(Mainichi Japan) February 6, 2012
Edano key person in Japan's nuclear future, but keeps true intentions hidden

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano recently revealed in a magazine interview that the prime minister for whom he holds the highest regard is Kantaro Suzuki.

I found the mention of a taciturn, sage-like military chancellor by an eloquent lawyer-turned-minister striking.

Suzuki was the prime minister of Japan when it surrendered to end World War II.

He was the one who brought the war to a close.

So what will Edano end?

"Modernity," he promptly responded when I posed the question to him last weekend.

And what did he mean by "modernity"?

"A society of standardized mass production."

Was that the same as bringing nuclear power to an end?

"Nuclear power is not (our biggest challenge). Rather, energy conservation is."

The aforementioned interview spanned 20 pages in the most recent issue of the magazine G2, and addressed a wide range of topics -- including disillusionment with regime change, energy policy, the Constitution, and Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) bigwig Ichiro Ozawa.

The common thread throughout the entire interview, however, was "the abandonment of modernity."

As the interviewer, Katsuyuki Yakushiji, a professor of sociology at Toyo University and a former chief editor of the Asahi Shimbun's political news section, challenged Edano on his highly conceptual remarks.

"So what do you mean by modernization?" Yakushiji asked.

Edano answered: "The economic development process in which we achieve affluence by selling products to other countries."

"Are the things that the DPJ views as problematic, including the widening gap between the rich and the poor and rising unemployment, signs of the contradictions arising (from continued modernization)?" Yakushiji pushed further.

"Countries that have achieved modernity are chased by countries who are newly reaching modernity.

When these modern countries try to compete on the same footing as up-and-coming countries, their societies deteriorate.

What (former Prime Minister Junichiro) Koizumi did was just that.

I think such issues need to be overcome through the creation of a 'postmodern' social system."

Though Suzuki and Edano may seem to have nothing in common at first glance, their similarities become clearer when one focuses on a certain characteristic: they're both key figures in deciding national policy whose real intentions are difficult to read.

Suzuki became prime minister in April 1945, nearing the end of World War II.

Cabinet members comprised military and "pro-peace" factions, and the legend goes that Suzuki, a former naval officer, did not reveal his true intentions.

Instead, he committed himself to saving the face of those pushing for more fighting, while artfully leading the way to peace.

How about Edano?

When it comes down to it, is he for nuclear power, or against it?

People on both sides are desperately trying to figure out what lies in the minister's heart of hearts.

Of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors, only three are now running. If they, too, undergo scheduled inspections, all 54 will be out of operation by late April, with no prospects of restarting.

Edano had been expected to pour his efforts into talking local municipalities into giving the go-ahead for the restarts, but in a newspaper interview published on Jan. 27, he suggested that Japan would get by fine without nuclear power.

At a press conference on Jan. 18, Edano also made the comment: "Emotionally, I lean toward the notion that we should be as cautious as possible regarding the resumption of operations (of nuclear reactors)."

This is the same person, however, who has given his permission to the export of Japan's nuclear technology, and stands by the government's new growth strategy under which the exports will be carried out.

Edano and the DPJ are at the center of contradiction and chaos.

Pressed about this, he responded: "The Meiji Restoration was also a time of confusion. Turbulent times themselves are not a problem. What's important is whether our actions lead to the construction of a new era."

It was in explaining to his interviewer that he is currently not aiming to become prime minister that Edano mentioned Suzuki.

Suzuki only agreed to take the helm of the Cabinet at the recommendation of the Emperor's advisers and coaxing from the Emperor himself.

"People sought out by the specific era should become prime minister," Edano said. "They are the ones who accomplish great things."

Will this era be calling on Edano?

(By Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer)

毎日新聞 2012年2月6日 東京朝刊

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