YUKIO HATOYAMA: HIS LIFE, HIS POLICIES AND FAILURES AS PRIME MINISTER IN 2010

YUKIO HATAYAMA

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with a bonsai tree
Yukio Hatoyama officially became Prime Minister on September 16, 2009 when he was voted in as prime minister in the Diet by the lower house. He was selected as one the world’s 100 most influential people in 2010 by Time magazine but his moment in the sun didn't last long. Hatoyama only served 8½ months (266 days) as prime minister, the sixth shortest under the current Constitution.

Hatoyama has been nicknamed the “the extraterrestrial” in Japan---a reference to his wide-set, bulging eyes, protruding forehead and his erratic plus his sometimes flaky behavior and the strange things he sometimes says and does. Hatoyama has described his main political principal as “fraternity.” Some see him as genteel and idealistic; others see him as “weak an indecisive.”

In a survey by the Yomiuri Shimbun in February 2010, Hatoyama was No. 1 among the 480 lower house members in asset holdings with assets valued at ¥1.64 billion (around $18 million). His brother Kumio ranked No. 2 with about ¥816 million. The Hatoyama’s family assets are said to be worth ¥1.44 trillion (about $16 billion).

Good Websites and Sources: Japanese Government Articles kantei.go.jp ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; New York Times articles nytimes.com ; Hatoyama Speech huffingtonpost.com ; CIA List of Current World Leaders /www.cia.gov/library ; Japan Politics Central jpcentral.virginia.edu List and Links to Government Agencies on Adminet admi.net/world/jp ;Nakasone on Hatoyama New York Times ;

Yukio Hatoyama’s Political Family

Hatoyama comes from a blue-blooded political family that goes back five generations. His grandfather Ichiro was prime minister of Japan from 1954 to 1956 and the first LDP President. He was well known for his power struggles with Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, the father of former Prime Minister Taro Aso. Hatoyama and Yoshida’s battles were legendary and they split Japan’s conservative block following World War II. Ichiro Hatoyama (1883-1959) restored diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union in 1956.

During World War II Ichiro Hatoyama served as education minister and clashed with Prime Minister Tojo on government policy. For a time he lived in exile in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, where he heard the Japanese Emperor announce Japan’s surrender. While there he read extensively from a book about “fraternal revolution” by the Austrian diplomat Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, who also influenced his grandson and his dream of a united Asia.

After World War II, Ichiro Hatoyama founded the Liberal Party and was expected by many to become prime minister. However, he was purged from the government by the American occupiers on the grounds that his activities in the diet during the war raised some questions.

Yukio Hatoyama’s father Iichiro was foreign minister from 1976 to 1977. His younger brother Kunio is a parliament member with the LDP and served as Internal Affairs and Communications minister in 2008 and 2009 until he was forced to resign because of a scandal. Hatoyama’s great grandfather Kazuo was the Imperial Diet lower house speaker from 1896 and 1897. His grandfather on his mother side was the founder of Bridgestone. Consequently his mother is very rich.

Yukio and Kunio Hatoyama are said to be on fairly good terms. In 2008, they opened a private school with Hatoyama in its name. In a speech in 2009, Yukio said, “Though belonging to different parties, my brother and I are on good terms at the end of the day.”

Kunio Hatoyama entered politics immediately after graduating from university. He has been elected to the lower house 11 terms, during which time he held cabinet posts such as labor minister and education minister. He served in the Aso cabinet and is regarded as one of the richest men in the Japanese government. Among his assets are an apartment and villa in Tokyo and 3.75 million shares of the Bridgestone stock.

Hatoyama’s Life

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with Asashoryu
Yukio Hatoyama graduated from Tokyo University with a degree in engineering. Afterwards he did some research work at Stanford University and earned a PhD. He worked for a while as an assistant professor in Senshi University’s business administration department.

Hatoyama’s family was surprised that he went into politics. His mother once said, “I always thought he would become a scholar because all he did was study” when he was young. “Since his kindergarten days, [Hatoyama’s little brother] Kunio often said he wanted to become a politician and prime minister, Yukio used to look disgusted at such remarks, putting on a face that seem to say, “Kunio’s opened his big mouth again.”

Hatoyama once regarded himself as a singer. He recorded a record in the 1980s that became something of a collectors item after he became prime minister. For a while he ran an izakaya pub called Tomato in the Shimbashi, a district in Tokyo where salarymen like to party. When he was a diet member he visited the pub once a week, donned a happi coat and served drinks and talked politics with the customers. Hatoyama’s partner at the izakaya said, “even though its not strange for a politicians to prioritize promoting themselves, Hatoyama has devoted himself to being a good listener and asking people, “How’s your work?” The partner said Hatoyama remained calm when drunk customers became belligerent and argued with him.

Before he became prime minister Hatoyama lived in the Den-en Chofu area of Tokyo. He is said by friends to be fond of shopping and taking walks with his wife, and is sometimes spotted holding her hand. Hatoyama once remarked, “My wife is the sun.”

