Sunday, March 18, 2018

Wither Osaka


A storm appears to be headed toward Osaka. As the article below notes, domestic politics may not long favor the city. The Moritomo Gakuen scandal is centered on Osaka and its ultra-rightwing politics. Osaka is also the epicenter of Japan's denier history toward the Comfort Women. Successive majors have been outspoken deniers of Pacific War history—even threatening to end the sister city relationship with San Francisco over the American city’s refusal to accept the Osaka mayors' false and pernicious construction of Comfort Women history.

The Abe's government has shown extraordinary favoritism to the region and its politicians who have helped the LDP maintain their Diet majority. Recently, Tokyo selected Osaka to be the host city for the G20 leaders summit in 2019. The government is also promoting Osaka to the Bureau of International Expositions to be the site for Expo 2025. By doing this, Tokyo is demanding that the rest of the world ignore the region's infamous war history and its modern deniers. 

A new Japanese government will not be able to long tolerate Osaka as a world outlier.


Moritomo scandal threatens Osaka leaders too
By Eric Johnston, Staff Writer

Japan Times, March 17, 2018

OSAKA – “A man once thoroughly endued with these three qualities of lying, impudence, and ingratitude will, I believe, scarce want any other titles to preferment and grandeur.” — Henry Fielding, from a satirical article on the traits of successful politicians, 1740

Over a year after it first blew up in Osaka, then went to Tokyo and languished, the Moritomo Gakuen scandal came roaring back with a vengeance earlier this month, shaking Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration to the core.

The “Teflon prime minister,” as Abe is dubbed by critics and admirers for his political durability, may finally have run out of luck. His finance minister, Taro Aso, whose ministry admitted it rewrote, deleted, or falsified records related to the scandal is facing intense pressure from the opposition, and members of his own party, to resign — and soon.

Without his friend Aso by his side, Abe will head into the September elections for Liberal Democratic Party president (and thus prime minister) weakened and a lame duck unlikely to be granted a third consecutive term — all because of a scandal that just would not go away.

The key questions still unanswered boil down to who gave the school an unprecedented discount on the land it wanted, why Moritomo received special treatment, who decided to give it that treatment and who was involved in the subsequent “editing” of ministry documents.

At the national level, those questions involve the prime minister and his wife, the finance minister and senior Finance Ministry officials and at least three Diet members. They include Takeo Hiranuma, the ultra-right-wing Liberal Democratic Party representative from Okayama, LDP veteran Yoshitada Konoike, a scandal-plagued politician from neighboring Hyogo Prefecture, and former Upper House LDP lawmaker Issei Kitagawa, who is from Osaka. Former Moritomo head Yasunori Kagoike’s claim that he was betrayed by lying, impudent, ungrateful politicians and bureaucrats sounds a bit more credible now.

But one influential politician of interest to Osaka was not in the documents: Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui.

Given that, in Diet testimony, Kagoike alleged the person who betrayed him the most was Matsui, Osaka’s media are now aggressively pursuing the Moritomo Gakuen “Osaka angle.” And they are asking what might have been going on between Matsui, the Kinki bureau of the Finance Ministry, Abe, Aso, Hiranuma and their friends in the conservative lobby group Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi), reference to which was also originally deleted from Finance Ministry documents.

Matsui insists he had nothing to do with influencing the Kinki bureau to cut a deal with Kagoike and no evidence has surfaced to suggest otherwise. But, politically, he has two problems.

The first is local. More questions about Moritomo makes it ever more difficult for Matsui and his supporters to realize their integration of Osaka city, which is once again under discussion and still faces intense opposition.

The second problem is Osaka’s relationship — and the Nippon Ishin no Kai party’s relationship — with the Abe wing of the LDP.

If a splintering LDP leads to Abe stepping down, either now or later, then Matsui and Nippon Ishin must deal with another prime minister, one likely to be less friendly.

Various LDP leaders are now garnering attention as possible successors to Abe. They include former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Internal Affairs Minister Seiko Noda. In Osaka, Ishiba, who is from Tottori Prefecture and has strong connections in the Kansai region, has already reached out to younger LDP members who are battling with Matsui and Nippon Ishin (some of whom are former LDP members).

How all of this plays out depends on what additional revelations there are about the Moritomo scandal. But in Osaka, as well as Tokyo, politicians and bureaucrats are running for cover, desperate to avoid a resurgent scandal most thought had long since been overcome.

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