日韓解決合意 法的責任、曖昧なまま 少女像撤去は玉虫色

毎日新聞2015年12月29日 東京朝刊
Japan-South Korea accord on 'comfort women' leaves ambiguities
日韓解決合意 法的責任、曖昧なまま 少女像撤去は玉虫色

In the latest accord reached by the governments of Japan and South Korea on the so-called "comfort women" issue, Japan did not back down from its position that the issue had been resolved in a 1965 treaty with South Korea. Instead, the two governments agreed that South Korea would establish a foundation for former comfort women, for which the Japanese government would provide the funds. There remain, however, gaps between what the two governments are seeking, which will require future political maneuvering.

According to the latest agreement, the South Korean government will establish a new foundation to support former comfort women, for which the Japanese government will supply some 1 billion yen. Unlike the Asian Women's Fund, which was funded in part by donations from the private sector and dissolved in 2007, the new foundation's monies will come solely by the Japanese government. The arrangement implies that the Japanese government is taking a certain degree of responsibility for the comfort women issue, making the agreement more acceptable for Seoul, which had been calling on Japan to explicitly acknowledge its responsibility as a state.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government, which has continued to argue that the comfort women issue was completely and definitively resolved in the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea, will be providing the funds for the new foundation under the pretext that it is taking "moral responsibility." According to a Japanese government source, the cash amount ended up being much higher than initially planned, because "it would be difficult to persuade former comfort women to accept the accord if the amount were too small." Asked about the Japanese government's provision of funds for the foundation, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized to reporters, "They are not reparations."

At a joint press conference held by Kishida and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se following the accord, Kishida said the Japanese government is "painfully aware of its responsibilities." He also explained that the prime minister would express a "heartfelt apology and remorse." The wording the prime minister will use will be almost exactly the same as those in letters sent by past prime ministers to former comfort women -- which was the limit of what the Japanese government was willing to accept. As for the method by which the prime minister's sentiments will be communicated to former comfort women, Kishida said, "That is the job of the foundation. We will move forward in adherence with the Japan-South Korea agreement."

At the Japan-South Korea summit held in November, South Korean President Park Geun-hye sought a resolution to the comfort women issue that "the victims would be able to accept, and that the public will find satisfactory" as a condition for reaching a final agreement. Meanwhile, the Japanese government demanded that South Korea put in writing that, after an agreement is reached, the issue would not be brought up again. Ultimately, both Kishida and Yun stated that the agreement reached on Dec. 28 was "final and irreversible," using the term "irreversible" for the first time. Tokyo believes that the document released at the joint foreign ministerial press conference is proof of Seoul's definitive commitment to this promise.

However, the fate of the statue of a girl in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul -- installed in remembrance of former comfort women -- is still unclear. South Korea said merely that it would "take the measures necessary," while Kishida took it one step further, saying the statue will be "appropriately relocated." The end result remains ambiguous, with both sides going only as far as they were willing to go, respectively.


慰安婦問題の合意 歴史を越え日韓の前進を

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 29
EDITORIAL: 'Comfort women' deal should lead to new era of Tokyo-Seoul relations
(社説)慰安婦問題の合意 歴史を越え日韓の前進を

Japan and South Korea on Dec. 28 reached a landmark agreement to settle the long-festering issue of “comfort women.” The agreement, struck at the closing of the year that marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the 50th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries, has removed the largest source of tension in their bilateral ties.

This is a historic deal for the relationship between Tokyo and Seoul suitable for this milestone year. We welcome the weighty decision by the two governments to move beyond their long-standing feud and take a wise step forward to overcome the negative legacies of their history.

After the Dec. 28 meeting between Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his South Korean counterpart, Yun Byung-se, Kishida defined the issue of comfort women as “an issue that deeply scarred the honor and dignity of many women under the involvement of the military of that time" and stated, “The Japanese government is acutely aware of its responsibility” for the matter.
“Comfort women” is a euphemism for women who were forced to provide sex to members of the imperial Japanese military before and during World War II.

The Japanese government, which argues that a bilateral agreement on war reparations concluded 50 years ago legally resolved the issue, has been reluctant to use any language that suggests the nation’s responsibility for the issue. This time, the Japanese government used more candid expressions in referring to its stance toward the sensitive topic while maintaining its official position.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his heartfelt apology and remorse as prime minister of Japan to former comfort women.

Abe once indicated a desire to review the 1993 Kono statement on the issue, released by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. It is quite significant that Abe, albeit through Kishida, expressed his commitment to the core message of the key statement.


South Korean Foreign Minister Yun, for his part, made remarks that responded to Tokyo’s demands.

Yun confirmed that the agreement represents a “final and irreversible resolution” of the bitter dispute, although he premised his comment by saying the measures promised by the Japanese government need to be implemented without fail.

Yun expressed the South Korean government’s solid commitment to the terms of the agreement in an apparent attempt to reassure Japan, which has criticized South Korea for “moving the goal posts” by changing its position on promises it has made.

The top diplomats of both countries made these pledges in front of media. They should ensure that the agreement will be faithfully carried out.

Under the deal, the South Korean government will establish a foundation to restore the honor and dignity of former comfort women and heal the wounds they bear in their hearts. Tokyo will provide about 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) from its state budget for the foundation.

In the 1990s, Japan set up the Asian Women’s Fund, which offered compensation to former comfort women financed by donations from the Japanese public, as well as medical and welfare programs financed by public funds, along with a letter of apology from the prime minister.

This initiative produced positive results in Southeast Asia and some other areas, but it failed to achieve its objectives in South Korea because of the rise of public opposition to the project in the country.

