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I’m sure you all know by now that Prime Minister Abe and the LDP won the upper house elections this weekend. This means that Mr. Abe now has control of both houses of parliament, which is the first time this has happened in six years.

It is difficult to know whether to feel excited or worried by this. On the positive side, it removes the political deadlock that has done so much damage to Japan over the last six years. On the negative side, however, many people fear that Mr. Abe is actually much more interested in pursuing his nationalist agenda than trying to deal with Japan’s problems.

As we have discussed here many times, the biggest problem in Japan is what are called “vested interests.” These are powerful groups of people who make sure that the government implements policies that are good for the people in their group, even if those policies are not good for the rest of Japan. Japan has many of these powerful lobby groups, including farmers, doctors, construction companies, and, of course, the power companies.

Prime Minister Abe has said that he will make the reforms that need to be made even if he has to fight the powerful lobby groups, but many people doubt whether he will be able to follow through on this promise.

As I mentioned above, Mr. Abe now has a unique chance to make real changes that will prepare Japan for the future. This week, I thought it would be interesting to write comments in the form of a letter to Mr. Abe. You could tell him what issues most affect you and your family, and what you think his priorities should be now that he has the power to make real changes.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

このブログは英語学習者のためのものです。レベルの高い人もいれば、初心者もいますので、自分のレベルや学習経験を気にする必要はありません。「いつもコメントを書いている人は仲間みたいだから参加しにくい」と思う方もいるかもしれませんが、勇気を出してコメントを書いてみてください。必ず温かく迎えてもらえます。多くのコメントは英語で書かれていますが、もちろん日本語もOKですし、英語と日本語を混ぜて書いても大丈夫です。言いたいことが言えないときは、How do you say 「〜」in English? と聞けば、きっとだれかが教えてくれると思います。私のエントリー、または他のメンバーのコメントの中に分からないところがあったら、「”…”はどういう意味ですか?」と遠慮なく聞いてください。このブログで使われているフレーズや表現をたくさん吸収すると、より自然な英語に近づけることができますよ!

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21 Comments

  1. Biwa on Tuesday July 23rd, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Hi everyone,

    It seems that UK’s William and Kate have got a baby boy. It’s nice to hear happy news!

    Dear Prime Minister Abe,

    Congratulations on winning the upper house elections. However, as the very low voting rate shows, I don’t really think the results mean that people agree with your policies. It’s just that people think they have no other choice but to trust the Abenomics’ success in order to live or support their families.

    I don’t know much about economics, but your easy-money policy seems to be very dangerous and just leaving a huge debt to the future generation to me. However, as you and Mr. Kuroda have once started it, there is no going back, and you will have to succeed in spite of any difficulties. This is my first request.

    At the same time, my second request is to ban every Amakudari system, which is the cancer of Japanese society. Of course, this includes no using people’s money for vested interests. I think that would save trillions of money!

    My third request is “Don’t raise the consumption tax now!” I know that some people are saying that the market is going to suspect Japan’s seriousness of finance reform if they don’t raise it now, but I think it’s a very bad idea to raise the tax before people’s income rises. There seems to be many other ways to save money than just raising the tax.

    I also strongly request you to think of other ways to generate electricity besides nuclear power. Just look at Fukushima and all the other affected places, it’s just too obvious that it’s almost impossible to recover from those terrible accidents. Japan is a volcanic country, and we really need to think of our own ways especially for our coming generation.

    Lastly, I hope you won’t visit Yasukuni Shrine next month! Your victory over both houses of parliament is already provoking our neighboring countries, and I think that is enough. If you consider seriously about the relationship with those countries, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just stop visiting? Considering what other countries think when deciding your actions doesn’t necessarily mean you lose. I rather think it’s a smart diplomatic talent.

    I will write later when I remember something else!

    Best regards,

    Biwa



  2. YU on Tuesday July 23rd, 2013 at 04:51 PM

    Dear Prime Minister Abe,

    I’m a mother of a four-year-old son.
    I know it sounds cliche, but my greatest concerns are his health and education.

    I live in Kanagawa. Every time I go grocery shopping, I still hesitate to buy farm products from Fukushima and neigboring prefectures, they are less expensive, though.
    I heard that radiation safety standards for food have been relaxed, but I don’t think most Japanese people realize that.

    Are your new safety standards really safe and harmless to men, especially to children?
    If you had grandchildren, could you have them eat agricultual products from Fukushima every day?

    Some mother friends of mine pay extra money to order food from food delivery companies because their farm products are independently inspected and an inspection certificate is issued for each food item.

    Do you laugh at our worries?

