Japan. Visit Countryaah official website to get information about the capital city of Japan. Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP, Jiminto) strengthened his position in parliament in January by allying himself with the year-old Liberal Party, led by Ichiro Ozawa. The new alliance controlled 116 of the upper house’s 252 seats. In the lower house, the LDP already had its own majority.
The governor elections in April became a setback for the government. The new governor of Tokyo was appointed the controversial but popular Shintaro Ishihara, independent nationalist and former LDP minister. Ishihara, author of a well-publicized book on Japanese self-confidence, promised to try to close the US airbase in western Tokyo.
In September, the LDP elected 62-year-old Obuchi as a party leader with a good margin – more than two-thirds of all votes. Shortly thereafter, the largest opposition party, Japan’s Democratic Party (DPJ, Minshuto), appointed Yukio Hatoyama a new leader after Naoto Kan.
To get a grip on Parliament’s upper house, Obuchi had announced in June that he also wanted to cooperate with the party Nya Komeito, supported by the Buddhist movement Soka Gakkai. In October, the party was included in the government, giving the tripartite coalition its own majority in both chambers of parliament.
Japan’s economy showed signs of recovery, although unemployment in July reached a record level of 4.9%. However, weak domestic consumption persisted. In November, the government presented a new large stimulus package worth about 18 trillion yen (SEK 1,300 billion). Critics claimed it could delay the economy’s cleanup by supporting overly weak companies.
When Prime Minister Obuchi visited the United States in May, the two states’ new strategic cooperation was strengthened, with Japan shouldering greater responsibility in his own region. In trade negotiations, Japan opened up his home market to something else for foreign companies.
The improved Russian-Japanese relations led to new joint naval exercises in September. In the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan, four Japanese geologists were released in October after sitting with rebels for over two months.
On September 30, Japan and the outside world were shaken by a serious accident in Tokaimura. From a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, owned by the company JCO, radioactivity leaked and injured about fifty people, most of the employees at the plant. Most severely injured were the three workers who happened to pour too much uranium solution into a tank and triggered a nuclear reaction. One of them later died of his injuries. The incident, which was severely criticized by JCO for lack of security, was described as the worst nuclear accident in the world after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Doomsday Sect Aum Shinrikyo acknowledged for the first time in December that it was an accomplice to the 1995 nervous gas attack that killed twelve people and injured thousands of others in Tokyo’s subway. On TV, a sect representative said “we cannot deny that some of our then supporters were involved” and asked the victims and their families for forgiveness. Shortly thereafter, Parliament passed two laws aimed at Aum Shinrikyo’s activities.
In December, hopes also spread that the imperial throne he had long awaited was finally on his way. On the almost final day of the year, however, the court announced that Crown Princess Masako had been hit by miscarriage.
The conflict around the Senkaku Islands in the Chinese archipelago flared up again in August 2012 after right-wing Japanese sent a ship to the islands to emphasize Japanese sovereignty. The islands had been managed by Japan since 1972, but both China and Japan claim them at the same time. The right-wing activists were arrested by the Japanese authorities, but that did not prevent the event from leading to diplomatic relations between Japan and China and led to fierce anti-Japanese protests in China.
Not surprisingly, the December 2012 parliamentary elections became a disaster for JDP, losing 3/4 of its seats in parliament (going from 230 to 57). However, if right-wing politics were to be pursued, voters would prefer LDP, which went from 118 to 294 seats in parliament, thus gaining an absolute majority. The turnout of 59.3% was the lowest since World War II. After the election, LDP’s Shinzō Abe could take over as prime minister. JDP’s 3 years in power became a paragon in history.
JApan declared in March 2013 that it entered the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations. Observers assessed that it was part of a settlement with, among other things, the state-protected Japanese agricultural production. The decision then also prompted sharp criticism from the agricultural organizations. The negotiations culminated in a final TPP agreement in October 2015.
Prime Minister Abe wanted to pursue an expansive economic policy to kick-start the economy while aiming to keep inflation below 2%. Initially, it was the defense budget that allowed him to grow while reducing the country’s foreign aid. At the same time, he resumed the project of rewriting history so that the Japanese war crimes during World War II were dimmed. It was the same project that had cost him the post of prime minister in 2007. The history project was condemned in South Korea and China, the two countries most severely affected by the Japanese war crimes 80 years earlier. While previously as Prime Minister and since as Leader of the Opposition (most recently in October 2012) he had visited the Yasakuni Temple, which included is a temple for the Japanese war criminals, he immediately failed to visit the temple, albeit he expressed understanding of the necessity of “honoring” the fallen. However, the war criminals called, so in December 2013 he visited the temple. It sparked sharp protests from China declaring that Chinese leaders no longer wanted to meet Abe. United States officials had also warned the prime minister against conducting the visit. However, on the anniversary of the end of the war on August 15, 2014, Abe failed to visit the temple. It was seen as a gesture to South Korea and China, but the two countries nonetheless vigorously protested, as a large number of politicians and 3 government ministers of the Abe chose to visit the temple.
On August 28, 2013, the government celebrated the 61st anniversary of the end of the U.S. occupation of the country. The celebration had been proposed by Abe as early as 2012, and Emperor Akihito attended the festivities. On Okinawa and in Tokyo, the event was described as a fraud. The US base on Okinawa continues to exist and its inhabitants hate it like the plague.
In order to consolidate control of security policy during the Prime Minister’s Office, in November 2013, Abe created a “National Security Council” directly under the Prime Minister’s Office.
Japan, in its constitution, has waived the right to declare war and to use military force in international disputes. Still, in May 2014, Abe declared it was time to “give up the inaction the country had been subject to since World War II”. Acc. Abe it was time for Japan to take charge of “regional security”. He stated that Japan wanted to play a “key role” and “offered” neighboring countries Japan’s “support”. Japan’s confrontation with the peace policy it had led since World War II triggered vigorous reactions from China in particular, noting that the Japanese people were against the idea of ”collective self-defense”.
On the International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women, November 25, 2014, Amnesty International once again called on Japan to apologize unreservedly to the survivors of the country’s military sex slavery during World War II. The call was traditionally ignored by the government.
In December 2014, parliamentary elections were held. The election gave a slight decline to the LDP and similar progress to the JDP, but it did not upset the political picture, so Abe remained on the prime minister’s post. The major victorious election was the Communist Party, which went through 13 terms until 21. It got 13.3% of the vote.
Three death sentences were secretly suspended (without the public being informed in advance) in 2014. That brought the number of executed death sentences to 11 since Abe took office in December 2012.