Various factors were behind the fund’s failure to win support in South Korea. For one thing, the Japanese government was not necessarily very eager to promote the project. Secondly, the compensation paid to former comfort women was financed by donations from Japanese people, not by the government’s money. These facts provoked criticism in South Korea that Japan was trying to dodge its responsibility.

Both governments, citizen groups supporting former comfort women and news media should all learn lessons from this failure.

Through future talks, the two sides will work out details about the operation of the proposed new foundation. The top priority should be placed on respecting the feelings of the surviving former comfort women, who now number fewer than 50.

A support group for these women has denounced the agreement as “diplomatic collusion that betrays both the victims and the public.” Negative reactions to the deal driven by nationalism could also emerge in Japan.

But the agreement can be a valuable foundation for building new relations between Japan and South Korea. The Japanese government has to meet its commitments faithfully, while the South Korean government has no choice but to have a serious conversation with the people to win their support for the agreement.


On Dec. 18, 1965, Japan and South Korea held a ceremony in Seoul to exchange ratification documents for the basic treaty to establish diplomatic relations and four other agreements, opening a new chapter in their history.

The four agreements on war reparations, fishing industries, cultural assets and cooperation, and Korean residents in Japan have been improved in some way in response to the demands of the times.

Generations of people in the two countries, including those alive today, have a shared responsibility to review and reconsider the “1965 regime,” the historic framework created in that year by these agreements to define the basic assumptions for the bilateral relationship.

Japan-South Korea relations have developed remarkably over the past half-century.

South Korea’s per-capita income has grown to nearly $30,000 from slightly more than $100 back then. Japan’s support contributed to South Korea’s marvelous economic development.

Japan has also gained huge benefits from its neighbor’s rapid economic growth.

Over the past half-century, the development of the relationship between Japan and South Korea has been driven by mutual cooperation and benefits. This is also how ties between the two neighbors should be in the future.

The United States, which strongly urged the two nations to normalize their relations five decades ago, has been actively involved in the process leading to the agreement on the comfort women issue.

During the past two-and-a-half years, Tokyo and Seoul have been locked in diplomatic smear campaigns against each other, making demeaning remarks in front of other countries, mainly on the diplomatic stage in Washington.

Hurt and exhausted by this verbal battle, the two countries have realized the obvious fact that this futile fight produces nothing and decided to return to the most basic principle in diplomacy--dialogue.


This is an age when the world faces a large number of challenges that demand global responses, including not only various economic problems but also issues concerning security, humanitarian assistance related to conflicts and natural disasters, and environmental protection.

That means there are countless challenges Japan and South Korea, the two major powers in Asia, should grapple with together through cooperative efforts.

The foreign ministers of the two countries on Dec. 28 voiced their expectations that the agreement will open a new chapter in the history of the bilateral ties. Kishida said he is convinced that Japan-South Korea relations will enter a new era, while Yun said he expects the two countries to start carving out a new relationship next year.

The hope is that the new year, which starts in three days, will mark the beginning of 50 years in which Japan and South Korea can walk together with their eyes looking ahead toward a new future for their relations.


高浜原発 再稼働に反対する

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 27
EDITORIAL: Approval to restart Takahama reactors based on unmet conditions, weak promises
(社説)高浜原発 再稼働に反対する

The Fukui District Court recently nullified its earlier injunction against reactivating the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Kansai Electric Power Co., operator of the nuclear plant in the town of Takahama, is expected to restart one of the two reactors as early as late January.

But the procedure for obtaining the approval of the hosting government of Fukui Prefecture, which was completed immediately before the court decision, was laden with problems. We oppose moves to press ahead with the planned restarts under the current circumstances.

Fifteen nuclear reactors are concentrated in Fukui Prefecture, including some for which decisions have been made for decommissioning.

Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa set five conditions for his approval, calling on the central government and Kansai Electric to clearly pinpoint their responsibilities.

Public opinion has consistently been cautious about restarting nuclear reactors following the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Nishikawa called strongly on the central government to “promote public understanding,” and he obtained Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assurances that he will ensure that meetings with residents will be held across Japan for that purpose.

The governor called on Kansai Electric to precisely explain when it plans to build an interim storage facility outside Fukui Prefecture for spent nuclear fuel. The utility said in November that it will locate the site for the facility around 2020 and have it operational around 2030.

Nishikawa said he believes that all his conditions have been met. But the substantiality of those commitments remains questionable.

Kansai Electric has said it hopes to install an interim storage facility somewhere in the Kansai region, and it has long been canvassing local governments for their understanding. But resistance to hosting such a facility remains strong, and the building site is not likely to be selected any time soon. There is no denying suspicions that the plan could end up as an empty promise.

Questions also remain on the extent to which Nishikawa has fulfilled his own responsibilities.

He has never had the prefectural government organize meetings with local residents, saying it is up to the central government and the plant operators to explain the safety and necessity of nuclear plants.

An emergency evacuation plan for areas within a 30-kilometer radius of the Takahama nuclear plant was only worked out earlier this month. That zone contains parts of Kyoto and Shiga prefectures and has a total population of about 180,000.

But Nishikawa approved the planned restarts without waiting for a drill held across prefectural borders, arguing that working out an emergency evacuation plan is not a legal requisite for restarting a nuclear reactor.

Obtaining the host communities’ approval for a reactor restart should primarily be a process to enhance the safety and peace of mind of local residents.

It is all too regretful that another undesirable example has been set, following the earlier approvals to restart the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture and the Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture.

