I can’t claim to be much of an expert on Japanese politics, but I’ve noticed that big things are afoot there lately. Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party of Japan takes office as Prime Minister today, marking only the second time in 54 years that the Liberal Democratic Party has not held the office. For an analogy, imagine that before Barack Obama was elected the Republicans had held the White House since 1954 except for one year in the 90s.
Hatoyama is an interesting cat. Both his father and his grandfather were bigwigs in the LDP, the party he just ousted from power, and he himself was an LDP member of Japan’s House of Representatives before jumping to the opposition. His educational background is as an engineer, but he is given to touchy-feely rhetoric about the importance of “love and fraternity” in politics.
Here’s an excerpt from Hatoyama’s recent editorial in the New York Times:
In terms of market theory, people are simply personnel expenses. But in the real world people support the fabric of the local community and are the physical embodiment of its lifestyle, traditions and culture. An individual gains respect as a person by acquiring a job and a role within the local community and being able to maintain his family’s livelihood.
Under the principle of fraternity, we would not implement policies that leave areas relating to human lives and safety — such as agriculture, the environment and medicine — to the mercy of globalism.
Our responsibility as politicians is to refocus our attention on those non-economic values that have been thrown aside by the march of globalism. We must work on policies that regenerate the ties that bring people together, that take greater account of nature and the environment, that rebuild welfare and medical systems, that provide better education and child-rearing support, and that address wealth disparities.
Pretty groovy, huh? Despite his political success, Hatoyama seems to be viewed as a weirdo in Japan; they call him “the Alien,” which could be a reference to his abstracted and remote demeanor; his eyes, which look OK to me but seem to disturb some people; or maybe his wife, who claims to have ridden in a spaceship in the 80s:
“While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus,” Miyuki Hatoyama, the wife of premier-in-waiting Yukio Hatoyama, wrote in a book published last year.
“It was a very beautiful place and it was really green….”
Miyuki, 66, described the extraterrestrial experience, which she said took place some 20 years ago, in a book entitled “Very Strange Things I’ve Encountered.”
When she awoke, Japan’s next first lady wrote, she told her now ex-husband that she had just been to Venus. He advised her that it was probably just a dream.
“My current husband has a different way of thinking,” she wrote. “He would surely say ‘Oh, that’s great’.” (Reuters, 9/2/09)
Give the Alien credit for one thing: He knows how to say the right thing to his wife. I don’t know if he can use this skill to make major reforms in a tradition-minded country, but I hope he lives long and prospers.