    We don’t want to spend money for that at all and actually we’d like to spend it for a family trip or something more useful, but we have no choice but to do that to protect our children’s health from radiation because your food safety standards are changeable and untrustworthy.
    I really wonder whether we will be able to purchase food at supermarkets with peace of mind again as it used to be before 3.11.

    Next is about education in Japan.

    Why is education fee in Japan so expensive?
    It is said that no other developed country spends less budget for education than Japan.

    I know that you’re running this country with tight budget, but I don’t understand why older people’s pension is still fully secured even in this critical situation, while working generation with children like us burden so much now. Isn’t it too unfair? Who on earth wants to work hard for older people, not for children of your own?
    I really doubt if Japan seriously wants to stop the declining birthrate.
    If you really want to have strong economy again, you should spend more budget for working generation and children so that more people will plan to have more children. Trying to please only senior citizens in this situation is really nonsense, every generation should share the burden equally.

    Best regards,

    YU



  3. YU on Tuesday July 23rd, 2013 at 05:34 PM

    Hi Biwa,

    > I hope you won’t visit Yasukuni Shrine next month!
    > If you consider seriously about the relationship with those countries, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just stop visiting?

    I totally agree with you.

    As you know, some nationalist politicians including Sanae Takaichi, the Chairman of Policy Research Council of LDP visited Yasukini shrine “together” a few months ago. I really wonder why they are so eager to go there and why they need to go together.

    Some politicians say like, “I’m here today as a private person.” or “I came just to honor the memory of those who were killed in the war.”, but of course, no one in neighboring countries take their words seriously, and actually those politicians know that from the beginning. If they really want to honor war victims so much, they should visit Hiroshima or Okinawa and other places as often as Yasukuni.



  4. Fumie on Tuesday July 23rd, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Hi David and everyone,

    I think the idea of writing comments in the form of letter to PM Abe is interesting. We may actually sent our letters to Mr. Abe on his Twitter page? I’m not sure.
    I’m really bad at politics, so please correct me if I write something wrong.

    Dear Prime Minister Abe,

    Congratulations on your winning the election. I think the reason of the LDP’s winning is that Abenomics works and economy is getting better and many people admit that you have the ability to lead Japan in the right direction and they have high expectations of The LDP.

    Abenomics is the effective plan but still there are many working-poor people and people who can’t find a job even though they are looking for a job.
    Our family’s budget is also tight for our sons’ school fees. The rise of the consumption tax will be a burden for most of the people. I think it’s better to make some goods tax-free like food and commodities which are not considered luxuly goods.

    I’m definitely against nuclear plants. It’s not easy to supply enough sustainable energy without using them but we know how dangerous they could be when the big earthquake happened. We should take every precaution to prevent another Fukushima disaster.

    I’m also against constitution revision. I think because of Article 9 of the Constitution, Japan can keep peace after WW II so please don’t change the Constitution.

    I respect you that you are doing good job on your second chance as a Prime Minister. I really hope you will make right choices and make Japan the better place. Please take care of your health.

    Best regards.



  5. Biwa on Wednesday July 24th, 2013 at 08:33 AM

    Hi YU,

    >Who on earth wants to work hard for older people, not for children of your own?

    I couldn’t agree with you more!
    Even though my mother is one of those pensioners and living a modest life, I still think they need to share the burden equally, too, especially in this state of emergency.

    >I still hesitate to buy farm products from Fukushima and neigboring prefectures, they are less expensive, though.

    I feel exactly the same. What’s more, given the news that contaminated water has been pouring out to sea from the Fukushima nuclear power plants, now I don’t feel like buying any fish or shellfish produced there. It’s a real pity because I believe lots of people feel that they want to support the people in the Tohoku region by buying their products, but as you say, we just can’t because of the too untrustworthy safety standards. Settling the problem is beyond just Toden’s control, and I really think the government needs to take leadership actions.



  6. Biwa on Thursday July 25th, 2013 at 07:21 AM

    Hi everyone,

    Regarding the Yasukuni issues, did you know that Mr. Abe compared his visiting Yasukuni Shrine to the US President’s visiting the Arlington Cemetery?

    He said that in Arlington, many soldiers of the southern army of the Civil War are buried, but visiting there doesn’t necessarily mean the President is in favor of slavery. Thus, his visiting Yasukuni doesn’t mean he is in favor of what the Japanese army has done to other countries, and he is visiting there just to honor those who fighted for our country.

    I’m not sure if his words were given a lot of attention in the Japanese media (I didn’t know about it until I googled some articles last night), but again, it seems to have made our neighboring countries really angry.

    I don’t think it’s a problem of what is right or wrong. I just feel that Mr. Abe is really bad at dealing with this issue. If any of you are interested, I’d love to hear what you think!



  7. YU on Thursday July 25th, 2013 at 01:28 PM

    Hi Biwa,

    Here is my personal opinion.