The central government was also quite candid in postulating that restarting nuclear reactors is a foregone conclusion. Industry minister Motoo Hayashi visited Fukui, the capital of Fukui Prefecture, four days before the court decision to ask Nishikawa for his approval.

The local governments and residents of communities adjacent to nuclear plants are strongly dissatisfied that they have no say in decisions on reactor restarts. Kansai Electric has rejected the demands of the Kyoto and Shiga prefectural governments for inclusion on the list of “hosting communities,” whose approvals are required for restarting reactors of the Takahama nuclear plant. The central government has only been looking on, arguing that approvals of the hosting communities are not a legal requirement.

Abe has said he will provide explanations to gain the public’s understanding of the importance of nuclear power generation. That leads us to believe that he should also be presenting guidelines on the extent and coverage of the “hosting communities,” whose approvals are necessary for nuclear restarts.


香山リカのココロの万華鏡: 女性、結婚 姓で考える /東京

December 27, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Considering women and marriage through the lens of the surname
香山リカのココロの万華鏡: 女性、結婚 姓で考える /東京

I increasingly use email during the course of my work, and I sometimes inadvertently type in the wrong name. For example I might accidentally call someone whose last name is Fujimoto as Fujiki -- which contains an extremely similar second kanji character -- or use the wrong first character for the surname Mifune.

Sometimes, I realize my mistake after I have sent the message, but there have likely been other times that I remained unaware of the error.

Occasionally, I will get a return message saying something like, "My last name is Fujimoto, not Fujiki." And while it is obviously impossible to read someone's feelings through email, there are times when the tone of such a message suggests the person has been somewhat offended.

Because mistaking someone's name is clearly impolite, I respond by apologizing and saying something like, "Please forgive me. I have been experiencing the onset of farsightedness due to age, and I made a mistake reading your name on your business card."

In every instance where I have received such a message, it has been from a man. Most likely, their surnames are something very important for them. In that case, then, I think that they should be able to imagine to at least some extent the feelings experienced by women who must change their surname following marriage.

Presently in Japan, 96 percent of marrying couples end up using the husband's surname.

The assertion that a man and woman who are marrying may choose whose last name to adopt is a mere formality, since women don't really have a choice.

A friend of mine once said to me, "My family believes very strongly in the divination associated with the number of strokes used in the kanji of one's name, and my first name was chosen after careful consideration of the total number of strokes in combination with my last name. But changing your last name following marriage changes the entire number of strokes -- and a fortune-teller told me after calculating the number of strokes in my new name that it was the least auspicious figure possible."

At the urging of her relatives, my friend ended up using different characters for her first name. She once smiled wryly and said to me, "Both my first and last names ended up changing."

Many people advocate for men and women being able to choose separate surnames following marriage, as working women find it professionally inconvenient to change their names. However, I assume that there are also numerous women without jobs who have no desire to change the family names that they have become familiar with, and/or who are fond of the combination of their first and last names.

For this reason, I find it odd to assume that it is unproblematic for non-working women to change their surnames after marriage.

Sometimes, women at my clinic say to me with a smile, "My last name has changed." In such cases, however, I assume that it is the marriage itself that they are happy about -- not their new family name.

I once saw a man say with a straight face, "Every woman is happy about changing her surname to that of her husband." This statement caused me to reconsider the following questions: What does it mean to be a woman? And what does it mean to get married?

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)


慰安婦問題 日韓で歴史的な合意を

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 26
EDITORIAL: Let 2015 be the year 'comfort women' issue is resolved
(社説)慰安婦問題 日韓で歴史的な合意を

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will visit South Korea on Dec. 28 to hold talks with his South Korean counterpart, Yun Byung-se, in a diplomatic effort to reach an agreement on the wartime “comfort women” issue that has been a festering sore in relations between Japan and its neighbor.

How to provide relief to women who were forced to provide sex to wartime Japanese soldiers is a human rights issue the governments of both countries need to tackle together, regardless of differences in their political positions on this sticky issue.

Twenty-four years have passed since a former comfort woman in South Korea came forward to talk about her experience for the first time.

This year alone, many former comfort women died with bitter resentment in their hearts. The number of former comfort women recognized by the South Korean government who are still alive is now less than 50, and their average age is nearly 90.

Time is growing short for both governments to resolve this long-running issue. This is clearly the time for Tokyo and Seoul to take action to remove this painful thorn in their relationship.

Any agreement on the issue reached between the two governments will stir up discontent and anger among people in both countries. There are narrow-minded opinions on both sides that use this issue to stir nationalistic impulses.

The political leaders of Japan and South Korea have a duty to overcome such friction and speak about the importance of building healthy relations between their countries through efforts based on a broad, long-term perspective. They must not let this crucial opportunity slip through their fingers.

Japan and South Korea established a formal diplomatic relationship in 1965, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the normal ties between the two nations.

Half a century ago, the number of Japanese and South Koreans who visited the other country was about 10,000 annually. The figure has since grown to more than 5 million due to steady expansion of exchanges between the two nations.

Nowadays, Japan and South Korea are bound together by inseparable and cooperative economic and cultural ties.

However, the comfort women issue has been a major obstacle to further development of the bilateral relations.

Tokyo and Seoul have been at odds over the question of whether a 1965 bilateral agreement on war reparations and economic cooperation legally solved the comfort women issue, as it did on issues concerning Japanese compensation for its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945. Bilateral talks over this question have gone nowhere.

If an agreement is to be reached in the meeting between the foreign ministers, it would be a product of major mutual, not unilateral, concessions.

Such a deal would be an important symbol of the two governments’ commitment to overcome the legacies of the unfortunate past of the two countries and start building a new future for bilateral ties.

