As tension rises over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, how Japan should deal with tens of thousands of refugees expected to arrive should a contingency occur on the Korean Peninsula has become a pressing issue.
The Japanese government began addressing the issue in the early 2000s, with an expert panel established by the Cabinet Secretariat considering a scenario in which North Korean people flee their homeland by boat to take refuge in Japan.
There is a passage in Great Learning, a Chinese classic describing the core values of Confucianism, that says the ancients who wanted to manifest their bright virtue to all in the world first governed well their own states. Wanting to govern well their states, they first harmonized their own clans. Wanting to harmonize their own clan, they first cultivated themselves.
If this teaching is applied to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he appears to have failed to "harmonize" his own clan. Abe's wife, Akie, has found herself at the center of a swirling scandal over a controversial land sale by the state to Moritomo Gakuen, a private educational institution in Osaka.
On the evening of January 19, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe breezed into Shimbashi Matsuyama, a traditional, exclusive restaurant with a quiet air—despite its location at the heart of bustling Tokyo. Upon entering the premises, Abe was met by an intimate group of politicians, business and mass media leaders. The politicians included Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hironari Seko and Yasutoshi Nishimura, a special adviser to the Liberal Democratic Party president (Abe).
During the gathering, Abe was the only one to raise conversational topics; the other attendees merely nodded or provided back-channel feedback. The topics varied widely, from the opening of the Diet—slated for the following day—to Abe's meeting in December with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the most attention-grabbing dinner-table chat revolved around Abe's hopes for 2017.
Shinjiro Koizumi, director of the Agriculture and Forestry Division of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, inspects a farming house in Ise, Mie Prefecture, in March.
Shinjiro Koizumi is a chip off the old block. His skillful oratory and confident performances evoke those of his father, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Of late, Koizumi Jr. has matured into a politician who is now being viewed as a possible future premier.
As director of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Agriculture and Forestry Division, Koizumi presently devotes himself to agricultural policies. But his caliber will be tested over the extent to which he can plunge the knife into the country's agricultural organizations, which cling dearly to vested rights.
Meanwhile, his neoliberal thinking, which puts priority on the principle of market mechanism, involves some risks. Public popularity and vulnerability are two sides of the same coin, meaning the higher the public's expectations, the larger its reaction could be to disappointment. Has this young politician—raised and protected in an ideal environment provided by his family—the wherewithal to become leader of the country?