大阪ダブル選 「都構想」への関門はなお多い

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 29, 2011)
Many hurdles ahead for an Osaka metropolis
大阪ダブル選 「都構想」への関門はなお多い(11月28日付・読売社説)

Former Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto won Sunday's Osaka mayoral election. Hashimoto, who heads Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), a local party, had resigned as Osaka governor to run in the mayoral race.

In the Osaka gubernatorial election, Ichiro Matsui, the local party's secretary general Hashimoto named as his successor, also won.

The party's victories in the elections represented a success for Hashimoto's strategy of engineering the double election, stepping down as governor before his four-year term of office was due to expire.

The main issue in the double election was Hashimoto's proposal to establish an Osaka metropolis.
In an envisioned overhaul of the local administrative system, he called for the reorganization of the Osaka prefectural government and the Osaka and Sakai municipal governments into a metropolis that provides administrative services in a wider area.

As for the areas currently under the jurisdiction of the Osaka and Sakai municipal governments, Hashimoto proposed dividing the cities into 10 to 12 special administrative wards that will provide services for local residents and introducing elections by popular vote to choose ward mayors, as in Tokyo.


New sources of revenue

Hashimoto called for conserving fiscal resources by eliminating overlapping administrative services by the prefectural and municipal governments and promoting growth strategies by consolidating industrial policies and projects to improve infrastructure.

Matsui also urged implementing the plan.

Other candidates supported by prefectural chapters of the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party failed to win broader voter support as they were unable to present clear counterproposals against Hashimoto's Osaka metropolis proposal.

The election results apparently reflect voters' desire for strong leadership and bold system reforms to revitalize Osaka.

If the outcome of Sunday's elections helps end what Hashimoto called the "100-year battle between the Osaka prefectural and Osaka city governments," it will certainly benefit residents of Osaka Prefecture.

Another issue of contention in Sunday's elections was Hashimoto's high-handed tactics.

Hashimoto managed to increase his support by treating public officials and others opposing him as "resistance forces," causing friction with them in the process.

In some ways, it is understandable that rival candidates attacked Hashimoto as "dictatorial."

Hashimoto should humbly take to heart the votes cast against him.

Moves will now accelerate in Osaka Prefecture to realize an Osaka metropolis.

Those promoting the idea will have to present specific plans on how to divide cities into wards as well as how to secure tax and fiscal resources and sufficiently explain the plan's benefits to voters.


Election only first obstacle

The double election was only one hurdle that must be cleared before establishing an Osaka metropolis.

Various other hurdles are expected ahead, including approvals by local assemblies, local referendums and revisions of the Local Government Law.

Expected to be particularly difficult are legislative procedures that will be necessary to transform the prefecture and the municipalities into a metropolis.

This is because such procedures will require drastic reviews of what forms local government organs and administrative systems should take.

Not a few among the ruling and opposition parties oppose the Osaka metropolis plan. DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Seiji Maehara said, "[The plan] is meant to strengthen the authority of prefectural governments, which runs counter to our party's policy."

Osaka is faced with grave problems.

But many of them, such as a faltering local economy and an increasing number of welfare recipients, cannot be resolved simply through reform of the administrative system.

The reform of the public servant system Hashimoto pledged during the election campaign will also be tested.

What actions will Hashimoto, who managed to build political foundations both in Osaka prefectural and city governments, take now?

We hope he will present us with tangible outcomes through his "system restoration."

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 28, 2011)
(2011年11月28日01時18分 読売新聞)


欧米経済混乱 余りにも遅い危機封じ込め策

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 28, 2011)
Measures to contain crises in U.S., EU too slow
欧米経済混乱 余りにも遅い危機封じ込め策(11月27日付・読売社説)

There is no resolution in sight for Europe's debt crisis, while in the United States, talks between Republicans and Democrats collapsed over the issue of slashing the U.S. federal deficit.

This is a serious situation in which the economic turmoil in the United States and European countries may spread to other economies.

European countries and the United States need to act quickly to contain the crisis.

Indexes of major stock markets around the world, including those in Western economies and Asia, declined across the board last week.

Tokyo stocks fell below 8,200 for the first time in about 32 months.

On foreign exchange markets, the euro fell as low as the 102 yen level against the yen.

The major factor that roiled the markets is that eurozone countries have been slow to work out measures to deal with the sovereign debt crisis, and Germany and France have failed to coordinate their efforts to tackle the crisis.

In Italy, the country most affected by the debt crisis triggered by Greece, there was a change of administration.  ギリシャ危機が飛び火したイタリアでは、政権が交代したが、

But the market apparently remains skeptical about whether the new government can effectively carry out fiscal reconstruction.


Italian bond yields hit 7%

For this reason, the yield on 10-year Italian government bonds rose to the 7-percent level again, bringing into question the country's ability to put its fiscal house in order on its own.

The yields on government bonds of other European countries, including Spain and France, have also risen.

One shocking development is that Germany failed to raise as much money as it hoped in a recent auction of 10-year bonds, reckoned to be the most creditworthy bonds in Europe.

Institutional investors have apparently shied away from buying.

Germany is considered to be the "final fortress" in the battle to resolve the debt crisis.

Precautions are needed to prevent the credit uncertainty from spreading further.

The government bonds of Portugal and Hungary were also downgraded recently.

European countries must, first of all, implement measures to assist Greece, the epicenter of the crisis, and stem the crisis from spreading beyond Italy.

Decisions have been made too slowly on concrete steps to expand the European Financial Stability Facility, the entity tasked with supporting crisis-hit eurozone countries.

To stabilize the market, it is essential for both Germany and France to join forces and deal with the issue promptly.

The European Union has proposed the 17-member eurozone countries issue "euro bonds" to tide over the crisis.


EU looks to common bonds

The EU has a common currency in the euro.

However, as the fiscal conditions differ among the member countries, the EU has concluded it would be better to monitor the fiscal conditions of member countries as a precondition for issuing common bonds.

We can understand the purpose of the common bond, but these reforms cannot deal with the currently raging crisis.

The EU nations should prioritize their policies.

On the other hand, it is also worrisome that in the United States, the talks between Republicans and Democrats collapsed over concrete steps to slash U.S. deficit spending by at least 1.2 trillion dollars over the next 10 years.

The collapse came as the sides failed to iron out their differences, with Democrats calling for increasing taxes on the rich and cutting government spending, and Republicans opposing tax increases.

The road to the country's fiscal reconstruction remains uncertain.

If the turmoil over fiscal management and in politics continues in conjunction with political jockeying with an eye to next year's presidential election, credit-rating agencies may again downgrade U.S. government bonds, as they did this summer.

The global economy remains on a tight-rope.

It needs to be stabilized as quickly as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 27, 2011)
(2011年11月27日01時22分 読売新聞)


社説:「女性宮家」 皇室の将来へ論議を



(Mainichi Japan) November 26, 2011
Discussion needed on plan to allow women to keep Imperial status after marriage
社説:「女性宮家」 皇室の将来へ論議を

In-depth discussions are needed on the proposed reform of the Imperial Household, including a system to allow women to retain their Imperial status even after marriage.