Hatoyama’s son Kichiro graduated from Tokyo University with a degree in engineering and is an urban engineering researcher and lecturer at Moscow State University. Yukio Hatoyama’s beloved golden retriever died on the day he was named prime minister.

Hatoyama’s Mother

Yasuko Hatoyama was the eldest daughter of Shojiro Ishibashi, the founder of tire maker Bridgestone Corp. She was also the wife of the late Foreign Minister Iichiro Hatoyama, the oldest son of Ichiro Hatoyama, the first president of the Liberal Democratic Party. Famed for her family’s vast wealth, including her shares in Bridgestone, she was known to have supported the political activities of her oldest son, Yukio, and Kunio, an LDP Lower House member who had served in Cabinet posts, including the education and justice portfolios. She died in February 2013 at the age of 90. [Source: Kyodo, February 13, 2013 <<<]

In 1996, Yasuko Hatoyama was said to have encouraged her two sons to establish a political party, a suggestion that led to the foundation of the precursor of the Democratic Party of Japan. As DPJ leader, Yukio Hatoyama served as the country’s prime minister from September 2009 to June 2010. <<<

While serving as prime minister, one of his campaign funding bodies was accused of having fictitiously listed donors, for which his chief accountant was sacked and convicted. It was later revealed that Yasuko Hatoyama had been providing Yukio Hatoyama with ¥15 million per month for seven to eight years. According to 2011 income reports and other sources, Yasuko Hatoyama gave ¥4.2 billion in cash, equities and real estate to each son. <<<

Hatoyama’s Political Career

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The Hatoyama family is deeply rooted in the Otowa district in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo yet Yukio won his seat in Hokkaido Constituency No. 9 and his brother Kunio won his in Fukuoka constituency No. 6.

Hatoyama serves as a parliament member from a district centered around Muroran in Hokkaido. He is considered a parachute candidate who has lived mostly in Tokyo and has little connection with the local people in his district.

Hatoyama didn’t enter politics until he was 39. He ran for lower house election in 1986 as an LDP candidate and won on his first attempt. At that time he belonged to the faction led by Prime Minister Kakuey Tanaka.

When Hatoyama was a junior lawmaker Yomiuri Shimbun journalist Koichi Akaza said he muttered “so indistinctly that I could hardly hear a word he said” at press conference and when Akaza did hear “he talked in such a circuitous way that I could not make sense of what he was saying...I concluded that Hatoyama probably just did not have the aptitude to be a politician, and I was actually quite bewildered as to why he had entered politics at all.”

Hatoyama left the LDP in 1993, disgusted by a string of corruption scandals, and formed the New Party Sakigake (Pioneers) with Masayoshi Takemura and other lawmakers. On the decision Hatoyama said, “leaving the Liberal Democratic Party wasn’t a question of like or dislike. I realized the nation’s politics took root.” He helped create Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa’s coalition government in 1993 and served as chief cabinet secretary in the Hosokawa administration.

In 1994 the New Party Sakigake joined a coalition government with the LDP and the Japan Socialist Party. In 1996 the precursor of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was founded with 57 members . Hatoyama left his party in 1998 when and joined the DPJ when it merged with three other parties and Naoto Kan was their president. The DPJ increased its seats in the 2000 election and expanded further in the 2003 election after merging with the Liberal Party.

In September 1999, Hatoyama was named as the first DPJ president after the DPJ was created. He was forced to step down in 2002 to take responsibility for confusion within the party over a failed merger, weakened leadership and personal affairs. He regained the post of DPJ President in May 2009 after his predecessor Ichiro Ozawa was forced to step down over an illegal campaign contribution and Hatoyama defeated Katsuya Okada in a party election 124-95. Hatoyama and Okada were both former party presidents. Hatoyama immediately seized the initiative and called for an election and was aggressive in his head-to-head debates with Prime Minister Aso, in which both seemed to put more emphasis on attacking the other than solving Japan’s problems. When Hatoyama took over the approval rating for the DPJ was 30.8 percent , compared to 28.4 percent for the LDP.

Hatoyama’s Wife

Hatoyama’s wife Miyuki has gotten some attention in the press for her gregariousness and unconventional views. Not shy about expressing her quirky spirituality, she has claimed to have known Tom Cruise in a previous life and says that she starts each day by “eating the sun.” When she eats the sun she closes her eyes and grasps imaginary pieces from the sky and places them in her mouth and goes “yum, yum, yum.” She told the Los Angeles Times, “I get energy from it. My husband also does this.” [Source: John Glionna, Los Angeles Times]

The Guardian described Miyuki as a “gloriously eccentric foil to her humdrum hubby.” She was once a singer-dancer in an all-female review and in a previous marriage was married to a Japanese restauranteur in California. Among the professions and interests ascribed to her are “life composer,” or lifestyle guru, macrobiotics enthusiast, cookbook author and “fearless clothes horse.” On top of that she can do a reasonably good Michael Jackson moon walk and has made clothes from hemp coffee bags.