The real negotiations over the comfort women issue have been taking place behind the scenes through an unofficial diplomatic channel, rather than official director-general level talks.

The negotiations have made significant headway since the first one-on-one summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Nov. 2.

The Abe and Park administrations have been under strong diplomatic pressure from the United States, the principal ally for both countries, to take steps toward settling the issue.

In addition, the scheduled general election in South Korea next spring has provided a strong political incentive for both governments to push the negotiations forward quickly.

The Japanese and South Korean governments share the need to manage their diplomatic agendas while feeling the pulse of the public.

This is a situation that will test the political leadership of both administrations.

We strongly hope that the political leaders of the two countries will work out a historic agreement on the issue suitable for this milestone year by duly fulfilling their responsibility.


韓国憲法裁判決 却下で「反日」火種は回避した

The Yomiuri Shimbun
ROK’s court decision in constitutional suit avoids new friction with Japan
韓国憲法裁判決 却下で「反日」火種は回避した

South Korea’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit claiming that the bilateral agreement with Japan that settled claims for wartime compensation was unconstitutional.

The court did not render a judgment on whether the agreement was unconstitutional, so a situation in which the court’s decision would create a new source of friction between the two countries may have been avoided.

The lawsuit was filed by the bereaved family of a South Korean man mobilized by the Japanese government as a civilian employee of the military during the war. His family asserted that a provision in the agreement stipulating that South Korea waives the rights to claim compensation from the Japanese government violates property rights guaranteed under South Korea’s Constitution, and is thus unconstitutional.

The bereaved family had originally filed a lawsuit over the money provided by the South Korean government to victims of those who were “forcibly mobilized.” It was in the course of that litigation that the family made its appeal over the agreement to the Constitutional Court.

As its reason for dismissing the case, the court said its judgment on whether the agreement was unconstitutional would not affect the ruling on the lawsuit (filed by the family regarding the South Korean government’s provision of money).

It also said the family’s claim does not meet the requirements for the case to be examined at the Constitutional Court.

Considering the content of the lawsuit, in which the family calls for an increase in the money provided by the South Korean government, we consider the court’s latest conclusion to be appropriate.

Since the left-leaning government under then South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun said in 2005 that the issue of so-called comfort women had not been settled, the country’s judiciary has apparently tended to interpret the bilateral agreement one-sidedly to favor South Korea.

Room for solution

Had the Constitutional Court ruled that the agreement was unconstitutional, it would have caused serious diplomatic friction, undermining the foundation of the bilateral relationship between Japan and South Korea.

As the court turned away the claim, it effectively left room for the two countries to strike a deal on the issue of so-called comfort women.

Following the court’s ruling, the Foreign Ministry of Japan issued a comment that both countries need to make efforts for the advancement of the bilateral relationship.

The Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation Between Japan and the Republic of Korea was concluded in 1965, concurrently with the signing of the Treaty of Basic Relations, which established diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea.

The agreement stipulated that Japan would provide South Korea with a total of $500 million in economic cooperation in the form of grants and loans, and said the problems concerning property and claims between the two countries as well as their people had been settled completely and finally.

South Korea later utilized the cooperation money from Japan to build infrastructure, leading to the country’s economic development. The fact that the bilateral agreement has proved beneficial for both countries deserves praise.

It is hard to understand the very fact that a lawsuit of this kind was filed with the Constitutional Court.

South Korean courts are examining other lawsuits whose outcomes also could affect the bilateral relationship. Particularly worrisome is litigation over former requisitioned workers who were mobilized during the war.

In 2012, the South Korea’s Supreme Court ruled that illegal actions directly linked to the colonial rule were difficult to recognize as subject to the bilateral agreement on property and claims.

High courts that had their rulings remanded by the top court handed down numerous decisions ordering Japanese companies, the former employers of the requisitioned workers, to compensate them. These cases are now being heard again at the top court in South Korea.

The South Korean government earlier took the position that issues related to the former requisitioned workers were also not subject to the bilateral agreement. We hope the top court in Seoul will make level-headed judgments.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24, 2015)Speech



20ポイント=1円 は業界最低レベルのポイント換算レートです


1ポイント=1円 は業界最高レベルのポイント換算レートです


米の武器台湾へ 地域の安定へ関与が不可欠だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
U.S. weapons sale to Taiwan crucial contribution to regional security
米の武器台湾へ 地域の安定へ関与が不可欠だ

Active U.S. engagement is essential for preserving peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and by extension the whole of East Asia.

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to sell weapons worth $1.83 billion (about ¥220 billion) to Taiwan. Two decommissioned frigates, amphibious assault vehicles and small surface-to-air missiles are among the weapons the United States will provide to Taiwan.

A domestic U.S. law stipulates that the United States can provide weapons intended to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities. This stipulation was made with China in mind.

This latest arms sale is not only a political message in defense of Taiwan. It also appears aimed at keeping Beijing in check as it pushes ahead with the creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea and the establishment of military strongholds on those islands.

A candidate of Taiwan’s largest opposition party, which strongly favors Taiwan independence, will likely win January’s presidential election and usher in a new administration. This may lead to deterioration in the ties between Beijing and Taipei. It seems the United States announced the weapons sale this month due to concern that doing so after the election could cause regional tensions to soar.

The United States and China earlier this month confirmed they would cooperate with regard to the Paris agreement, a framework that spells out steps to counter global warming from 2020. Both sides also want to avoid any decisive confrontations.