The government is set to consider introducing houses for female members of the Imperial Family so that they can retain their Imperial status after marriage, for fear that the number of Imperial Family members would otherwise decrease.

It is a matter closely related to how to ensure stable Imperial succession.

Imperial Household Agency chief Shingo Haketa has recently told Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda that the matter is of great urgency for the Imperial Household because many female members of the Imperial Family are nearing marriageable age, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

Specific actions have not been taken yet to address the issue, but Fujimura told a news conference that the government will consider the matter while taking into consideration discussions by all levels of society.

The Imperial Household consists of Emperor Akihito and 22 other members of the Imperial Family, and six of eight unmarried female members are adults.

The Imperial House Law stipulates that female members of the Imperial Family must leave the Imperial Household once they get married to commoners.

The law also states that only male members of the Imperial Family in the male line can accede to the Imperial Throne.

The order of succession to the throne is Crown Prince Naruhito, his brother Prince Akishino and Prince Hisahito. 現在その順位は皇太子さま、弟の秋篠宮さま、その長男の悠仁(ひさひと)さまと続く。

Prince Hisahito, 5, the son of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, is the Emperor's only grandchild who can accede to the throne.

There have been calls for many years urging female members of the Imperial Family to retain their Imperial status after marriage for fear that Imperial succession will be unstable in the long term if the current system is retained.

The previous Liberal Democratic Party-led government set up an advisory panel comprised of experts on how to ensure stable succession to the throne when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was in office.

In November 2005, the panel stated that it is extremely difficult to maintain the current system which limits those qualified to accede to the throne to male members of the Imperial Family in the male line.

It then issued a report recommending that female Imperial Family members and their descendents be allowed to succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne as long as the principle of prioritizing the eldest child in line to the throne is retained, and that women retain their Imperial status even after marriage.

A bill to revise the Imperial House Law based on those recommendations was to be submitted to the Diet.  そして皇室典範改正案が国会に提出されるはずだったが、

However, the recommendations were met with stiff opposition.

The issue was shelved after the birth of Prince Hisahito in September 2006.

A system under which female members of the Imperial Family would retain their Imperial status after marriage would help maintain the number of Imperial Family members to a certain level and could expand the scope of those qualified to accede to the throne.

Needless to say, a conclusion on the issue should not be hastily drawn.

Open public discussions and understanding are indispensable.

The post-war system that recognizes the Emperor as a symbol of the state has been understood and loved by the public based on the philosophy that the "Imperial Household is open to the public and coexists with society."  戦後、象徴天皇制は「開かれた皇室」「国民とともにある皇室」という理念で理解され、親しまれてきた。

Introducing a new system that matches the times would never contradict with keeping up the tradition of the Imperial Household cultivated by its long history.

Since his enthronement, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have actively promoted exchanges with members of the general public, and visited areas hit by serious natural disasters to cheer up victims.

The Emperor's visits to former battle sites to pay respect to war victims have shown how the Imperial Household should exist in the Heisei Era.

Frank and open discussion on how to ensure stable Imperial succession will be consistent with the philosophy of the modern Imperial Household.

It should not be an all-or-nothing approach.

Members of the public have a wide diversity of opinions and proposals.

Discussions on the issue should be mature while taking into consideration recommendations made by the government advisory panel six years ago.

毎日新聞 2011年11月26日 2時31分






--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 25
EDITORIAL: Reduce pension benefits to original levels

It is hard for elderly people to hear their pension benefits will be reduced.

But if levels remain as they are, pause for a moment to think about the impact this will have on their children and grandchildren.

Welfare minister Yoko Komiyama has floated the idea of lowering monthly pension payments.

In fiscal 2011, pension payments were 2.5 percent higher than they ought to have been.

Komiyama's proposal is to return pension payments to original level in phases.

The problem dates back to 1999, when the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito were in power.

That year, consumer prices dropped slightly.

To correspond with the drop, pension benefits for fiscal 2000 should have been lowered automatically.

However, the government made an exception and decided to maintain pensions at the same level on grounds the economy would deteriorate further if those benefits were reduced.

The exception remained in place for three consecutive years until fiscal 2002.

Apparently, the ruling coalition did not want to alienate pensioners when it came time to vote in elections.

Since then, each time a proposal was made to keep pensions at the same level, a bill was submitted and the Diet unanimously approved it.

The issue of "excessive payments" was supposed to have been resolved by not raising pension benefits when prices rose.

With deflation, when prices go down, the gap between the actual amounts of pension benefits paid versus the "original levels" has continued.

During government screening of wasteful projects to cut costs, the panel overseeing the matter pointed out that the cumulative overpayment of pension benefits had reached 7 trillion yen ($93.3 billion) and said this should be eliminated.

We totally agree, and believe this should be done as soon as possible.

Although some Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers are raising objections, this hurdle must be overcome. 民主党内から反発の声が出ているが、乗りこえなければいけない。

Otherwise, we will be passing on the burden to future generations.

With lower birthrates, the number of people of working age who pay pension premiums is decreasing.

Meanwhile, people are living longer. This inevitably means payments of pension benefits are increasing.

If no action is taken, the burden on working people will become excessively heavy.
For that reason, the rise in pension premiums is scheduled to end in fiscal 2017.

That way, the size of the pie used to pay pension benefits will be kept within a certain framework.

Moreover, when prices keep rising, a system called "macroeconomic slide" is applied.

It is aimed at curbing the amounts of pension benefits in accordance with the decline in the number of working people, coupled with the rise in longevity.

But the system will not work unless the current pension benefits are lowered to "original levels" and prices rise to some extent.

Unless this rule is re-examined and the system is changed so that it can be invoked even when prices fall, pension benefits of future generations will decline even more.

We can fully understand the anxiety of elderly people who must rely on pensions to make ends meet.

But younger generations, including the children and grandchildren of today's pensioners, are also feeling great trepidation about their future pension benefits.

We as a nation should give serious thought to this problem, with special feelings of consideration to younger generations.





投稿者:srachai2011-11-21 10:32

投稿者:srachai2011-11-25 08:57


--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 24
EDITORIAL: In Egypt, young people hold the key to progress

The latest bloody clash between Egyptian security forces and protesters in Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the revolution that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak as president in February, underscored the tough challenges facing the "Arab Spring" movement.

Security forces used strong-arm tactics to crack down on the protesters, causing many casualties among the young crowd demonstrating against the military leadership.

Mubarak's resignation supposedly ended Egypt's iron-fisted rule. But the recent actions of the military-led interim government are all too reminiscent of the Mubarak regime's responses to dissent.

In Egypt, the first round of elections for the People's Assembly, the country's principal legislative body, is due to start on Nov. 28.