Miyuki is older than Hatoyama. She met him will she was working at her first husband’s restaurant and he was a student at Stanford. Her books include Top of Form Bottom of Form Miyuki Hatoyama’s Spiritual Food, Miyuki Hatoyama’s Have a Nice Time and Amazing Events I Have Encountered. The latter is about a journey to alien world Miyuki took before she met Hatoyama.

In Amazing Events Miyuki wrote, “While my body was sleeping, I think my spirit flew on a triangular-shaped UFO to Venus. It was an extremely beautiful place and was very green.” Her book editor told the Los Angeles Times “It was just a vivid dream...She does like spiritual topics. She says things like, “If you’re with me, it won’t rain.” She can be misunderstood.”

Kichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University, told the Los Angeles Times, “There were some rumors about her eccentric behavior, and she does seem a little unusual for a Japanese woman her age. I don’t think any of this matters as long as it stays clear of issues regarding public policy.” Rather than being embarrassed that his wife has been labeled as a “fruitcake” Hatoyama has said he admires his wife’s “vivacity.”

Hatoyama Government

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In his first major policy speech in October 2009 Hatoyama emphasized the historic significance of his party’s victory and called it “bloodless reformation.” “The current reformation,” he said, “restores sovereign power to the people, breaking from a system dependent on the bureaucracy. It is also an attempt to transform the very shape of our nation from a centralized state to one of regional and local sovereignty and from an insular island to an open maritime state.”

Weakening the power of the bureaucracy was a primary goal of the Hatoyama government . In an effort to achieve this it dissolved the old institutions of unelected officials that resolved policy disputes behind closed doors and took away the bureaucrats right to draft budgets, one of their key sources of power. One of the key differences between politicians and bureaucrats is that politicians can be voted out of office while bureaucrats can’t.

The Hatoyama government has looked to Britain, with its strong prime minister and cabinet, as a model. Several key advisors to Hatoyama traveled to London to study the British parliamentary system.

The chief members of the Hatoyama government members are: 1) Naoto Kan, Finance Minister; 2) Katsuya Okada, Foreign Minister; 3) Seiju Maehara, Construction and Transport Minister; and 4) Zhizuka Kamei, a former LDP member who at named State Minister in charge of Financial Services and Postal Reform. Kan was appointed Finance Minister after his predecessor at that post quit because of poor health. He started out in the Hatoyama government as Vice Prime Minister, the head of national strategy and Internal Affairs and Communications Minister.

The two women ministers in Hatoyama’s government are Mizuho Fukushima, head of Social Democrat Party and State Minister in charge of Consumer Affairs and Declining Birthrate; and 2) Keiko Chiba, the Justice Minister.

Ozawa, See Below

The DPJ, which controlled 323 seats, was pushed around by its coalition partners the Social Democratic Party and the People’s New Party---which respectively had only 12 and eight seats---on issues like American military bases and postal reform with the Social Democratic Party opposing the American military presence in Japan and the People’s New Party calling for an end to postal reforms made by the Koizumi government. Some asked why it was necessary for the DPJ to form such a coalition in that it already had a big, majority and the political demands made by small parties were so divisive. The primary reason was that votes from those parties was necessary to pass legislation through the upper house.

Hatoyama as Prime Minister

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debating in the Diet
Hatoyama was very visible as prime minister. He presented the Emperor’s Cup to sumo wrestler Asashoryu after he won a sumo tournament in Tokyo and appeared in a fashion show with his wife, wearing an outfit you would normally associate with a slapstick comedian.

“Fraternity” was Hatoyama’s primary ideological keyword. He told the Washington Post, “If you look at Japan today, I feel that this spirit of fraternity is lacking. That is what I am advocating the change were need to revive fraternity...Politics should pay a greater rile on behalf of humanity or the weak.” Hatoyama has been influenced by Count Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi (1894-1972), a half-Austrian, hall-Japan philosopher who was a major proponent of European-Union-like integration in the first half of the 20th century and a believer that a “spirit of fraternity” could advance the world beyond capitalism and socialism.

The approval rating of the Hatoyama cabinet was 71 percent in October 2009, a couple months after the elections. By December its approval rating had dropped to 55 percent. Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone likened Hatoyama’s leadership and his ideas about fraternity to “soft ice cream”’sweet and delicious at first, but quickly melts and disappears.

Hatoyama’s main problem was that there so many strong, diverse and often contradictory views within his government and it was difficult to shape them into a coherent policy without angering key members of his government. Often it seemed that Hatoyama wasn’t up to the job of being a strong leader able to navigate through messes and make tough decisions.

Hatoyama’s Domestic Policies

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visiting a drug factory
To achieve his goal of setting up a government in which politicians ran things rather than the bureaucrats, Hatoyama established a national strategy bureau, whose first order of business was suspending the implementation of the fiscal budget of the LDP and freezing or canceling many LDP programs.