When the U.S. government announced weapons sales worth about $12 billion in total to Taiwan in 2010 and 2011, China responded angrily and temporarily suspended military exchanges with the United States. Compared with such instances, the latest sale does not include any cutting-edge weapons and could be described as “restrained.”

China has upper hand

China has deployed a huge number of missiles along its coast facing the Taiwan Strait, and is mass-producing sophisticated fighter aircraft and frigates. The military balance is overwhelmingly tilted in China’s favor.

Strengthening Taiwan’s air defense readiness and its ability to repel a landing force will be essential to the island’s defense. Taiwan had urged the United States to provide new-model fighter jets and submarines, as well as Aegis-equipped destroyers, but this did not eventuate. The Obama administration apparently did not authorize the sale of such weapons because they were deemed not to be necessary.

China’s Foreign Ministry has demanded that the United States scrap the weapons deal, and announced sanctions would be imposed on U.S. companies involved in the arms sale. However, Beijing did not go as far as halting military exchanges or taking other steps, so this protest was at a lower level than in previous cases. It appears China has judged that this arms package will not be a substantial threat to its security.

The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping is mistaken if it thinks it can continue military exchanges with the United States and avoid a cooling of bilateral relations even without halting its self-righteous maritime advances.

It is also important that Washington continues its strategy of sending U.S. military vessels through waters within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands China has built in the South China Sea. Such an operation was conducted in late October, and we think the United States needs to stick to its plan to conduct these patrols about twice every three months.

The United States must continue to take concrete steps to urge China to exercise self-control and show that it will not tolerate Beijing’s provocations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24, 2015)


香山リカのココロの万華鏡: Xマスは「あなたの日」 /東京

December 20, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Christmas is the season for everyone to feel their worth
香山リカのココロの万華鏡: Xマスは「あなたの日」 /東京

It's almost Christmas -- a fact that is greeted by most visitors to my office not with joyful anticipation, but rather as a reminder of how lonely they feel. Many of my patients tell me with dark expressions on their faces, "When the streets are bustling and lively, it just makes me feel all the more miserable."

While I was wondering what I could say to these people, I received a handmade pamphlet from a minister by the name of Yoshikazu Okado, who has been turning out the publication for many years.

"Christmas is a declaration that all people are important," he writes in the introduction.

As I read this I thought, "Isn't Christmas for Jesus Christ, and romantic partners and families?" Further along, however, came a passage about how the Bible says that the light of Jesus shines on everyone without exception or discrimination.

In other words, Christmas -- the day Jesus was born -- is a joyous moment about happiness for all. It is a holiday in which each person is celebrated.

When a person arrives in our offices, doctors like me apply the science of psychiatry to determine what illness they may have, and how severe it may be.

People leave the office having been treated entirely as "patients," and I send them off with the words, "Don't push yourself too hard, and I'll see you next week."

You could say that classifying people is my job.

Within that context, I eventually start to wonder about which more personalized categories patients may fall into. Are they happy, or lonely, or feeling pitiable?

And I don't think it's just me.

The patient, too, may begin to classify themselves with labels like "worthless," or "loser."

Okado's little pamphlet points out that in Christianity, Christmas is not a holiday to make lonely people feel even more so.

Rather, it is a day for everyone -- even those feeling lonely -- to have someone tell them, "It's wonderful that you're alive."

This was something of an epiphany for me.

For the rest of December, I will tell my patients, "I've heard that Christmas is a day when no-one is singled out or discriminated against."

Actually, I don't think I'll limit this to just the Christmas season.

I'll do the same for New Year's, for all of the various winter festivals around the country, and for all kinds of holidays throughout the year.

If someone says to me with a sad expression on their face, "When everyone around me looks like they're having fun, it just makes me feel all the more miserable," I want to tell them, "This day is for you."

This Christmas season, why don't you try telling yourself, "I'm a precious person, too"?

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)



20ポイント=1円 は業界最低レベルのポイント換算レートです


1ポイント=1円 は業界最高レベルのポイント換算レートです


診療報酬改定 地域医療を守る視点が重要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Protecting community medical care crucial in revision of fee schedules
診療報酬改定 地域医療を守る視点が重要だ

Reining in medical care expenses, which have been swelling with the aging of society, is indispensable in order to maintain the social welfare system. To this end, reducing overall medical treatment fees paid to medical institutions under the public health insurance system is unavoidable.

In the revision of such fees for fiscal 2016, the government has decided on a 0.84 percent reduction in total. The previous revision of fiscal 2014 called for an increase of 0.1 percent, but it represented a decrease of 1.26 percent if the hike in the consumption tax is excluded. Therefore, the latest revision means medical treatment fees will have been virtually cut for the second time in a row.

The latest revision calls for raising technical fees for doctors and other health professionals by 0.49 percent and lowering the fees paid for pharmaceuticals by 1.33 percent in accordance with market prices.

After deciding early on to reduce all medical treatment fees with a view to putting fiscal conditions on a sound footing, the government had looked into the possibility of also cutting the technical fees, the main portion of the fees. However, the Japan Medical Association and other organizations strongly asked for an upward revision arguing that a reduction might cause the medical care system to collapse.

Some people point out that the revision was decided in consideration of medical institutions ahead of the House of Councillors election set for next summer.

Since the previous virtual reduction of medical treatment fees, hospital management has been on the trend of deterioration. At the same time, the doctor shortage in local areas remains serious. Raising the main portion of fees, which covers personnel expenses for those engaged in medical practice, can be regarded as a necessary measure to protect community medical service and alleviate the people’s anxiety.

