The Words of Noda

I don’t usually stray into the world of politics on this blog, it’s [hopefully] meant to be informative and constructive, rather than a critique of the national political psyche. Japan’s political system is as odd as most other countries, still being based on political families and dynasties and a reliance more on yelling people’s names during campaign times than actually discussing issues.

The current Prime Minister is called Yoshihiko Noda, who replaced Naoto Kan, the man who saw Japan through last year’s quake and the immediate response to it, and was thus summarily fired, likely due to saying and supporting some fairly straight things about TEPCO and their supporters, which didn’t go down well with the Old Men, meaning Japan was back to lacklustre suits, spouting the same old stuff and not trying to fix 20 years of stagnation, and the world’s largest public debt.

Yes, I know Greece is exciting and all that, but for sheer number of zeroes, Japan has long been up there (228% of GDP, at $10.5tn.).

Anyway, getting to the point, over the last month, I couldn’t help notice Noda has come out with a couple of interesting soundbites which in a short space of time which seem to completely contradict each other within the same story – here’s a quick one about Japan’s recent execution of 3 prisoners:

“I have no plans to do away with the death penalty,” Mr Noda said, according to the Kyodo news agency.

“Taking into consideration a situation where the number of heinous crimes has not decreased, I find it difficult to abolish the death penalty immediately,” Mr Noda said.

So, you’re keeping it even though it has been proven in your country (as most others) to have no effect whatsoever on the number of murders etc.? Does that make sense?  Many foreigners (and some Japanese) are surprised at the fact Japan has the death penalty, and how it is used (Amnesty International have major issues not just with the killing, but with how it is conducted – even more so than in other nations).

Another one I saw from him was discussing tax increases to deal with the aforementioned epic national debt – on January 24th 2012:

“The current system, if unchanged, will put an unbearable burden on future generations. We don’t have time left to postpone reforms,” Mr Noda told parliament.

Wow. Then three weeks later:

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, in an online message after the cabinet’s vote, said Japan had “no time to spare” in reducing its debts.

He added: “Some of you may think you are an unlucky generation which needs to support many elderly people – but those who built the current affluent society are the senior generation – your parents’ generation.”

I’m not understanding this statement. The country is massively in debt, has had 20 years of stagnation, and the youth are told to just deal with it (like they have a choice) and be appreciative of the affluent society their seniors built? How can you claim to be affluent and massively in debt? Their parents built the bubble, not affluence – perhaps the generation before that had built affluence?

Anyway, these stories aren’t at all surprising – the level of denial in Japan is what sustains its institutions it seems, but it was fun to see simple, basic contradictions so close together.

That said, Noda seems to just be confused when he speaks, whereas if you want to see the Shogun of great political quotes, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has him beaten.