Among the issues taken up by the DPJ were the creation of more day care centers to meet a need created by shortage of them and increase government payments to parents with children. Under the DPJ plan families would by given ¥26,000 a months for each child until they graduated from middle school. Under the old system a payment of ¥10,000 was given to children under three and ¥5,000 was given to children between three and sixth grade of primary school. The child allowance was taken as a gift. It did little to stimulate the economy. Many felt the money could be put to better use building more day care centers and other facilities for children. In any case the program was expensive and depleted the government treasury and raised the government debt.

In September 2009, Hatoyama announced that Japan would aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. Quake-proofing work deemed needed at 2,800 schools was postponed to free up funds to make high school education effectively free. Koizumi’s postal privatization policy was dealt a set back. Rather than dividing Japan Post into four separate entities for 1) postal service, 2) banking, 3) insurance and 4) network, the network and service units were merged.

Among the DPJ’s biggest problems was dealing with costly promises made during the election such as getting rid of expressway tolls which would derive the government of desperately needed funds, encourage people to drive more and cause traffic jams on the expressways. On the issue of health care the DPJ vowed to end a new scheme for “late-stage elderly people” that required them to pay more but was put in place to trim health care debt and reduce the burden paid by future generations.

The DPJ ultimately had difficulty coming up with funding and had to renege on some of it promises. Taxes were down as a result of the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009. Some reforms were delayed. Plans to reduce the gasoline tax---a campaign pledge--- were scrapped and the gasoline tax was kept at the same rate.

The Hatoyama government introduced a subsidy system for farmers that many criticized for not achieving its aims---chiefly to provide more income for farmers and better food security for Japan---and for taking money out the hands of people and organizations that really need it. Like the child allowances the program was expensive and depleted the government treasury and raised the government debt.

Efforts to Cut Public Works Programs Such a Yamba Dam

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Cutting expensive public works projects that were deemed a waste of money was high priority of the new Democratic Party of Japan government that came to power in 2009.

The project that got the most attention form cost cutters was the $4.6 billion Yamba dam in Gunma Prefecture, an expensive project that was launched in 1952 and had few benefits other than flood control and providing water and irrigation to an area near Tokyo that didn’t really need it. The only problem was that $3.2 billion had already been spent on it, hundreds of people had already been relocated and the project was 80 percent done. Eighty-seven local dam projects were examined with the government freezing 48 out if 56 projects currently being carried out. In December 2009, 30 dam projects were singled out for close scrutiny with the aim of closing down ones deemed unnecessary.

In December 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “After more than two years of turmoil, the government has finally settled the issue of whether to cancel or resume construction of the Yamba Dam in Gunma Prefecture. Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Takeshi Maeda has at last decided to resume construction of the dam in Naganoharamachi. The government will earmark costs for building the main structure, funds for which had been frozen, in the fiscal 2012 budget. The decision was based on a reexamination of the project by the ministry, in which it judged "construction of the dam is most desirable" in terms of flood control and water utilization effects as well as project costs. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 23, 2011]

“Under the slogan "from concrete to people," the Democratic Party of Japan included cancellation of the Yamba Dam project in its manifesto for the 2009 House of Representatives election, which brought about the DPJ-led administration. Seiji Maehara, now the DPJ's Policy Research Committee chair, became infrastructure minister after the 2009 election. Based on the manifesto's promise, he forcibly terminated the dam's construction without any consultation with local governments involved. [Ibid]

“In the face of strong opposition by residents and local governments, then Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Sumio Mabuchi in autumn 2010 effectively nullified Maehara's decision on the project. Subsequently, the ministry had been reexamining the project to decide whether the dam should be constructed. [Ibid]

“Already 80 percent of the total project costs have been spent on related works, such as construction of roads to replace ones that will become unusable. If the project had been axed, the government would have had to return funds to Tokyo and five other prefectures of the Tonegawa basin, which had paid out more than half of these costs. [Ibid]

“Since the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009, infrastructure ministers have decided to continue 14 and suspend six of the 83 dam projects reviewed by their ministry and related municipalities. The ministers' decisions on the 20 projects have matched the conclusions of the reviews. The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is still reviewing 63 dam projects. The Yamba Dam case was the only one in which the ministry and the DPJ had disagreed. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, December 24, 2011]

Japanese Inquisition

Hatoyama set up the Government Revitalization Unit that was in charge of identifying and cutting wasteful spending in the government. Resembling a cross between a Congressional budget hearing and a Spanish Inquisition interrogation, the hearings werw conducted by the units panels and were often short and harsh. Bureaucrats and supporters of projects deemed wasteful by the panel were given about 30 minutes to an hour to justify their programs and asked questions by a panel that often had little knowledge of the programs.

The hearings were conducted by 13-member panels and were shown on television. One of the reasons for having them was to make government more transparent. In one widely shown exchange the head of a project to build an advanced supercomputer was asked to offer some good reason why the government should fund the project. The project head said to advance science and compete with the United States. The head of the panel responded by saying, “Does it matter if the United States is No.1" and refused a request to increase funding. Scientists, including some Nobel laureates condemned the cuts, arguing the money was vital for Japan to remain competitive in technology fields.