Drug expenses to be curbed

Simultaneously with the revision of medical treatment fees, the government will carry out institutional reform to curb pharmaceutical expenses. The reform calls for, among other things, lowering the prices of newly developed popular drugs that exceeded ¥100 billion in annual sales and limiting the amount of compresses prescribed by doctors.

Use of less costly generic medicines must also be accelerated.

Fees to be paid to drugstores will also be reexamined. To help promote the spread of “regular pharmacies” that use unified management of patient’s drug information, the fees paid to pharmacies located near major hospitals will be reduced. This measure was taken in response to strong criticism that they are making too much profit.

Allocation of fees for each medical treatment will be discussed early next year. A medical care system must be built to meet the needs of a super-aging society. It is imperative to allocate fees in the order of priority to promote the quality of medical treatment while reining in expenses.

Prefectural governments are drawing up community medical service plans that incorporate future needs for medical treatment and the number of beds needed. The plans are aimed at decreasing the number of costly beds for patients requiring acute treatment and improving support for discharge from hospitals and treatment at home.

It is necessary to correct the situation in which elderly patients whose conditions are stable are being hospitalized in great numbers because the number of beds for acute patients has increased excessively.

Strengthening the collaboration between medical treatment and nursing care is also important to make it possible for senior citizens to live at peace in the community. This should be treated as a priority in the allocation of the medical treatment fees.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 22, 2015)


日豪首脳会談 経済と安保で「特別な関係」に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan, Australia must build ‘special relationship’ on economy, security
日豪首脳会談 経済と安保で「特別な関係」に

Japan and Australia have an important role in promoting peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. We should build a comprehensive relationship of cooperation.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who took office in September, made his first visit to Japan and held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two leaders issued a joint statement that said Japan and Australia would cooperate in the economic and security fields and deepen the “special relationship” of the two countries that share strategic interests.

Abe emphasized that both leaders affirmed the “unshakable strategic relationship” between the two countries. “Both countries share the same values,” Turnbull said.

Turnbull, who is known to be acceptive of China, chose Japan for his first visit to East Asia as prime minister. We welcome Turnbull’s posture of attaching weight to bilateral ties with Japan, continuing the policy pursued by his predecessor, Tony Abbott — like Turnbull a member of the Liberal Party — who was close to Abe.

Both leaders agreed on expanding bilateral trade and investment, on the basis of the bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement, which entered into force in January.

Abe and Turnbull also confirmed the importance of technological innovation and agreed on bilateral cooperation in such fields as regenerative medicine.

Japan and Australia have a mutually complementary relationship, with Japan importing mainly natural resources and foods from Australia, and exporting automobiles and other products to the country. It is important to promote economic cooperation between the two countries, using the EPA as a tailwind.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, with 12 countries including Japan and Australia participating, reached a broad agreement in October. Japan and Australia should further cooperate in putting the accord into force at an early stage.

Freedom of navigation

With regard to the South China Sea, the joint statement called on “all claimants to halt large-scale land reclamation or construction, and to refrain from using any land features for military purposes.” Needless to say, both have China in mind, as it is building artificial islands and promoting the establishment of military bases there.

The U.S. Navy carried out patrols within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands in October, while an Australian military surveillance plane recently flew near the artificial islands. It is important to take all possible steps to ensure freedom of navigation and flight under international law.

Ensuring the safety of sea lanes will serve as a basis for free economic activities. By cooperating closely with other countries, including the United States, Japan and Australia must urge China to abide by international rules.

During their talks, Abe and Turnbull agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in defense on the basis of the security-related legislation. Japan and Australia intend to expedite concluding a “visiting forces agreement,” which would facilitate joint exercises between the Self-Defense Forces and Australian forces.

Japan and Australia should pursue multitiered cooperation, with the United States — an ally of both Japan and Australia — joining in.

Turnbull expressed Australia’s “deep disappointment” with Japan’s resumption of its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean. Abe explained the necessity of conducting whaling for research purposes on scientific grounds.

The assertions of the two leaders remain far apart on this issue. But it is necessary for this issue not to damage the overall bilateral relationship.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 21, 2015)


産経記者判決 無分別な訴追終結を

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 18
EDITORIAL: Seoul should end impudent case against Japanese journalist
(社説)産経記者判決 無分別な訴追終結を

A South Korean court on Dec. 17 acquitted Tatsuya Kato, a former Seoul bureau chief for the Sankei Shimbun, who was indicted on a charge of defaming South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

The ruling was all too appropriate considering that South Korean law guarantees freedom of speech.

It was extraordinary in the first place for prosecutors, who exercise public authority, to indict a journalist just for writing an article that displeased the president.

The Seoul Central District Court handed down a totally reasonable ruling by saying, “It is clear that freedom of speech should be respected because our nation has adopted a democratic system.”

Prosecutors should swiftly accept the court decision without appealing it.

The case concerned an article written by Kato that ran on the Sankei website in August 2014. It referred to a “rumor” that Park was with a former male aide and could not be reached for seven hours on April 16, 2014, the day of the Sewol ferry disaster.

The presidential office reacted angrily to the article, pledging to “pursue the responsibility.” Prosecutors then started an investigation into the defamation allegations in response to a criminal complaint filed by a citizen organization and indicted Kato. He was long banned from leaving the country.

Under South Korean law, Kato would not have been indicted if President Park, the alleged victim of defamation, had said she didn’t wish for punishment against the Sankei journalist.

But the fact is that the trial following the indictment lasted for as long as 14 months, leading to the Dec. 17 ruling. That leaves little doubt that Park herself wanted to see the journalist prosecuted.