After three rounds of elections for both houses, the new parliament will be convened in March.

Young Egyptians who gathered in Tahrir Square harbored deep resentment toward the military, which took power after the spring revolution.

The interim government appointed by the military demanded that all political forces, prior to the elections, accept the "basic principles of the Constitution," which would exempt its military budget from civilian oversight.

It is clear that the military is trying to preserve its privileges.

The bloody clash followed a protest rally organized by an Islamic group that is expected to make strides in the elections.

Young protesters who attended the rally continued their demonstration in the square.

Many young Egyptians are indignant about the fact that senior officials of the Mubarak regime still hold posts in government organizations while senior police and security force officers who led violent crackdowns against citizens remained in their posts without being held accountable for their actions.

The use of force in response to the latest wave of protests has effectively reinforced the claim by young people that nothing has really changed.

After three days of deadly clashes, the top military commander said the army "does not aspire to hold power" and promised that presidential polls will be held in June 2012 to facilitate the transition to civilian rule.

The commander also said he had accepted the Cabinet's resignation. He said the military had reached an agreement with the main political forces on the formation of a new Cabinet supported by the whole nation.

However, the protesters rejected the deal. They have demanded an immediate end to military rule so that a newly empowered civilian government can resolve the crisis.

Their anger is understandable.

But we hope the protesters will stay focused on securing the parliamentary elections scheduled to start next week and not lose sight of their goal, which must be accomplished through the election process.

It must not be forgotten, however, that Egypt and its society are facing the colossal political challenge of how to deal with the deep-rooted anger that has gripped its young population.

Its people have an average age of 24.

During Mubarak's time, a small number of the wealthy elite with connections to senior government officials enjoyed huge advantages in employment and promotion.

The corrupt politics of patronage led to high unemployment among young people and a wide gap between rich and poor, resulting in various social problems like an increasing number of young people who cannot afford marriage.

This time, the military held talks with former opposition parties, including Islamic groups, to find a way out of the crisis. What we find highly questionable was the military's decision not to hold any dialogue with the angry youth.

The driving force of the revolution was a new generation of Internet-savvy young people armed with the ability to make the most of mobile phones.

The military rulers need to understand that the process of "democratization from the top" without the involvement of these young people cannot solve their anger. To continue to ignore them would risk further dissent and unrest in Egyptian society.



(Mainichi Japan) November 23, 2011
One-person play by actress brings voices of disaster victims to wider audience

When I saw a one-person play about earthquake and tsunami evacuees by actress "mic" during a charity event this past summer, I felt my spirits lightened.

The actress played the roles of three disaster victims -- elderly and middle-aged women who lost their homes to the tsunami that followed the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and a fisherman who had resolved to continue his work.

The play was held at an evacuation shelter on the Oshika Peninsula in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, one month after the disasters.

Though the ways the three speak is stooped in sorrow, their Tohoku dialect always sounds gentle.

"mic, don't hesitate to come back here when things are hard," one of them said.

The three are not fictional characters.

The actress says she reproduced the words of three people she actually met at a shelter.

In a survey after the performance, many members of the audience said they felt they had directly heard voices of the disaster-hit residents that are not reported by news organizations.

Even though the play was done by one person, the dialogue seemed to the audience like the disaster victims' real voices.

About 10 years ago, mic was in a car accident and fought for her life.

It happened after she had made up her mid to be an actress following her graduation from university.
In her mind, the massive damage that the disasters caused to many people in the Tohoku region may have shared similarities with her harrowing experience a decade ago.

"I was so shaken (after the March disasters), I couldn't do my job at all," mic recalls.

While repeatedly visiting the evacuation shelter where the three were staying, their lives took root in her mind as a story.

Furthermore, the actress's parents' home in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, was damaged by the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995.

She says her mother says, "I never forget the taste of boiled potatoes I got from volunteers at the time."

Those volunteers were from the Tohoku region.

The actress will perform the play at a hall in Kobe on the evening of Nov. 26.

She believes that Kobe residents will understand the feelings of evacuees from the Oshika Peninsula, and hopes that she can return the favor to Tohoku people for extending relief to Kobe quake victims 16 years ago.

Proceeds from 3,000-yen admission fees for her Kobe performance will be fully donated to disaster-hit areas.

(By Takahiro Takino, Tokyo City News Department)

毎日新聞 2011年11月16日 東京朝刊


「もんじゅ」 政策仕分けにはなじまない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 23, 2011)
Monju reactor program not appropriate for budget screening
「もんじゅ」 政策仕分けにはなじまない(11月22日付・読売社説)

The Government Revitalization Unit has proposed a drastic review of the Monju program, which aims to develop a next-generation nuclear reactor. The review will include whether the program should be scrapped.

During the unit's policy review session that started Sunday, all seven members of the screening committee, which includes Diet members of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, criticized the program. "More than 1 trillion yen has been injected so far, but the program has borne no fruit," one screener said.

However, discussions lasted only for several hours and focused on how to use the program budget efficiently. There was almost no review of technical issues or verification of the program's merits and demerits from the viewpoint of long-term energy policy.

We cannot help but call the budget screening session a mere political performance that took advantage of the general atmosphere of "opposition to nuclear power generation" caused by the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.


Maintenance takes 20 bil. yen a year

The Monju prototype fast breeder reactor has been mostly suspended since operations began in 1994, due to a series of problems including a sodium leak in 1995.

Just maintaining the reactor costs about 20 billion yen a year.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, an independent administrative institution, is responsible for research and development on the Monju project. Budget screeners raised such questions as, "Wasn't there laxity because you're a public research organization?" or "Was there no waste of money?" We think the screeners had sufficient reason to ask such questions.

However, Japan has been promoting the study of fast breeder reactors in an attempt to more effectively use uranium.

Fast breeder reactors can convert a type of uranium that cannot be burned in conventional nuclear reactors into plutonium that can be used as fuel.

The program has its eye on the future of Japan, which is a resource-thirsty country.

Countries such as China and India have also been developing such reactors, and China began experimental power generation this summer.

European countries and the United States are giving much attention to whether the stable operation of Monju in Japan, as an international R&D base for fast breeder reactors, is possible.

It is indeed problematic if the screeners do not take into account these circumstances and international trends.

Organizations such as the government's Energy and Environment Council and the Atomic Energy Commission have been reviewing nuclear power policy, and are scheduled to reach a final conclusion next summer.

The fate of the Monju program will have to be decided at that time.


Optimum energy mix needed

Nuclear power generation needs to be discussed from a long-term point of view, and the best combination of energy sources for the country must be chosen.

However, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said during the budget screening session that if all the research funding for nuclear power plants was put into studying renewable energy sources, the nation's power needs could be satisfied.

This is not an easy task when we consider current technology levels.

Edano is downright irresponsible.

The ongoing budget screening has been dubbed a "policy proposing type screening." I

n addition to the Monju program, the session also discussed an R&D program on nuclear fusion among other nuclear programs.