    As Mr. Abe and other nationalist politicians say, it is true that a number of war deads are ershrined at Yasukuni, but the problem is the fact that class A, B and C war criminals are also ershrined together there. They didn’t fight themselves, they didn’t die in the war, they were criminals who took the lead in Japanese war crimes. They are different from ordinary war dead who just had no choice but to fight and die for our country just because they lived a wartime by chance.

    > and he is visiting there just to honor those who fighted for our country.

    If he really, purely just wants to honor those who fought and died in the war, there are still many other places to visit in Japan, but I hardly ever heard that except our PM goes to Hiroshima only once a year on August 15th.

    By the way, some people say that visiting Yasukuni is against the separation of religion and politics, but considering the fact that no one complains about politicians’ visits to Ise Shrine, I think the core of the Yasukuni issue is
    their deep-rooted policy to glorify wars after all.



  8. amo on Friday July 26th, 2013 at 12:05 AM

    Hi David and everyone

    That’s a tough topic for me!! As I always tell you that the politics is not my thing. I already gave up on Japan government. Maybe I would be more interested in the politics if I had children. To tell the truth, I was thinking of skipping this time. But after reading others’ letters to Mr. Abe, I remember what the problems are in Japan (lol) I agree with them, especially about Amakudari system, education fee, and Article 9 of the Constitution.

    Good night and sweet dreams,
    amo



  9. Biwa on Friday July 26th, 2013 at 08:25 AM

    Hi YU,

    Thank you for sharing your opinion. 🙂

    >If he really, purely just wants to honor those who fought and died in the war, there are still many other places to visit in Japan

    I really think so, too. However, the leaders of the southern army of the US Civil War are also war criminals. They seem to be buried together with the ordinary soldiers in the Arlington Cemetery. Of course, I’m against the prime minister’s visiting Yasukuni Shrine, though.

    I’m not sure if this article is a reliable one, but it says that nearly 60% of Japanese people are in favor of the PM’s visiting Yasukuni. Please take a look.
    http://www.data-max.co.jp/2013/01/24/post_16449_hmg_1.html

    As the article says, the figure might show the anti-Chinese sentiment which has got stronger since the riots against Japan last year, but it’s really sad and endless if we continue these disputes. However, the fact that 日本遺族会(war-bereaved associaotion) is a huge source of votes for the LDP seems to make the issue even worse and complicated. I really hope Mr. Abe can change things, but honestly, I don’t expect so much…



  10. David on Friday July 26th, 2013 at 09:36 AM

    Hi everyone,

    I’m at Suzuka today, so I might not be able to do the feedback until tomorrow. Tonari San is riding in the 8-hour race again this year, so I’ve come to help out. I’ll let you know how he gets on.



  11. YU on Friday July 26th, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    Hi Biwa,

    > However, the leaders of the southern army of the US Civil War are also war criminals. They seem to be buried together with the ordinary soldiers in the Arlington Cemetery.

    I read it in Wikipedia, too, but the biggest difference is that the American civil war is “a civil war(国内戦)” which resulted in the peace and prosperity of their country today, whereas what the Imperial Japanese Military has done was a war of aggression(侵略戦争). So, those American military leaders were indeed war criminals, but they might be accepted as a part of American history by American people today as same as 戦国武将 in Japanese history, this is just my imagination, though…

    However, it seems that some of the military commanders of wars between nations like the Vietnam war are buried there, too. I read its burial criteria in Wikipedia, but to be honest, I don’t really understand what they mean!!

    I also read that VIPs of other countries including Mr.Abe usually visit only a place named “Tomb of the Unknowns”(無名戦士の墓) in Arlington Cemetary, maybe because war criminals of world wars such as WWI, WWII, the Vietnam war and the Korean war are buried in other parts of the cemetary…

    I wonder which parts of the cemetary the US President usually visit…



  12. YU on Friday July 26th, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Hi Biwa,

    補足を日本語で失礼します。

    やっぱりアメリカ大統領のアーリントン墓地参拝が許されて日本の首相、政治家の靖国神社参拝が国際批判を受けるのは最初のコメントにも書いたように靖国神社とその信仰者の変わらぬポリシー(目的、歴史認識)が原因なんじゃないでしょうか。

    彼らは侵略戦争を認めず、靖国神社は当時戦争を指揮した天皇の帝国軍国主義を象徴する神社であったことから今でも戦前と同様の歴史認識を持った人たちの拠り所となっています。だからそこへあえて参拝する政治家たちに近隣諸国が怒り、世界が「日本の再右傾化」を懸念するのも無理はない、と思います。

    安倍首相、特に高市早苗さんは「憲法9条を変えることが私が政治家になった目的」とまでテレビで断言していましたから、彼女のような人が参拝すると一日本人としても心穏やかではいられません。

    要するに、平和ボケの日本人がどう思うかは置いといて、諸外国では「アーリントン墓地=平和祈願目的」、「靖国神社=軍国主義崇拝目的」という図式で見られているんじゃないでしょうか?



