enormous efforts to actually retrieve or at least discover the fates of kidnapped citizens, but why send out messages that a: probably no one will here and b: even if they did, no-one back in Japan would ever know that they had heard it.


Just on the heels of my post the other day on the virtually ignored doings of Japan’s modern left-wing terrorist wannabees, an article in today’s New York Times informs us that the Communist Party USA still technically exists. In fact, the existence of this formerly very active organization is so marginal that their official website even seems to be down. And even worse for them, their Manhattan offices are being rented out to someone else. The good news, however (for the record, I consider the demise of the CPUSA merely “interesting” and neither good nor bad) is that in the process of cleaning out their offices, they are donating their entire 12,000 carton document archive to New York University. And for those  readers who need a Japan connection, according to the article, one of the more curious documents found in the yet un-cataloged archive so far is “a letter from W. E. B Du Bois in 1939 denying he took money from Japan for propagandizing on its behalf.”

New Ghibli movie, this time directed by the real Miyazaki

ponyo-20070319at48t.jpgJiji Press reports that Hayao Miyazaki announced that he is directing a new long-form animated film called “Ponyo on the Cliffs” (崖の上のポニョ), a story of a boy’s friendship with a “goldfish princess” who wants to become human.

The production, the first directed by Hayao Miyazaki since 2003’s Howl’s Moving Castle, began last October and will be completely hand-drawn, with no computers used whatsoever. The animation style is simple and childlike (see picture). The scenery is based on the Seto Inland Sea, an area of Japan where Miyazaki stayed in 2005. The 5-year-old hero is based on his son Goro, who directed the poorly-received Earthsea adaptation. The music will be done by Ghibli regular Jo Hisaishi. The final production is scheduled to be released in summer 2008.

An official press release confirms the recent reports and promises more information moving forward.

Horie goes for the counterslam

Takafumi Horie, the ex-president of Livedoor recently convicted of securities fraud, continues his role as spotlight-hog even in disgrace. He’s been the subject of numerous interviews and press stories throughout his trial. So as a man for whom winning the image war between himself and prosecutors may be even more important than whether his appeals ultimately succeed, it seems only natural that Horie would take the opportunity to SLAM the court’s decision:

Convicted Horie stays defiant, slams court
The Associated Press

Disgraced dot-com tycoon Takafumi Horie slammed his conviction and harsh sentence for securities fraud Sunday, insisting he committed no crimes and that he had more than paid for any mistakes by losing his company.

On Friday, Horie was found guilty of masterminding a network of decoy investment funds to illegally manipulate earnings at his Internet startup, and was sentenced to 2 1/2-half years in prison in the biggest white-collar-crime trial Japan has witnessed in years.

“I did not intentionally attempt to pad earnings, and there was no false accounting,” an intent-looking Horie, former president of Livedoor Co., said on a TV Asahi talk show Sunday. “I do not accept the court’s verdict.”

Horie is on bail while he appeals the verdict.

A brief history of lawyers in Japan

Since Roy requested it in an earlier comment, here’s a brief history of the Japanese bar, culled together from various sources (the best being Rabinowitz’s 1953 Harvard Law Review article on the subject).

c. 1700: Innkeepers in Edo begin offering simple legal services to transient guests, such as preparing documents to present to the shogunate. Over time, these “kujishi” take on more bailiff-like functions, such as effectively imprisoning people who are forced to appear before judges. They have no code of ethics, and actively practice extortion, encourage conflicts of interest and generally mess with their clients to make a quick yen.

1811: The first known reference to European-style lawyers in Japanese literature. They are described as “natural philosophers.”

1854: The second known reference to European-style lawyers in Japanese literature. They are described as “accompanying stupid people to court and writing documents for them.”

1872: The new Meiji government enacts regulations which provide for people to be represented in court by advocates (daigennin). This is the first time that anyone has ever been allowed to represent someone else in a Japanese court. There is no qualification to become an advocate, so the existing kujishi assume the new title and continue in their sleazy ways.

1873: A new regulation comes into effect which requires all court documents to be prepared by a scrivener (daishonin). The scrivener is mandatory but the advocate is not. However, there is no qualification to be a scrivener either, so anyone can do the job, the only restriction being that the scrivener cannot also be the advocate. Nobody is sure why this rule was put into place: one common theory is that the Meiji oligarchs were trying to copy the French system but misunderstood how it worked.

1875: A new position is created for criminal trials: the bengokan. This is sort of kind of like a defense lawyer, except he can’t argue the law: he can only perform factfinding. He can be appointed by the court whenever they decide it’s appropriate.

1876: The government requires an advocate examination before a person can use the title of advocate. The examination is performed on a court-by-court basis, often by judges with no legal training, and is so difficult that only 56 advocates are admitted by 1878. This proves to be not too consequential, because advocates are not given a monopoly on the practice of law: anyone can appear on someone else’s behalf in court, so long as they don’t use the advocate title.