However, as in the Monju case, the budget screening members were obsessed with the efficient use of money.

The nation's important policy measures must be decided through discussions from various angles.

In that sense, the budget screening has its limitations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 22, 2011)
(2011年11月22日01時16分 読売新聞)




--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 22
EDITORIAL: Lessons from Aum Shinrikyo's crimes must be handed down

All the trials for the series of crimes perpetrated by the Aum Shinrikyo cult are now over.

Already, as many as 22 years have passed since the 1989 murder of lawyer Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his family, which marked the beginning of the grisly saga of crimes committed by the cult's members.

And 16 years have passed since cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto, also known as Shoko Asahara, was arrested and indicted.

Many Japanese probably still remember what they were doing on that day in 1995 when the group carried out the sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

To Japanese of a certain age or younger, however, all these murders and terror attacks carried out by Aum cultists probably look like what happened in a distant world.

Whenever the cult and its atrocious acts are discussed, we are told not to allow these incidents to be forgotten. We couldn't agree more, given the shock and consternation the group's crimes caused not just in Japan but in the rest of the world.

In a society regarded as affluent and safe, a group that justified murders was born. And many young people apparently lost their sense of morality as they got involved in the group and brought ruin upon themselves.

Japanese who lived in the era when Aum Shinrikyo was active have a duty to pass the facts about the cult and its crimes to generations who will be the leaders of tomorrow so that the lessons learned from the experiences will not be lost.

The trials have brought to light some new facts about why these indicted former members joined the group and how they committed the crimes. But they have left many important questions unanswered.

There are inevitably limitations to what the trials of individual cultists facing criminal charges can reveal about Aum Shinrikyo and its deeds.

It is crucial to lay a solid foundation for a continued public conversation about Aum based on the outcomes of the trials.

People and organizations in the private sector, including academics and media, will have to play the leading role in such efforts.

But the Diet, for instance, should also do its part by taking steps like commissioning a research team to interview people concerned and collect and analyze related records to share with the public.

Many former members say they intend to keep facing their past involvement in the cult and trying to deepen their thoughts.

Society should pay serious attention to their soul-searching and thoughts, and hold sincere conversations with them.

We hope such steady efforts will help prevent a recurrence of similar tragedies.

Aum's crime rampage has brought about some important changes in Japanese society.

In the area of criminal justice, laws and systems have been reformed to eliminate lengthy trials and establish the rights of crime victims.

But Japan still has a long way to go to reach the international norm in its ability to deal with organized crimes.

The challenge facing Japan is how to build up a society where people can live with a sense of security while reining in excessive investigations and law enforcement actions.

This challenge requires continued and careful debate for building consensus among the people.

Another important consequence of Aum's crimes is weakened resistance to the death penalty within our society.

Public opinion has been demanding severe punishment for heinous crimes, while the judiciary's judgments that reflect the popular trend have reinforced the hard-line public attitude toward the issue.

Japan has been bucking the trend of international opinion that calls for abolition of capital punishment.

Deciding on whether Japan should stay the course is another serious challenge Aum Shinrikyo has left us to tackle.


香山リカのココロの万華鏡:愛という言葉にご用心 /東京


(Mainichi Japan) November 20, 2011
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Be cautious about the word 'love'
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:愛という言葉にご用心 /東京

Recently, I encountered the word "love" on two occasions in one day.

Unfortunately, the situation did not involve someone confessing their love for me -- the word was used at two separate press conferences, which I watched on TV.

The first was a news conference by Hidetoshi Kiyotake, the general manager of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, which he organized to publicly criticize the club's chairman, Tsuneo Watanabe, for intervening in the club's personnel affairs.
Kiyotake repeatedly used the word "love," saying, "I love the Yomiuri Giants, baseball, and the fans.  まず最初は、巨人軍の清武英利球団代表の会見。同球団の渡辺恒雄会長が人事について不当な介入をした、と批判した会見は大きな波紋を呼んだが、その中で何度も「愛」という単語を口にした。「私は、巨人軍、野球、ファンを愛しています」

The second was a news conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, held after his decision to have Japan join Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Noda, meanwhile, proudly stated, "I love Japan from the heart," after which he told reporters about his childhood at his mother's farmhouse.

As I was watching, I couldn't help but wonder why the two leaders used that word.

The pair appear to have wanted to emphasize that their claims during their respective news conferences were not driven by their self-interest but by pure love.

However, we can't put our trust in someone simply because they have used the word "love."

As high school ethics textbooks say, there are two types of love: "Agape," which describes unconditional benevolence that does not seek anything in return, and "Eros," which usually characterizes affection between romantically involved couples.

In the case of the latter, there is almost always the need for love in return.

Sometimes, people will say "I love you" in a carefully calculated ill attempt to seduce someone and use them for personal gain.

In my consultation room, that is often the case -- I have had a number of patients seeking help after someone's "love" has betrayed and hurt them.

But let's return to the two leaders in question -- Kiyotake and Noda. Which type of "love" they were referring to?

Undoubtedly they would argue that they were speaking of an unconditional love -- benevolence.

However, we cannot naively trust such statements.

I'm sure that there were many people who, after listening to both leaders' comments, thought, "You won't fool me.
There must be something going on behind the scenes."

The fact that Japanese leaders speak about love so easily is a rather new cultural phenomenon, I feel.

While there may be people who would perceive it a nice thing for middle-aged men to speak about love so openly, I feel a little bit uneasy about it.

The reason is that, quite frankly, it sounds fake to me. Do they say "I love you" to their wives and children as part of their everyday lives? I honestly doubt it.

There is a need to be cautious about the word "love" -- that is the feeling I got from the two leaders' press conferences.

毎日新聞 2011年11月15日 地方版


ミャンマー改革 民主化加速が促す中国離れ

オブジェクション! 中国だってミャンマーに投資する権利はあるはずです。




The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 20, 2011)
Increase support for democratization of Myanmar
ミャンマー改革 民主化加速が促す中国離れ(11月19日付・読売社説)

At a summit meeting of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Indonesia on Thursday, Myanmar won approval to chair the regional bloc in 2014.

Military rule has been replaced with a civilian government in that country, and Myanmar President Thein Sein has been forging ahead with reform of both the political and economic systems, as shown by such moves as the beginning of dialogue between the president and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, the release of political prisoners and the introduction of foreign capital.

The ASEAN decision to allow Myanmar to assume the responsibility of chairing the regional bloc can be considered a reward for these moves toward democratization.

ASEAN's chairmanship rotates each year. In 2005, Myanmar was scheduled to act as chair in the following year, but objections from the United States and Europe, and from within ASEAN, over Myanmar's human rights violations under military rule forced the country to give up its bid.


China expanding clout

The chair of ASEAN hosts various conferences relevant to the grouping, including the East Asia Summit, in which the United States and Russia take part.

