This Week In Japan #22 (September 4th, 2020)

The race for the next prime minister heats up as Abe Shinzo announces his resignation and other big news stories!

September 5, 2020

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Hosts of This Week In Japan

Julian Domanski

Born in England, Julian is a writer, videographer & musician living in Tokyo. When he’s not drinking copious amounts of English Tea, he can be found studying Japanese or trying to master the surprisingly complex basics of the Jiuta Shamisen.

Yasuharu Matsuno

Founder of Japan Insider (Former Ryu Tokyo). Japanese-born entrepreneur. Yasu spent his life around the globe – Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, Australia, and the U.S. He hopes he had more time to play Japanese RPGs. MBA from Columbia University in the City of New York.

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo Announces Resignation

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo appeared emotional at times during his resignation speech last Friday, August 28th. Image sourced from https://news.cgtn.com/.

Amongst the growing suspicions due to two recent hospital visits, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo formally announced this past Friday that he will be resigning due to health concerns. It was confirmed that his chronic ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease which was also the cause of him temporarily stepping down years prior, has once again flared up. He has been in poor health since July and stated in his announcement that with his illness and poor health, he cannot be allowed to make incorrect political decisions. 

Rumors speculate that the increasing scandals surrounding Abe and his friends are also a reason that he chose to step down from his position. A few weeks ago we reported on Abe’s disastrous attempt to increase the age of retirement for a favored prosecutor which was met with heavy blowback. Other cases of Abe Shinzo helping friends stand out as well, such as the Moritomo Gakuen case, in which he is alleged to have sold land at an extremely discounted price to an acquaintance and then attempted to cover it up. 

Despite a recent increase in criticisms over the handling of Corona and several scandals from his political party, Abe Shinzo`s successor will still have some big shoes to fill. Including his first tenure, the prime minister just surpassed the record for the longest prime minister ever to be in the office at 9 years.  Abe`s time in office has been characterized by positive relations with the US and economic stability which is in part due to Abe’s three-arrow economic strategy, dubbed Abenomics. This included stimulus reform, increased fiscal spending, and monetary easing from the Bank of Japan.

The Race For The Next Prime Minister Begins

Featured from left to right are prime minister candidates Ishiba Shigeru, Kishida Fumio, and Suga Yoshihide. Image sourced from https://www.nippon.com/.

With Abe planning to step down, the search for the next prime minister is already underway. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is rumored to be a strong candidate, and officially announced his entry for the prime ministership this Wednesday. 

He promises continued success with Abenomics and to maintain positive Japan-US relations. Suga has been a loyal supporter of Abe for a long time, and is supported by the majority of his party, the Liberal Democratic Party. He has also become quite famous for unveiling the new era, Reiwa, and has since been referred to as “Uncle Reiwa.” While Suga is the current frontrunner, his extreme loyalty to Abe’s ideals and older age of 71 are a concern for some.

Aside from Cabinet Secretary Suga, two other candidates are also aiming for the position of prime minister, former Secretary General Ishiba Shigeru and former Foreign Minister and current chair of the policy research council Kishida Fumio. 

Kishida was considered to be the leading choice by the LDP for some time, and was even favored by Abe Shinzo. However, his popularity has fallen recently, and upon Abe’s announcement of resignation, he failed to mention any expectations of Kishida as a successor. Kishida is currently working hard to gain traction in the race by uploading photos and making public appearances. He promises to introduce foreign and economic policies different to those of Abe Shinzo.

Ishiba, however, is the people’s choice for a successor according to a recent opinion poll. He also stands out as a critic of Abe’s administration, and aims to strengthen Asian relationships with neighbors such as South Korea. The current election for the next leader of the Liberal Democratic Party is planned to be held on the 14th of September.

Japan’s First Flying Car Test is Successful

Japan’s first flying car debuted to a successful test flight last Tuesday, August 25th. Image sourced from https://www.forbes.com/.

Last Tuesday, flying cars took another step closer to reality. Sky Drive Inc., a company aiming to commercialize flying car travel, debuted its prototype, the SD-03 at the Toyota Test Field in Japan. 

The craft managed to rise several feet into the air and the pilot then proceeded to fly around the field for around 4 minutes. The craft itself is white with eight propellers and room for one pilot seated in the middle. It takes up the space of around two small cars and is apparently the smallest vertical takeoff craft in the world.

CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa expressed his hope for the future of the SD-03 at the event, stating that “we are extremely excited to have achieved Japan’s first-ever manned flight of a flying car in the two years since we founded SkyDrive… with the goal of commercializing such an aircraft.”

Sky Drive Inc. plans to bring flying vehicles into everyday life very soon, with further tests planned for later in the year under various conditions to test safety. Sky Drive is currently planning to launch the first commercial flying car by 2023, although a price is yet to be announced.

Tokyo Exit Rate Exceeds Entry Rate for the First Time Ever

A lone salary man walking an empty street in Tokyo. Crowds have lessened due to COVID-19. Image sourced from https://fstoppers.com/.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, this past July saw more people moving out of Tokyo than those coming in. This is the first time in history this has happened since the ministry began taking records in 2013. 

The outflow of people was recorded to be 1,459 more people than those entering. This ecompasses not only Tokyo as a whole, but the surrounding areas of Chiba, Saitama, and Kanagawa as well. The largest demographic was those between the ages of 0 to 4 as well as those in their mid 30s, possibly implying that the majority of those leaving are families with young children.

Tokyo saw the largest outflow which totaled 2,522 people. The ministry of internal affairs and communications has stated that more time will be needed to confirm whether this trend is temporary or not. However, compared to last year, the amount of people moving to Tokyo has dropped 16.1%.

Many are pointing towards Corona for the sudden increase in migration. With its cramped space and bustling crowds, Tokyo and the surrounding area has been a hot spot of Corona outbreaks for some time with over 20,000 confirmed cases. Last July, Governor Koike declared an alert over Tokyo and has encouraged residents to refrain from moving in between prefectures to reduce infections.

Mailman Keeps Over 500 Mail and Packages Over 14 Years

Mail in Japan is often delivered on motorized bikes that can be seen zipping around neighborhoods. Image sourced from https://www.bbc.com/.

On the first of this month, the Tsukuba Gakuen post office located in Tsukuba City in Ibaraki Prefecture announced that a 50-year-old male employee had not been delivering all of his mail. 

Not only did he fail to deliver a few packages, but he had continuously not delivered mail for over 14 years, resulting in over 500 lost items as well. Apparently, the man was simply hiding the mail at his home. He was also bold enough to hide some of the undelivered mail in his own locker at work but this eventually led to his demise. During a routine locker check at the end of this August, the missing mail was discovered.

The post office has since issued a formal apology to all those affected by the lack of mail and an investigation is currently underway to find out exactly how and why this was able to occur. During questioning, the culprit stated that his reasoning for not delivering the mail was in order to not cause trouble. He admitted to his actions and said that “If you return to the post office without delivering mail, it causes trouble for the other workers and I didn’t want to be told to [bring mail back].”

Christian Dakin

Christian Dakin is an editor, designer, and video game director currently based out of Tokyo, Japan. Originally from a small town in Georgia, he studied in Japan for a year in college before returning again for work. Christian enjoys studying Japanese and the outdoors. In his off time, he is most likely to be found adventuring to a castle, belting it out in karaoke with friends, or in a gym somewhere.

More articles by Christian Dakin

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