  13. Biwa on Friday July 26th, 2013 at 02:15 PM

    Hi YU,

    >要するに、平和ボケの日本人がどう思うかは置いといて、諸外国では「アーリントン墓地=平和祈願目的」、「靖国神社=軍国主義崇拝目的」という図式で見られているんじゃないでしょうか?

    Thanks again for your comment.
    I guess so, and I don’t know why Mr. Abe says these things just to make other countries angry. If it had been a person from another country that referred Yasukuni to Arlington, Korea and China’s reactions must have been a lot more different. A right-winger like Mr. Abe should know what he says or does is always provoking them. I never want people in other countries take Mr. Abe’s words or actions as representing all Japanese people’s thoughts.

    By the way, have you ever taken your son to Kidzania(キッザニア)? My sons were already too old to go when I heard about it, but lots of my students seem to go there. And I read in the paper today that they have one in Jakarta, too. It says that they’re doing a good business there because the birth rate of Indonesia is four times larger than Japan, and people are spending more and more money for their children. They seem to have aesthetic salons for children, too. A four-month-old baby is having an oil-massage in the picture! Wow!

    Hi David,

    Be careful not to get heatstroke!



  14. Biwa on Saturday July 27th, 2013 at 09:15 AM

    I think I had to say “higher birth rate” instead of “larger birth rate.” “Large/small” population, and “high/low” rates. Confusing!

    Have a nice weekend , everyone! 🙂



  15. YU on Sunday July 28th, 2013 at 07:29 AM

    Hi Biwa,

    > By the way, have you ever taken your son to Kidzania(キッザニア)?

    No, because children under 6 still can’t try お仕事体験 there.
    My friend told me that in my son’s kindergarten, children used to go on a 卒業遠足 to Kidzania until a couple of years ago, but it has been discontinued because some of the students were still 5 years old when they went there and they could try only some other 体験プログラム, but not お仕事体験.

    By the way, I went to 藤子・F・不二雄ミュージアム in Kawasaki with my family yesterday because my son was a big fan of ドラえもん.
    I was very glad that he liked there. My son only knew aboutドラえもん, but I enjoyed seeing other cartoon characters such as パーマン, オバQ, エスパー魔美, etc…, too. I didn’t know that ドラえもん was born in the same year as me!
    To my surprise, a lot of adults without children were visiting there, too.



  16. David on Monday July 29th, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    Hi everyone,

    As you know, I was supposed to go to Suzuka on Sunday to help Tonari San, but on Saturday, I twisted my back when I was trying to pump up the tyre on my bicycle. It was really painful, and I ended up spending the whole day lying on the sofa trying to recover. It was still pretty bad on Sunday, so I decided to just stay at home and take things easy. I spoke to Tonari San this evening, and his team finished the race safely without crashing.

    We have a lot of tests going on in the university this week, so I’m really busy, but I’ll try to do the feedback article tomorrow.



  17. amo on Monday July 29th, 2013 at 11:45 PM

    Hi David,

    Sorry to hear about your back. Hope you will be fine soon 🙂

    Hi everyone,

    How was your weekend?
    I went to see a movie called “Song for Marion” with some friends yesterday. It has many funny scenes and touching moments so I laughed and shed tears.

    Good night and sweet dreams,
    amo



  18. Fumie on Monday July 29th, 2013 at 11:56 PM

    Hi David,

    It’s good to hear from you because I was beginning to worry about you. It’s unusual that you don’t say anything when you can’t update this blog. Now we know the reason. I’m really sorry about your back. Please take care of yourself!



  19. Biwa on Tuesday July 30th, 2013 at 05:13 AM

    Hi David,

    Are you okay? Hope you get well soon. 🙂
    Anyway, it is a consolation that it didn’t happen when you were away from home! Please take care.



  20. Anne on Tuesday July 30th, 2013 at 05:36 AM

    Hi David,

    Sorry to hear about your back. Even though I didn’t leave comments here these last couple of weeks, I was worried about you with the same reason as Fumie said.

    Take care of yourself, and hope you get well soon.



  21. YU on Tuesday July 30th, 2013 at 06:25 AM

    Hi David,

    I’m very relieved to see your comment now, but I’m very sorry sorry to hear about your back.

    I’d be very appreciate if you gave us feedback as usual, but why don’t you just skip and take a rest this week?

    Anyway, please take good care of yourself and see you again when you get better.

    YU



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