The decision to designate Myanmar as ASEAN chair in 2014 means Myanmar has acquired a foothold for returning fully to the international community.

Its economy having stagnated under military rule, Myanmar is the poorest member of ASEAN.

By making the best possible use of the opportunity to serve as chair, Myanmar should strive to rebuild its economy in a way conducive to having the United States and European countries alleviate or lift their economic sanctions and to encouraging the inflow of foreign capital.

During the years of sanctions by the United States and Europe, China expanded its influence over Myanmar through economic assistance.

China is believed to have coveted Myanmar's wealth of natural resources.

Apparently in connection with this, President Thein Sein announced toward the end of September that Myanmar would halt construction work on a giant dam for hydraulic power generation in Myanmar that had been undertaken by China.

In October, Thein Sein visited India for the first time since his inauguration as Myanmar president, reaching an agreement with Indian leaders on assistance to improve Myanmar's infrastructure, a move indicating the country's desire to lessen its dependence on China.

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has deemed the ongoing changes in Myanmar to be strategically important and is working to improve relations with the country, including possibly easing economic sanctions, as shown by a decision to send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Myanmar in December.

Due attention must be paid to the possibility of the United States, China and other countries jockeying more energetically for influence in Myanmar.


Japan-ASEAN declaration

In a meeting with Thein Sein on Friday on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda expressed his support for the changes in Myanmar and rightly prodded the nation to make further efforts toward democratization.

Japan, for its part, should implement as early as possible official development assistance to Myanmar, as the government has decided to resume such aid.

It is also of high importance that Japan adopted a joint declaration with ASEAN leaders for the first time in eight years.
In the declaration, this country stated its readiness to cooperate with ASEAN for disaster management and preparedness, while pledging to extend to ASEAN members 2 trillion yen worth of cooperation to improve infrastructure, including improvement of transportation networks in Indochina.

Japan's contribution is only natural, as the country has received significant assistance from ASEAN members in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

With flooding in Thailand still continuing, international cooperation for disaster management is increasingly important.

Strengthening cooperative ties with ASEAN, which has long been friendly to Japan, is sure to further enhance mutual confidence.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 19, 2011)
(2011年11月19日01時06分 読売新聞)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 18
EDITORIAL: Diet screening of government projects holds significance

Are all projects run by the government's ministries and agencies really necessary?

Even if they are necessary, isn't there some wasted spending?

Such questions were discussed in an open forum.

Screening of wasteful government projects, a signature policy of the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration, was conducted this time in the Diet transcending the walls between ruling and opposition parties.  民主党政権の看板政策の一つである事業仕分けが、国会に舞台を移し、与野党の垣根を越えて行われた。

The screening was done by a subcommittee of the Lower House's Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration.

Fourteen lawmakers from the DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito spent two days looking into four projects--the development of supercomputers, clerical work to check health insurance claims, housing facilities for government employees, and expenditures to independent administrative institutions and other organizations related to nuclear energy.

While asking for the opinions of academics and local government officials, the lawmakers exchanged views, sometimes in heated debate, with senior vice ministers, parliamentary secretaries and senior officials representing their respective ministries and agencies.

For each project, they reached conclusions, such as "reductions or revisions of budget requests" and "changes of organizational structures and systems."

In the previously conducted DPJ screening, the government checked the government.

There was no system requiring ministries and agencies to act on the conclusions without fail.

In fact, budgets were spent as originally planned for quite a few projects once things simmered down.

This time, the Diet, as an "outsider," checked the work of the government.

The executive board of the committee, which is authorized to make recommendations to the Cabinet, will discuss how to handle the conclusions.

We urge the committee to take a firm stand that the government cannot ignore.

The screening also has great significance in the sense that it once again questions the way the Diet should be.

In Diet deliberations, the Lower House Budget Committee is regarded as the star.

Although it has been repeatedly pointed out that ex post facto checks are indispensable in cutting budget waste, the Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration has failed to show a strong presence.

If the committee looks closely at waste and inconsistencies in projects through the screening process, it should be able to develop the ability to see through the "lies" of government offices that use every conceivable means to secure budgets.

Instead of writing off this attempt as a one-shot deal, we want the committee to continue the efforts while spreading the move to other committees as well.

To prepare for the screening, the members of the subcommittee analyzed the administrative project review sheets of ministries and agencies.

The documents contain the objectives, budget amounts, actual spending, flow of funds and evaluations of accomplishments for each of the more than 5,000 projects.

While using the results of such self-examination by the government's ministries and agencies, the committee should dig deeper to check each item to make the process more effective.

It was Takeshi Shina of the DPJ and Masaaki Taira of the LDP who took the initiative to prepare for the screening of wasteful government projects in the Diet.

They are both in their 40s and are serving their second term as Lower House members.
Both worked for private companies in the past.

Lawmakers are urged to re-examine their roles as representatives of the people with fresh ideas.

Doing so leads to enhancing the trust of voters and serves as the foundation for political leadership.


イラン核開発 制裁を強化する以外にない

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 19, 2011)
Tougher sanctions needed against Iran over N-program
イラン核開発 制裁を強化する以外にない(11月18日付・読売社説)

As has long been suspected, Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has released a report on Iran's nuclear development program that provides many pieces of information underscoring such suspicions.

We note that the report says information obtained by the U.N. nuclear watchdog "indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."

Specifically, the IAEA has learned that Tehran has developed a special detonator that can trigger an explosive device with great accuracy.

It has also learned that Iran has conducted a large test using powerful explosives.

In addition, Iran has built a large facility at a military installation to conduct detonation tests, and is continuing to develop a nuclear detonation device that will use highly enriched uranium, according to the IAEA report.

There is only one explanation for these moves: Iran is developing nuclear weapons.


Nuclear test matter of time

Iran has failed to halt its uranium enrichment activities, as demanded in U.N. Security Council resolutions.

According to the report, Iran had produced about five tons of low-enriched uranium as of early November, and had 73.7 kilograms of uranium with a concentration level boosted to 20 percent by the end of September.

If allowed to continue enriching uranium at this pace, Iran will almost certainly possess a significant amount of highly enriched uranium with a concentration level of 90 percent or more that could be used in nuclear weapons.  このままイランが濃縮活動を続ければ、核兵器の原料となる濃縮度90%以上の高濃縮ウランを相当量、保有可能となる。

It is only a matter of time before Iran carries out a nuclear test.

This is a cause for grave concern.

Iran, for its part, has consistently denied its nuclear development program is military in nature, insisting the program is for "peaceful purposes."

If this is so, Iran must allay suspicions by truthfully answering all the questions it is asked.

Tehran must halt its uranium enrichment activities and cooperate with the IAEA by allowing the nuclear watchdog to carry out inspections.

If Iran continues to refuse to comply with the Security Council resolutions calling for suspension of uranium enrichment and beefed-up inspections of its nuclear facilities, the international community will have no option but to take additional stringent measures.