The panels racked up about $8 billion in budget cuts, about half of what they had hoped to achieve. Among the program that were cut back were subsidies for herbal medicines, grants to science programs to make carbon nanotubes and jet-engine rockets, funding to help new businesses, requests for more military personnel, and requests by local government for help paying for higher teacher salaries and children reading programs. Among the projects that were drastically cut were “landscape creation costs” and a planed anime hall of fame.

Second Inquisition

A second more mild round government of hearing was held in April 2010. Among the main targets in addition to wasteful spending was cushy jobs for retired bureaucrats. After four days of questions and testimonies, the government panels decided to ax 34 projects and scaled down dozens of others. Hiroko Tabuchi wrote in the New York Times: “Seeking to bring its spiraling debt under control, Japan has undertaken an unlikely exercise: lawmakers are forcing bureaucrats to defend their budgets at public hearings and are slashing wanton spending. The hearings, streamed live on the Internet, are part of an effort to tackle the country’s public debt, which has mushroomed to twice the size of Japan’s $5 trillion economy after years of profligate spending.”[Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, April 28, 2010]

Hatoyama and the DPJ said their intent was to wrest control of Japan’s economy from the country’s powerful bureaucracy. “We want the public to see how their tax money is really being spent,” said Yukio Edano, the state minister in charge of administrative reform, who is heading the effort. “Then we will bring about big changes.” “Budgets have always been drafted behind closed doors, with nothing to underpin how much should be spent or why,” said Hideo Fukui, a professor of law and economics at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. “Until now, nobody knew how unscrupulous the spending was.” [Ibid]

“Many analysts say that Japan must slash wasteful spending and start cutting its public debt to avert the interest rate and refinancing risks that have wreaked havoc in Greece,” Tabuchi wrote. “Addressing Japan’s debt crisis was among the many promises made by Mr. Hatoyama, Mr. Hatoyama’s Democratic Party has also been keen to find extra money to pay for an ambitious social agenda, including cash payments to families with small children and free public high school education.: [Ibid]

The public interest in the budget hearings has been among the few bright spots for Mr. Hatoyama... At the central Tokyo site for the hearings, people lined up to watch the bureaucrats being pressed before panels of lawmakers and appointed experts. “The bureaucrats looked scared,” said one attendee, Kenji Nakao, a 67-year-old Tokyo retiree. “It was very satisfying to see.” [Ibid]

Second Inquisition Targets the Bureaucracy

Hiroko Tabuchi wrote in the New York Times: “The target of the most recent hearings...is Japan’s web of quasi-government agencies and public corporations---nonprofits that draw some 3.4 trillion yen ($36 billion) in annual public funds, but operate with little public scrutiny. Critics have long argued that these organizations, many of which offer cushy executive jobs to retired public officials, epitomize the wasteful spending that has driven Japan’s public debt to dangerous levels. The daily testimony by cowering bureaucrats, covered extensively in local media, has given the Japanese their first-ever detailed look at state spending. So far, viewers have looked on in disbelief over the apparent absurdity of some of the government spending.” [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, April 28, 2010]

“In one example scrutinized on Tuesday, the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, which is government financed, spent 130 million yen ($1.4 million) last year on a 3-D movie theater used to show footage of scenery from the countryside. The movie dome, which also plays recordings of chirping insects and babbling streams, is closed to the public and is used to study how the human brain reacts to different types of scenery, said Takami Komae, head of the organization’s rural engineering department. The findings will be used to help rural areas think of ways to attract more tourists, he testified.” [Ibid]

Politicians ridiculed the project. “The dome is located in the countryside anyway, isn’t it?” said Manabu Terada, a Democratic Party lawmaker, at a public hearing in Tokyo. “Can’t we just step outside and see the real thing?” At the end of the hourlong hearing, all financing for the dome’s upkeep was canceled and the organization was urged to sell the facility off to salvage some of the construction cost. [Ibid]

Amakudari Scrutinized

Under particular scrutiny at the hearings have been the retired ministry officials who take comfortable positions at the government-linked organizations in a practice known as “amakudari,” or “descent from heaven.” The network of government-linked organizations is complex, including 104 large organizations supervised directly by the government and 6,625 smaller public corporations. Critics say that many of the former bureaucrats use their connections in government to win public money for dubious construction and research projects, then delegate the work while their organizations pocket much of the budget as administrative fees. [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, April 28, 2010]

Aki Wakabayashi, an author and former worker at a government-supported labor think tank, has been one of the most fervent critics of government spending on these organizations. In 2001, she blew the whistle on her institute, describing lavish foreign “research? trips for the former bureaucrats leading the institute---complete with first-class air travel and stays in five-star hotels---and clerks who drew researcher salaries while spending their days chatting and reading magazines. “The Japanese public is angry and demoralized,” said Ms. Wakabayashi, who has been advising the Democrats on the cost-cutting panels. “And Japan’s finances are in tatters. We either fix this, or Japan goes bankrupt.” [Ibid]

Criticism of the Hearings

The hearings have drawn criticism from some circles. During the recent ones, members of Japan’s scientific community warned that steep cuts in research financing would damage Japan’s global competitiveness. Their fears were exacerbated when a Democratic lawmaker, known only as Renho, called for reduced spending for a government-financed project to build the world’s fastest computer, asking, “What’s wrong with No. 2?”