Didn’t she give any thought to how badly South Korea’s democracy would be damaged by the prosecution of a reporter for a news organization just because of the wishes of the person in power?

Unsurprisingly, journalist organizations of not only Japan but also other countries voiced strong concerns about the South Korean government’s legal action against Kato.

Before the verdict was read out, the presiding judge revealed that the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs had asked the court to give consideration to Japan’s request for “appropriate handling” of the case.

It was an unusual move that can be interpreted as an attempt by the South Korean government to end the case, which has further strained bilateral relations and provoked international criticism.

The Park administration should do serious soul-searching on its misguided move to prosecute a case that should never have been brought to court in the first place. By doing so, Seoul unnecessarily created a sticky political issue with serious diplomatic consequences.

Even without the case, relations between the Japanese and South Korean governments have soured badly in the past few years, casting dark shadows even on grass-roots exchanges between people of the two neighboring countries.

Both Tokyo and Seoul should restrain themselves from any action that could generate unnecessary diplomatic friction.

The court ruling, however, acknowledged that the former Sankei bureau chief was aware that the rumor he wrote about was false.

The defense team stopped denying this allegation during the trial. This means the Sankei cannot claim to have fulfilled its responsibility as a news medium.

South Korea’s legal action against the Sankei reporter has been a festering sore in the relationship between the country and Japan.

This case should be brought to an end quickly so that the two governments can concentrate on diplomatic efforts to resolve really important issues, like the “comfort women.”


衆院選制度改革 格差の是正へ党利党略を排せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Set aside party interests to narrow vote-value disparity in lower house
衆院選制度改革 格差の是正へ党利党略を排せ

Ruling and opposition parties should set aside party interests to narrow the vote-value disparity in the House of Representatives election and tackle the electoral system reform.

A research panel of experts tasked with reform of the lower house electoral system has compiled a draft proposal for redistributing seats allocated to each prefecture by using the so-called Adams’ method to rectify the vote-value disparity in single-seat constituencies.

According to the draft proposal, a total of seven constituency seats should be added in Tokyo and four other prefectures, while 13 other prefectures, including Aomori and Iwate, should lose one seat each. As a result, the maximum vote-value disparity at the prefectural level would be reduced to 1.621-to-1.

The vote-value disparity in single-seat constituencies would also likely be reduced to less than 2-to-1, as called for by the law concerning the establishment of the council on rezoning the electoral districts of the lower house.

The Adams’ method would be used in place of the current seat distribution system [which allots one seat to each prefecture and then decides, in proportion to the population, how many additional seats each prefecture should be allocated in the single-seat constituencies of the election]. The Adams’ method is said to be comparatively favorable to less populous prefectures and able to reduce the increase and decrease in the seats allocated to each prefecture to a narrow range. It also will be able to cope with a population decrease in the future to a certain extent. With the method, even Tottori Prefecture, whose population is the smallest on the prefectural level, would be able to maintain the two-seat allocation for the present.

The Adams’ method is a realistic one in terms of rectifying the vote-value disparity in consideration of local areas.

The Supreme Court handed down a ruling in late November that the lower house election in December last year, which had a maximum vote-value disparity of 2.13-to-1 in single-seat constituencies, was in a state of unconstitutionality. As the legislative body, the Diet must respond swiftly to the request from the judicial branch of government.

Not all will be pleased

What is questionable is that the draft proposed eliminating six seats in the single-seat constituencies and eliminating four in the proportional representation blocks. The proposed reduction would take the number of lower house seats to a postwar low of 465.

If the number of lower house seats is reduced, even just slightly, it would be difficult to reflect the diversity of public opinions in the election. Diet functions, such as lawmaker-initiated legislation and holding administrations to account through deliberations on bills, could be weaker. Originally, the number of legislators in proportion to the population was smaller in Japan than in the United States and European countries.

Furthermore, the fewer seats there are, the more difficult the correction of the vote-value disparity becomes.

Even within the panel, there were voices pointing out the negative effects of reducing the number of seats. It is regrettable that the panel finally had no choice but to incorporate the assertions of main political parties that seek a drastic reduction in the seats.

The panel is scheduled to submit its proposal to lower house Speaker Tadamori Oshima in early January. In June last year, each main party confirmed that they would “respect” the conclusion of the panel. However, some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who were elected from less populated electoral districts have already expressed their opposition to the draft proposal.

Electoral systems directly lead to the rise and fall of political parties. No plan can avoid every objection. The LDP should not cling to its own interests, but should play a leading role in drawing together the various opinions of each political party to reach a consensus.

Shifting to a new system requires revision of the Public Offices Election Law so that the content of the proposal can be reflected in the law. It also requires studying a new rezoning process. It will likely take more than a year to do so.

Ruling and opposition parties are urged to realize the electoral system reform with such a time schedule in mind.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 19, 2015)


米ゼロ金利解除 「出口」迎えた異例の危機対応

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Fed’s decision to increase rate ends unprecedented crisis response
米ゼロ金利解除 「出口」迎えた異例の危機対応

The United States has put an end to the situation in which monetary easing on an unprecedented scale was used to deal with the extraordinary financial crisis triggered by the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.

We welcome the fact that the United States, the epicenter of the global financial crunch, has successfully met the challenge of reinvigorating its economy, to the point of being able to return to ordinary financial policy.

The U.S. Federal Reserve Board has decided on its first interest rate increase in 9½ years. Lifting the effectively zero-interest rate policy that was in place from the end of 2008, the Fed increased its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to between 0.25 percent and 0.50 percent per year from between zero and 0.25 percent.