China, Russia reluctant

There is a possibility that Israel may take matters into its own hands and carry out a preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear facility.

As it is virtually impossible for Israel to destroy such a nuclear facility, there is a danger that such an attack could touch off retaliatory terrorist attacks and even trigger a war.

Under the circumstances, the international community should place priority, at least for now, on having the Security Council adopt a new resolution imposing tougher economic sanctions on Iran.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he has reached an accord with Chinese and Russian leaders to act in concert in dealing with Iran's nuclear program.

The reluctance, however, of Beijing and Moscow to strengthen sanctions against Iran on the grounds that pressure on Iran would not yield desirable results is problematic.

Iran is highly unlikely to change its stance without pressure like harsher economic sanctions.

For Japan, there is a much more realistic nuclear threat closer to home. Threats from North Korea are far more serious for us than Iran's nuclear and missile development.

The international community should demand that Iran halt its uranium enrichment activities, and if Tehran fails to do so, stronger sanctions must be imposed on Iran.

As a matter of course, these sanctions should also be applied to North Korea.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 18, 2011)
(2011年11月18日01時47分 読売新聞)


イレッサ判決 情報開示の徹底は国の責務だ


The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 17, 2011)
Govt, drug firms have duty of full disclosure on medications
イレッサ判決 情報開示の徹底は国の責務だ(11月16日付・読売社説)

The Tokyo High Court has handed down a ruling that completely rejects arguments of bereaved families in a damages lawsuit concerning deaths from side effects of the lung cancer drug Iressa.

The high court concluded there was no fault on the part of either the state or a pharmaceutical firm in their warnings about the drug's side effects.
It was a defeat for the plaintiffs, who had earlier won the same suit in a lower court.

For the bereaved family members, the high court ruling must be terribly difficult to accept.

So far, more than 800 people may have died due to Iressa's side effects.

On the other hand, it is true that quite a few lung cancer patients were blessed with a remarkable improvement in their condition after taking Iressa.


A learning opportunity

We urge the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and drug firms to learn from the Iressa case, which examined the appropriateness of measures to provide information on side effects, and thoroughly disclose all information on all drugs.

Iressa is an easy-to-swallow tablet that appeared on the medical scene as a "wonder drug" with relatively few side effects.

The health ministry approved the drug in July 2002, earlier than any other country in the world.

The drug is still widely used at medical institutions.

The bereaved family members of patients who took the medicine and developed fatal interstitial pneumonia filed the damages lawsuit, demanding compensation from the state and the pharmaceutical firm that imported and sold the drug.

The suit raised two main questions. First, when the state approved the drug, to what extent did the state and the company recognize the danger of deaths from side effects?

Second, was the notice on the drug's package insert, which listed interstitial pneumonia fourth on a list of serious side effects, an appropriate warning?

The Tokyo District Court had ordered both the government and the pharmaceutical firm to pay compensation as it found both had failed to appropriately call doctors' attention to the side effects.

In a similar suit, the Osaka District Court ordered only the company to pay compensation since the government's administrative guidance on the description of side effects was "not necessarily sufficient, yet cannot be judged as illegal."

In the ruling from the Tokyo High Court, the judges examined mortality cases in clinical tests and other occasions and concluded the correlation between consumption of Iressa and the deaths was not clear when the government approved the drug.

As long as the causation was not clear, the listing of pneumonia as fourth from the top of the list of "serious side effects" was not a problem, taking into consideration the note was for doctors who have professional knowledge of such matters, the high court judged.


Reveal all data

All parties involved should work toward creating an environment in which promising drugs can be administered to patients as early as possible.

It is an important role of those in the medical world to act on the wishes of cancer patients who desperately wish to use new, better drugs.

But in doing so, it is important to remember that everyone involved should be thoroughly informed about side effects.

Doctors have a duty to sufficiently explain the danger of side effects and other information to patients before using the drugs.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry must provide thorough instructions to pharmaceutical companies, which tend to advertise the advantages of new drugs, to also disclose negative data--possible side effects.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 16, 2011)
(2011年11月16日01時05分 読売新聞)


日米・日中会談 アジア安定へ戦略的な外交を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 16, 2011)
Relations with U.S., China call for determined diplomacy
日米・日中会談 アジア安定へ戦略的な外交を(11月15日付・読売社説)

It is essential for Japan to pursue strategic diplomacy with the United States and China if effective international rules are to be worked out to ensure peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Honolulu Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and explained to him a government plan to submit to Okinawa Prefecture within this year an environmental assessment report on the planned facilities to replace the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in the prefecture.

Obama expressed hope for further progress in settling the relocation issue while welcoming the Japanese plan.

However, Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima is calling for the base to be relocated outside the prefecture.
To change Nakaima's stance, the prime minister himself must display a firm determination to resolve the issue.
Noda must hammer out a comprehensive agreement with the prefecture on such subjects as promoting the regional economy and reducing the burdens borne by the prefecture in hosting U.S. military forces.

The government must work toward further reinforcement of the Japan-U.S. alliance while making steady efforts to settle such important issues as the Futenma relocation and relaxation of import restrictions on U.S. beef.

A good chance to achieve this goal will be an official visit by Noda to the United States that is now being arranged for January.


U.S. tilting toward Asia

Obama, who likes to point out that "the United States is a Pacific nation," has been placing more importance on U.S. relations with Asia in both the political and economic areas.

This is represented by his policy of maintaining and reinforcing U.S. troops stationed in Asia and promoting Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

Concerning an East Asia Summit meeting set for this weekend, Noda and Obama agreed that ideas and basic rules common to the Asia-Pacific region would be confirmed and the EAS could develop into a forum to work out concrete cooperation projects.

Tokyo and Washington are concerned about how to respond to Beijing.

China has been rapidly enhancing its influence and becoming more assertive, increasing frictions with other countries in the South China Sea.

To lead China in the direction of complying with international rules and working together with its neighbors in the medium and long term, Japan and the United States must closely cooperate with South Korea, Australia and Southeast Asian countries.

Along with these efforts, it is essential to hold frequent and constructive dialogues with China.

In their summit over the weekend in Hawaii, Noda and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed to deepen strategic and mutually beneficial bilateral ties.

They also agreed on Noda visiting China before the end of the year.


Reciprocity must be visible

But concerning the resumption of suspended negotiations on the joint development of natural gas fields in the East China Sea, Hu avoided making a clear commitment, merely saying preparations would be made.

The gas field development issue needs to be moved toward a solution to improve bilateral relations, which have been stagnant since the incident last autumn in which a Chinese fishing boat rammed Japan Coast Guard patrol boats near the Senkaku Islands.

It is also necessary to accelerate bilateral negotiations toward an emergency contact system to deal with incidents at sea.

Referring to North Korea, Hu pointed out that "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a common interest of the countries concerned."

China must fulfill its responsibility as the chair of six-party talks on the matter.