Meanwhile, the scale of the cuts---which will amount to a few trillion yen at best against Japan’s budget of 207 trillion yen this year---is too small to make much of a difference, some experts say. Even supporters like Ms. Wakabayashi doubt that the Democrats, with strong links to labor unions, will cut too deeply into the estimated tens of thousands of workers at the government-associated entities. [Source: by Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, April 28, 2010]

Some organizations, meanwhile, are making last-ditch efforts to drive home their relevancy. In a hastily called press conference this month, the government-financed Fisheries Research Agency announced that it had succeeded for the first time in fully cultivating Japanese eels, a fish whose breeding habits had long baffled scientists. Kiyoshi Inoue, executive director at the agency, stressed the importance of the achievement. “These findings are at the cutting edge of global research,” he told reporters. [Ibid]

Foreign Policy Under Hatoyama

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with the leader of China
Within a month after taking office, Hatoyama traveled to South Korea, met with Chinese Premier Wen Jibao, threw the first pitch in a Major League baseball game in Pittsburgh, where he met with U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao while attending a G-20 meeting and gave a speech before the United Nations in New York on global warming in English.

The Hatoyama government wants to forge a European-Union-style economic alliance in Asia with the implication that such an arrangement would bring peace and prosperity to region and reduce the need for a U.S. presence to maintain security. At the same time Hatoyama also said that the relationship between Japan and the United States was the foundation of Japan’s foreign policy.

The Hatoyama government has made clear effort to court China in some ways at the expense of the United States. At the first international gathering he attended, a meeting at the United Nations in New York held a days after he elected, Hatoyama sought Chinese leader Hu Jintao as the first leader to meet and ask for his cooperation on the formation of an “East Asian community.” His Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada had mentioned excluding the United States from the group.

Hatoyama pledged not to visit Yasakuni Shrine. His foreign minister Katsya Okada said Japan would take steps to address controversies over World War II and the Japanese occupation of countries in Asia and supported the idea of producing a history textbook with China and South Korea.

The Hatoyama government has made global warming one of its key international issues. Hatoyama spoke on the issue during his first speech---in English---before an international audience at the United Nations in September 2009 and declared that Japan would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from the 1990 levels by 2020 as a kind of challenge for other developed countries to do the same.

A Japanese military force was sent to Haiti after the earthquake there in January 2010 to assist the United Nations peacekeeping mission there to provide humanitarian and reconstruction aid.

Immediately after his appointment, Hatoyama visited China at the same time as a DPJ delegation led by Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi. Hatoyama and the DPJ delegation held separate meetings the same day with Vice President Xi Jinping, who is expected to be elevated to the top Chinese post. The DPJ's lack of coordination for its extraordinary "dual diplomacy" immediately was brought to light.

Hatoyama is primarily responsible for virtually causing the Japan-U.S. relationship to collapse. His chaotic handling of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture was epitomized by his controversial "Trust me" remark during talks with U.S. President Barack Obama on the issue. As he was prime minister at the time, hatoyama's summit diplomacy hurt our national interests.

Even after he stepped down as prime minister, Hatoyama angered Okinawa Prefecture by describing his remarks concerning the deterrence provided by U.S. forces stationed in prefecture as nothing but "expediency." Has he forgotten his bungling already?

Futenma Base Issue

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After the Hatoyama government was elected in August 2009 a big deal was made the plan to relocate the U.S. Marine’s Futenma Air Base in Okinawa, which local people objected to because it was the source of so much noise. According to the plan, agreed upon by Japan and the United States in 2006 before Hatoyama took office, the flight operations of Futenma’s noisy helicopter facility would be moved a coastal area of Camp Schwab in Nago, a less populated part of Okinawa and 8,000 Marines would be moved from Okinawa to Guam.

According to the deal much of the base at Nago would be made on land reclaimed from the sea to minimize the impact on residents. Among the biggest objectors to the deal were residents of Nago and environmentalist who opposed the effect of construction on sea life in the area. Among those upset by the delay of the move were people that lived around Futenma.

There is strong opposition to the Futenma base and the deal made with the Americans by leaders of the small political parties that formed a coalition with Hatoyama’s party. Mizuho Fukushima, the female leader of Social Democratic Party, a coalition partner in the Hatoyama government, was among the most vocal and unyielding of the opponents of the base.

The government of U.S. President Barack Obama put strong pressure on the Hatoyama government to abide by the agreement struck before Hatoyama took office. The issue caused considerable strain between the government of Japan and the United States. Diplomatic dinners were canceled. Promises were broken. At one point U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton summoned the Japanese ambassador in the middle of a huge snowstorm to express her displeasure at they way events had unfolded. The New York Times said that Japan-U.S. relations were at their “most contentious” since the trade wars in the 1990s. When Defense Secretary Robert Gates bluntly demanded that Japan live up to its side of the bargain some Japanese viewed the message as “openly hostile.”