Also in 1876, foreigners are granted the right to counsel in criminal proceedings. Japanese are allowed counsel later in the year, but only with the consent of the Ministry of Justice. However, the Ministry of Justice institutes a policy which says that consent will not be withheld, which makes this sort of like a right to counsel even though it isn’t.

1880: New regulations institute a national examination for advocates, and the new Criminal Code (which takes effect in 1882) provides for a right to counsel in criminal trials. The Tokyo Advocates’ Union (Tokyo Daigennin Kumiai) is formed, which is the first real bar association in Japan.

1893: Finally, we see the profession of attorneys (bengoshi) appear with the passage of the Attorney Act. This statute makes all existing advocates attorneys, and provides that a Japanese adult male may become an attorney if they pass a fiendishly difficult national bar examination, hold a doctorate in law, have served as a judge or prosecutor or have a bachelor’s degree in law from one of the imperial universities. The new law also creates a bar association (bengoshikai) corresponding with the jurisdiction of each district court. Attorneys are strictly limited to courtroom work.

1923: The Attorney Act is revised to eliminate automatic admission for imperial university graduates, and modify the bar association system so that lawyers can form more than one bar association in their jurisdiction. The highly politicized lawyers in Tokyo form a splinter bar association immediately, and a second splinter bar association in 1926, splitting the Tokyo bar into thirds. (More on this in a future post: the political history of the Tokyo bar is an interesting topic but probably too much of a diversion to include here.)

1933: The Attorney Act is overhauled again. Women lawyers are allowed for the first time. The new statute also provides that each bar association must administer a two-year apprenticeship system for newly-minted lawyers. The central government wants to control the apprenticeship process, but decides that the politics in the legal community are too nasty at this point.

1936: Another amendment allows attorneys to provide legal services other than courtroom advocacy.

1946: In the wake of World War II, the government takes over the apprenticeship process (as it originally intended), requiring all lawyers to attend a Legal Research and Training Institute (Shiho Kenshujo) for two years before being admitted. The first set of lawyers to graduate from LRTI are referred to as “the first class” (dai-ichi-ki), and subsequent classes are counted from there. Nowadays, attorneys establish seniority among each other by stating their LRTI class number. The 60th class entered in 2006.

1949: A new Attorney Act is passed. The bar associations become independent (they were previously answerable to the Minister of Justice) and are organized into the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nichibenren). Foreign attorneys are also expressly allowed to join the Japanese bar as quasi-members (see this post). Another new statute replaces the old profession of scriveners with judicial scriveners (shiho shoshi).

1951: Yet another profession, “administrative scrivener” (gyosei shoshi), is created by statute. These are essentially lawyers who are limited to civil matters and government filings. They do visa applications, DMV paperwork and other thankless legal tasks that don’t merit the higher pedigree of an attorney.

1955: The system of admitting foreign attorneys is repealed. The existing quasi-members are pretty much the only foreign lawyers allowed to practice in Japan for the next 30 years or so.

1972: The US occupation of Okinawa ends, and Japan regains control of the legal system there. Lawyers practicing in Okinawa, including a handful of foreigners, are grandfathered in as Japanese lawyers.

1977: The Legal Research and Training Institute receives its first non-Japanese trainee, a Korean national. Although the Supreme Court initially denies him admission, they relent after a few months of negotiations, opening the floodgates to people of any nationality who want to become attorneys. (However, the low passage rate on the bar exam doesn’t really invite a flood.)

1987: After years of lobbying by American and European trade groups, Japan opens its legal services market to foreign attorneys and law firms by allowing foreign attorneys with five years of practicing experience to qualify as foreign legal consultants (gaikokuho jimu bengoshi). (The requirements to become a gaiben have been weakened over the years, and many foreign attorneys now practice in Japan without the qualification, although it’s still required to open a branch of a foreign law firm.) Many of the largest multinational law firms rush to open offices in Japan.

1998: Foreign lawyers are allowed to form joint ventures with Japanese lawyers for the first time. The multinational firms start snapping up Japanese lawyers, forcing high-end Japanese law firms to merge so as to keep up. In 2000, the firms of Nagashima Ohno and Tsunematsu Yanase merge to form Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu, the first Japanese law firm with more than 100 attorneys. By 2007, there are four firms with over 200 attorneys: Nagashima, Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, Anderson Mori & Tomotsune and Nishimura & Partners.

2002: Attorneys are allowed to form professional corporations for the first time, making it possible to create a more-or-less permanent law firm rather than a more transient partnership.

2004: Japan decides to copy the American system of legal education, creating two parallel systems for admission as a lawyer. As of 2007, you can either go in on the “old exam” track, which only requires you to pass the fiendishly difficult exam, or you can go in on a “law school” track, which requires three more years of education but allows you to take a less fiendishly difficult exam.

2010: The old bar exam will be administered for the last time. From 2011 onward, only the new bar exam will be offered. However, prospective attorneys will still be able to waive the law school requirement by taking a “preliminary exam.”

Blog software goofiness

We’ve been having some shaky operation here at Mutantfrog over the past week or two. Currently everything seems to be operating normally, but anyone encountering error messages, or having trouble getting their comments to appear, should send us a message.