Visible reciprocity is a must if next year's 40th anniversary of normalized relations between Japan and China is to be fruitful.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 15, 2011)
(2011年11月15日01時11分 読売新聞)


社説:TPPハワイ会合 国内の調整を急ごう

(Mainichi Japan) November 15, 2011
Editorial: As Japan moves toward TPP, domestic issues demand prompt attention
社説:TPPハワイ会合 国内の調整を急ごう

With Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's declaration that the nation will participate in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, Japan has emerged from an extended period of quietness to underscore its presence in economic diplomacy.

Canada and Mexico have now also expressed their interest in participating in the free trade accord, while the Philippines and Papua New Guinea are said to be considering joining.

Japan's move toward participating has acted as a springboard in expanding the scope of the accord.

Domestic opponents of the pact say that Japan is doing no more than taking part in preliminary arrangements to participate -- a statement that could be deemed true.

In order to participate in TPP negotiations, the approval of the nine current member countries is necessary. TPP交渉の参加国になるには、メンバー国9カ国全部の承認が必要だ。

Japan must therefore move forward with negotiations to gain their approval.

To put it one way, it is as if Japan is now waiting in line at a popular ramen noodle restaurant.

It has joined the queue to get a taste of the ramen, and is not about to go home without eating anything.

In other words, there's no doubt that its actions constitute preliminary arrangements to join the accord, but participating in negotiations is simply a prescribed course.

At the preliminary arrangement stage, negotiations with the United States are expected to require the most effort.  事前協議の段階では、米国との交渉に最も手間がかかるだろう。

The U.S. Congress is putting pressure on the U.S. government, and eyes are turning toward such issues as beef trade, expansion of the postal savings and postal life insurance business, and exports of vehicles to Japan.

The U.S. previously opposed Canada's participation in the TPP on the grounds that there were obstacles in the trade of dairy products and poultry meat in Canada.

The negotiating powers of the Japanese government will be tested from the outset.

New ground has indeed been made with respect to the TPP, but negotiations on difficult issues are yet to come.  TPPの現状は進展といえば進展しているが、難しい問題の交渉はこれからだ。

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hawaii, the nine TPP participants announced a "broad agreement," but this has not extended beyond the scope of general principles.

The United States appears eager to conclude TPP negotiations by the end of next year.

But even U.S. experts say there is no possibility of reaching a settlement in a year when a U.S. presidential election will be held.

There is still time for Japan to stress its national interests.

What now deserves attention is the fact that Mexico and many other countries have started thinking about participating in the agreement.

The power of the free-trade bloc will begin to snowball once the number of participants and their combined economic power surpass a certain level, and a country that is not part of this will be left in a disadvantageous position.

And this is the aim of the TPP.

If Russia and China do not participate, then they will be put at a disadvantage, and to participate, they will have to give up state intervention in economics -- probably the best scenario for the TPP.

Debate has arisen in Japan over whether to lay everything on the table in TPP negotiations, or to reserve "exceptions."

It is important that Japan quickly come up with proper measures to revitalize the domestic agriculture industry. 重要なのはしっかりした農業再生策を早くつくることだ。

Once the agriculture industry finds a way to stand on its own two feet, Japan will be able to exhibit greater leadership in the accord.

While engaging in negotiations with other countries, Japan must also quickly establish domestic measures.

毎日新聞 2011年11月15日 2時31分


香山リカのココロの万華鏡:クリスマスソング /東京


(Mainichi Japan) November 13, 2011
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Dealing with personal grief around Christmas
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:クリスマスソング /東京

It is still 1 1/2 months to Christmas, but the holiday spirit is already embracing Japan.

For many young people, Christmas songs and decorations are signs that the romantic holiday season is approaching.

But for me, having lost my father exactly around this season last year, these celebrating sounds and sparkling city lights do nothing but add grief to my bitter memories.

In psychiatry this is called "the anniversary reaction" syndrome.
It is when we relive a moment of grief whenever the date or the season when that sad moment happened takes place again.

As a psychiatrist, I should understand the concept well.
Knowing about theories and studies on the topic, I should be aware of what is happening to me.

Yet, the reality is that knowing and understanding theses issues does not minimize my grief.

Nevertheless, when I pass through these emotions, I am no longer bewildered, thinking "What is happening?
By now I should have recovered -- why am I crying again?"

Instead, I can now objectively see my emotions saying to myself, "I see...that is what they call 'the anniversary reaction' syndrome."

It can help lessen my grief.

But how about the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake?

I'm sure that there are many who find hope for recovery whenever they hear Christmas songs.

But on the other hand, I also think that there are many who compare their current condition with last year's peaceful holiday season.

Almost eight months have passed since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the pain of that horrible experience has piled up among many survivors.
Therefore, I would not be surprised if they shed a tear or two upon hearing a sentimental Christmas song.

This is a normal reaction.

The recovery process after a personal loss and grief is not a straightforward experience.

It is common to fall into depression again even though one had thought they had fully recovered.

It is also not rare to grieve for the first time only after a certain period of time has passed, whereas at the time of the happening one was surprisingly stable.

In textbooks, the grieving experience is often depicted as a three-step process.
First, one experiences shock immediately after the sad event.
Second, there is the denial factor when one refuses to accept what has happened.
Then, third, one moves toward full recovery.
However, almost no one can recover from grief so smoothly.

There is no magical cure to erase the pain of a sad memory.

However, what might help is to try to look at oneself from a third person's perspective and simply think that these ups and downs are real and are here to stay for a while.

It is also important to praise oneself for living to the fullest despite the grief one is going through.

With the approaching holiday season, let's not forget that somewhere out there in the disaster-hit areas there are people who are reminded by Christmas songs of their sad experiences.

毎日新聞 2011年11月8日 地方版


TPP参加へ 日本に有益な「開国」の決断


The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 13, 2011)
Noda's TPP decision will prove beneficial for Japan
TPP参加へ 日本に有益な「開国」の決断(11月12日付・読売社説)

We support Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's decision to move a step forward toward further opening Japan by taking part in a new multilateral economic partnership framework.

Noda told a news conference Friday that Japan would start talks with related countries toward participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations now being conducted by the United States and eight other Pacific Rim nations.

Japan must promote free trade to achieve economic growth.

Capitalizing on the strength of Asia as a growth center is indispensable to reinvigorating a national economy whose domestic demand has been shrinking due to a drop in population and other factors.

Noda said, "As a nation that relies on trade for its survival, Japan must take advantage of the growth potential of the Asia-Pacific region." It is natural for the prime minister to make such remarks.

It is significant that Noda made the decision from a comprehensive perspective while staving off deep-seated wariness of TPP participation not only in his own Democratic Party of Japan but also in some opposition parties.


Protect national interests

The government will "maintain the medical service system, traditional culture and beautiful agricultural landscapes that Japan can be proud of," Noda said.

"We'll pursue our national interests as much as possible."

The United States and the eight other nations aim to reach a broad agreement on the TPP on the sidelines of this weekend's summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hawaii.