Among the ideas that were floated as alternatives to the base but were ultimately abandoned for lack of support was combining Futenma with Kadena Air base or moving the base to Shimojishima Island about 280 kilometers southwest of Okinawa or even Guam, proposals that had been rejected in earlier negotiations. The issue became further complicated in January 2010 when a new mayor was elected to Nago that opposed the base.

One suggestion was to put the base on Tokunoshima Island, Kagoshima Prefecture . About 15,000 protestors on the island showed to voice their opposition to that plan. The intensity and scope of the protest were something that had not been before.

Hatoyama originally said he would make a decision on the matter before the end of 2009 but postponed the decision until May 2010. In the meantime the United States said it would not aggressively pursue the matter. On the issue, Joseph Nye, a professor of international relations at Harvard, told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “My impression is that has to do with upper house elections...that it is a political situation where you have domestic politics determining the agenda...But I don’t think it’s going to determine the long-term future because we have such strong national interests in common.”

By April 2010, Hatoyama’s approval rating had dropped to 33 percent and half of those interviewed in Japan said he should resign if the Futenma Air base issue was not solved.

U.S. Relations Under Obama and Hatoyama

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The Japanese were greatly moved by Obama’s speech in Prague in April 2009 in which called for an abolition of nuclear weapons, with some seeming to thinks he was going to do something in the immediate future to reach that ideal. Invitations by the mayors and Hiroshima and Nagasaki for Obama to come to their cities were given a lot of media attention.

U.S. President Barack Obama came Japan in November 2009 on visit that was reduced from two days to a day so Obama could make a speech at a funeral for mass-murdered military personnel. During his stay Obama 1) met with the Japanese Emperor, 2) held discussions with Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama on controversial measures such as the use of military bases, 3) insisted that relation between Japan and the United States were as strong as ever and 4) mentioned his fondness for green-tea-flavored ice cream. Some Japanese took note that Obama spent one night in Japan while he spent three nights in China.

After the election in August 2009, the DPJ said it would pursue a “more equal” and independent path with Washington than it had in the past. Hatoyama said it was important “for both sides to be able to firmly say what needs to be said, and to increase the relationship of trust.” Even before he took office Prime Minister Hatoyama raised some eyebrows when he asserted “the era if U.S.-led globalization is coming to an end.” He also said he was a “big fan” of the United States.

In April 2010, the Washington Post referred to Hatoyama as “loopy” and “hapless” and described how he was effectively ignored at a Washington meeting. In his brief 10-minute meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Obama tersely asked Hatoyama, “Can you follow through?,” an apparent reference to Hatoyama’s “Trust me” remark to Obama in November on the Futenma air base issue. Hatoyama tried to pass off the matter to his foreign minister instead of taking responsibility himself, an attitude that, one U.S. official told the Yomiuri Shimbun, tried Obama’s patience.

The following day a Hatoyama aide described the use of the word “loopy” as “somewhat impolite” and after that Hatoyama brought up the matter on a session of parliament by saying, “As the Washington Post says I may certainly be a foolish prime minister.” After that “loopy” became a popular buzzword in Japan. T-shirts with the word “Loopy” were offered by Amazon and other outlets and Internet forums were overwhelmed with posting as to what “loopy” actually meant.

Hatoyama Scandals

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Hatoyama promised to bring cleaner government to Japan and reduce corruption but had trouble keeping his own house in order. In October 2009, Hatoyama’s political management fund admitted making false reports in regarded to ¥350 million, listing donations from people who had actually not given any money, including some who were dead. A month later it was revealed that Hatoyama initially failed to declare ¥72 million in income from stock sales in 2008 but later corrected the failure and paid the tax.

The biggest embarrassment was a donation of more ¥1.1 billion to Hatoyama’s political organization over about six years by Hatoyama’s mother. The money was handed over in cash in monthly installments of ¥15 million in violation of tax and political donations laws. Hatoyama insisted that the money was a loan even though there was no documentation to say that it was. In one speech, Hatoyama said, “All of you think I must have been aware of the funds [from my mother], don’t you...I was totally unaware however.” He later promised to pay ¥400 million “gift tax” on it.

Hatoyama’s brother Kumio said, “My elder brother visited our mother frequently to ask for money, saying he needed it to distribute it and funnel it to his sidekicks---and he received it. Our mother phoned me asking “if I’m doing the right thing.”

In April 2010, an inquest panel concluded it would not be appropriate to indict Hatoyama over the false records on political donations by his fund-management organization on the grounds of insufficient evidence. In December 2009, Hatoyama’s former first secretary and another former aide were indicted for falsifying reports to disguise funds given to Hatoyama by his mother as income from individual donations and sales of tickets at find-raising parties. Prosecutors decided not to indict Hatoyama. After the announcement of the arrests Hatoyama made a deep bow of shame and shed some tears at a hastily-arranged press conference. The aide, Keiji Katsuba, was given a two-year suspended sentence for faking political fund reports.