But negotiations to finalize the details are expected to continue until next summer.

The TPP not only calls for abolishing tariffs on goods but also covers a wide range of fields, including services and intellectual property.

We urge the government to insist on trade and investment rules that will benefit Japan.

At an APEC forum meeting last autumn in Yokohama, the participants affirmed the need to work toward realizing a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) by around 2020.

TPP entry is an important step toward the realization of the FTAAP.

Compared with South Korea, Japan started out late in promoting an economic partnership strategy.

Japan must make up for the delay by joining the TPP framework.

TPP participation also could deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

In addition, it would be a vital check on China, which has increasingly been making its presence felt as an economic and military giant.


Hurdles to clear

But there are more than a few hurdles to clear ahead.

Japan's entry into the TPP negotiations requires approval by the nine member nations.

In the case of the United States, that means congressional approval is needed.

So there is reason to fear that Japan's participation will be delayed until next spring or later.

The government must press Washington to give its early approval.

What interests should Japan protect during TPP negotiations?

In what fields should it make concessions?

The Japanese side will face tough negotiations on opening markets in fields such as agriculture, a focal point of the talks.

From a medium- and long-range perspective, Japan must bolster the international competitiveness of its agriculture, promote large-scale farming and systematically improve productivity.

Japan must pursue a goal of achieving agricultural reform based on the firm political decision Noda made.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 12, 2011)
(2011年11月12日01時44分 読売新聞)


70億人の世界 日本の新たな戦略が問われる


The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 12, 2011)
Japan needs strategy to meet global demographic changes
70億人の世界 日本の新たな戦略が問われる(11月11日付・読売社説)

What should we make of such a tremendous figure?

The world's population has topped 7 billion.

This is nearly triple the 1950 population of about 2.5 billion.

The world's population has been increasing more slowly in recent years, but it has kept rising by about 80 million people per year, due mainly to population expansion in developing countries.

One projection says the global population will reach 9.3 billion in 2050, and exceed 10 billion before presumably tapering off toward the end of the 21st century.

The biggest factor behind the population increase is the drop in mortality rates in developing nations.

Remarkable progress in medical services and increased food production in many parts of the world has brought spectacular improvements to many people's lives.

The world's average life expectancy, which was 48 in the early 1950s, has jumped to 68.

This is a matter of celebration in itself.


More kids in poorer countries

Can mankind safely overcome the challenges of this global population explosion, the likes of which it has never faced before?

Will humans be able to ensure peace and prosperity by making the maximum use of limited food resources and effectively exploiting energy sources?

A mountain of tasks will need to be addressed to resolve these problems.

The world's average total fertility rate--the average number of children a woman has in her lifetime--is currently estimated at 2.5.

However, the poorer a country, the higher the fertility rate tends to be.

The figure in some African countries is above five.

This has given rise to fears that poverty could become entrenched in these countries.

It is imperative to continue providing livelihood assistance to people in the poorest nations.

Many young people lack information about contraception.

More must be done to promote family planning education and boost the social status of women in less developed

The U.N. Population Fund has pointed to some challenges that will accompany the demographic changes sweeping the world.

People aged 60 or older currently account for only 12 percent of the world's population, but the fund estimates this figure will climb to 25 percent in the middle of this century.

This will require the promotion of employment policies for the elderly, and forging ahead with reform of pension systems and medical services.

The world's eyes have been on Japan's attempts to meet these tasks, as this country has been a front-runner when it comes to dealing with an aging society.


Major changes in intl relations

India is projected to overtake China as the world's most populous nation around 2020.

Asia's population, currently 4.2 billion, is likely to reach 5.2 billion in about 40 years and then slowly decline.

Japan's population, now about 128 million, is forecast to plunge to 48 million at the end of this century.

Meanwhile, the population of Africa, now about 1 billion, is expected to balloon to 3.5 billion toward the century's end.

Under these circumstances, movements of people across national borders in such forms as immigration will become more common.

Intensified scrambles for food and other resources loom in many parts of the globe.

The dynamics of international politics will undoubtedly change dramatically.

Japan, for its part, must chart out a strategy that takes into account the impact of major demographic changes taking place around the world.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 11, 2011)
(2011年11月11日01時36分 読売新聞)


生活保護急増 多角的に社会保障の安全網を

the welfare system 生活保護制度



The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 11, 2011)
Prepare diverse safety nets for social welfare recipients
生活保護急増 多角的に社会保障の安全網を(11月10日付・読売社説)

Due to the prolonged recession and ever-graying society, the number of national welfare recipients now exceeds 2.05 million, surpassing the previous record posted in the aftermath of World War II. This is a grave situation.

The nation's welfare system is a safety net for the people to "have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living," as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Under the system, if a person's income falls below the minimum cost of living, which is determined by taking into account such factors as where they live and the composition of the household, the shortfall will be made up.

The number of welfare recipients, which declined as the nation's economy grew in postwar years, turned upward from the latter half of the 1990s when the economic crisis worsened.

Notably, there has been a marked increase in recipients still in the prime of their working lives.

Households headed by those on welfare for reasons other than advanced age, illness or disability have increased sharply to 16 percent, up from 7 percent 10 years ago.


Many people not covered

In recent years, many nonregular employees who are not covered by unemployment insurance plans have become welfare recipients after losing their jobs.

We should not just wait for an economic recovery to improve the employment situation.

It is necessary to come up with measures now to prevent them from becoming welfare recipients.

Last month, a project was launched to support job seekers not covered by unemployment insurance plans, which would provide them with living expenses while they underwent vocational training.

By acquiring practical skills, such as becoming a certified caregiver, jobless people will be encouraged to rejoin the workforce.

It is important to ensure this system works effectively.

Hello Work, the public job-placement office primarily responsible for running the program, should cooperate with the welfare offices of local municipalities to ensure it works with utmost efficiency.

Another factor behind the increase in the welfare population is the graying society.

There has been an increase in the number of senior citizens who live alone and have no one to turn to for financial help.

Elderly people with low or no pension benefits have little recourse but to apply for livelihood protection.


Reforms must help elderly

The government must study ways to aid elderly people through reform of the pension system, for example by providing them with a guaranteed minimum of pension benefits.

Welfare benefits are expected to total a record 3.4 trillion yen this fiscal year, straining public finances.

This massive financial burden can be attributed to various defects and gaps in the current programs, including the unemployment, minimum wage, pension, health care and welfare systems.

To correct these defects, a huge amount of money is needed, making the integrated reform of social security and tax systems all the more urgent.

It is also important to ensure that people trust the welfare system.

There have been cases in which welfare recipients have been deprived of their benefits by dubious business operators who approach them under the pretext of aiding the recipients.

Also, some people who are financially well off receive welfare benefits illegally.

Local governments must monitor welfare payments to prevent such illicit acts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 10, 2011)
(2011年11月10日01時20分 読売新聞)