In February 2010, an LDP politician accused Hatoyama of being “king of tax evasion”--- an allusion to donations from his mother being a way to get around paying taxes. Taxes are not levied on political funds transferred between politician’s political fund-management organizations. Sometimes lawmakers use the rules to transfer political funds to their children tax free.

Hatoyama’s Resignation

Hatoyama resigned in June 2010 to take responsibility for his administration’s failure to resolve the confusion over the plan to relocate the Futenma air base on Okinawa. People had been calling for his resignation for months. There was a sense of relief that it finally happened. According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey held a week or so before 89 percent of respondents said they “no longer trusted” Hatoyama and the approval rating of his cabinet was only 19 percent. When Hatoyama resigned so too did Ozawa as secretary general of the DPJ.

In a speech before members of both Diet houses, Hatoyama said, “The public gradually stopped listening [to me]. It’s quite regrettable, and this resulted from my lack of virtue, I’d like to step down.”

The Futenma issue had come to a head when Hatoyama was forced to sack Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Mizuho Fukushima from his cabinet and the SDP quit the DPJ coalition after Fukushima refused to endorse the Hatoyama government decision to move the bases within Okinawa as was originally planed. Hatoyama said, “I must take responsibility for pushing the SDP into taking the difficulty decision to leave the coalition.” Fukushima was adamantly against the base in Okinawa , and refused to budge in the issue, and failed to offer an alternatives.

After he stepped down as prime minister Hatoyama said he would retire from politics then retracted his statement and said he would. He continued to stir up trouble and make confusing, irresponsible statements after he resigned. In reference to the deterrent provided of the U.S. Marines in Okinawa as reason to move Futenma Airbase Hatoyama said in February 2011 it was “an expedient excuse”--- undermining the foundation of the presence of the United States in Japan.

Hatoyama's Trip to Iran in 2012

In April 2012, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama visited Iran despite government pressure to call the trip off. Hatoyama met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his aides in Tehran to discuss Iran's controversial nuclear development program. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, April 11, 2012]

According to an Iranian report on the talks, Hatoyama criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency for applying double standards toward certain countries, including Iran, saying such treatment was unfair. At a press conference in the Diet building on Monday following his return home, Hatoyama denied making this comment, saying he profoundly regrets what he called a "complete fabrication" by Tehran. Later Tehran said they misquoted Hatoyama and apologized.

Explaining why he took the trip Hatoyama said that his trip "is part of my activities I'm making in a personal capacity as a legislator, as there is a significant possibility diplomatic efforts by an individual legislator could help the national interest." Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said: "We continued to ask him not to make the trip at this sensitive time, even as an individual lawmaker acting on his own accord.”

Hatoyama Retires from Politics

In November 2012, Jiji Press reported: “Hatoyama announced his retirement from politics amid a feud over key issues with the current leadership of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. Hatoyama, 65, apparently decided to retire after the DPJ decided not to give official backing to party members in the upcoming election unless they promise to follow its current policies, including a consumption tax increase and Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 22, 2012]

Hatoyama has voiced opposition to those policies. He voted against bills for the tax hike in the lower house in June with other DPJ opponents, many of whom later left the party, including former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa. Hatoyama has criticized Noda for pushing ahead with the tax increase plan by working with the opposition LDP and New Komeito. [Ibid]

A grandson of former Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama, Hatoyama earned a Ph.D. in engineering at Stanford University and started an academic career. He changed course, however, and first won a lower house seat in 1986 as a member of the LDP and has been reelected to the chamber seven times. He left the LDP in 1993. [Ibid]

Hatoyama’s Legacy

Henshu Techo wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “I think he is a tender-hearted person. Perhaps his ardent desire to please those around him by any means led him to promise the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture to the U.S. president. He also pledged a relocation of the base "outside the prefecture" to the people of Okinawa Prefecture. Consequently, his words proved to be sinful lies to both parties and caused fissures in Japan-U.S relations. [Source: Henshu Techo, Yomiuri Shimbun, November 22, 2012]

I think he is a rare individual. There is no comparable figure among all the prime ministers before or after him. After he left the prime minister's post, he was criticized for visiting Iran in defiance of the government's opposition. The visit did a lot of harm and no good whatsoever. While there is no shortage of those ill-suited to serve as prime minister, this is the first example of someone who could not even serve properly as former prime minister. [Ibid]

I would like to take up one particularly impressive specimen from among Hatoyama's many quotations. At the time of the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential election two years ago, Hatoyama embarked on a "coordination" effort to avoid a collision between Naoto Kan and Ichiro Ozawa. It ended in failure, serving only to muddy the waters. At that time, he spoke to his close aides in embarrassment saying, "What on earth was I doing?" A fitting title for your memoirs, Mr. Hatoyama, if ever you write them. [Ibid]

Image Sources: Kantei, Office of Prime Minister of Japan

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2014

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