The expansionary phase of the U.S. economy has been continuing for a little more than six years so far, while the unemployment rate has shrunk to a pre-crisis level. Given the prospects for stability in the U.S. labor market and moderate price rises in the future, it is reasonable for the United States to break off the extraordinary monetary easing.

Emerging economies have served as locomotives for the global economy since the crash, as plenty of funds flowed into them as a result of the easy money policies in Japan, the United States and Europe. Due caution should be exercised about the possibility of the U.S. interest rate raise causing a major transformation of this paradigm.

There can be no doubt that the world’s investment funds will lean toward fund management in dollars, expecting higher interest rates. Fears are being noted that the “monetary easing cash” that has flowed into emerging economies will flow backward in large quantities into the United States.

Vigilance may be required against the risk of currencies and stock prices plunging precipitously in emerging economies, gravely shaking markets worldwide.

Dialogue with markets

The continuing drops in crude oil prices are also a matter of concern. Because the finances of oil-producing countries have been increasingly severe, they have been withdrawing oil money from the markets. Should this outflow be coupled with the back-streaming of funds into the United States from emerging economies, the danger of turmoil in the world’s economy could arise.

Markets have mostly reacted favorably to the higher U.S. interest rate policy, as shown by sharp rises in stock prices both in Japan and the United States right after the Fed decision.

While many investors had factored in the U.S. lifting of the zero-interest rate policy in advance, the statement made by Fed Chair Janet Yellen suggesting future hikes will be coming slowly has also had a favorable impact.

There is no justification for being unprepared for future developments in “exit strategies” out of the monetary easing.

The Fed should be as prudent as possible in steering its monetary policy. By engaging again and again in circumspect dialogues with the markets, it is imperative for the Fed to have the direction of its financial policy gradually spread through market players.

It is important for emerging economies to redouble their efforts to enhance their attractiveness as investment destinations, to ensure that no excessive outflow of funds takes place. We hope to see them accelerate steps for structural reform, such as easing regulations to encourage the entry of capital from overseas.

Regarding the effect the U.S. interest rate hike will have on Japan, Akira Amari, state minister in charge of economic revitalization, has stressed that higher U.S. rates “will be a plus for the Japanese economy in the medium to long term.” Further weakening of the yen and strengthening of the dollar are expected, boosting increases in Japan’s exports.

However, we cannot take our eyes off the danger of excessive depreciation of the yen causing import prices to increase so much they adversely affect businesses. The government must be sure to steadily put the economic growth policy into force, wasting no time in bringing about a self-sustained business recovery led by domestic demand.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 18, 2015)Speech


与党税制大綱 出版物の「軽減」対象も検討を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ruling parties should consider lower consumption tax rate for publications
与党税制大綱 出版物の「軽減」対象も検討を

To boost economic growth, the government should steadily press ahead with tax system revisions that encourage investment and consumption.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito have formally decided on an outline for tax system revisions for fiscal 2016. A pillar of this outline is the lowering of the effective corporate tax rate from the current 32.11 percent to 29.97 percent in fiscal 2016. This tax rate will be brought below 30 percent one year ahead of the original schedule.

This will be reflected in the government’s budget for fiscal 2016 and bills related to the revisions of the tax system.

Japan’s corporate tax rate is high compared with the rate in some European and Asian nations. We understand the aim of strengthening companies’ international competitiveness by trimming the tax rate and improving the business operating environment.

It is important for this to put the brakes on the hollowing-out of domestic industries, and lead to more investment from abroad.

The decision to bring forward the cutting of the corporate tax rate to below 30 percent was based on requests by business organizations and other groups. There will be no point in lessening this tax burden if all it does is inflate the more than ¥350 trillion in internal reserves held by companies. We expect each company to make positive efforts to boost wages and expand investment in plants and equipment.

One revision, made in preparation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement coming into effect, will halve the fixed asset tax on farmland leased out by farmland intermediary administration institutes created in each prefecture. Conversely, the tax burden imposed on fields and paddies that are no longer cultivated, despite being potentially usable, will be increased about 80 percent.

We welcome this creative use of the tax system to increase productivity by increasing the size of farms in the country. One issue to be addressed is how to accurately select abandoned farmland that would be subject to the higher tax rate.

Curbing ‘knowledge tax’

When the consumption tax rate is hiked to 10 percent in April 2017, the existing automobile acquisition tax will be abolished and replaced with a new automobile tax based on fuel efficiency. The more fuel-efficient a vehicle is, the lower the tax rate will be. More than half of all new vehicles are forecast to be exempt from this new tax, which will result in an effective reduction of ¥20 billion in the tax burden shouldered by vehicle owners.

We think it is appropriate that the ruling parties aim to alleviate the impact of the higher consumption tax rate and beef up measures to help the environment.

According to the outline, a lower consumption tax rate will be applied to food in general, excluding alcohol and eating out. In addition, the ruling parties decided the lower rate would apply to subscribed newspapers that are issued at least twice a week and home-delivered.

Newspapers provide a wide range of information and opinions to the public, so they can be considered social infrastructure that supports democracy and the culture of the printed word.

The LDP and Komeito attached importance to the benefit newspapers provide to the public, and decided to curb, as much as possible, the imposition of an additional “tax on knowledge.”

Newspaper publishers must remain fully aware of the significance of this step, and fulfill their duties as organs of news reporting and public opinion.

It was unfortunate that the parties decided more discussions are needed on whether the lower rate should be applied to publications such as books and magazines. While we understand it is difficult to draw the cut-off line, it is essential that consideration be given to the social role these publications play in supporting education and culture.

Most European countries impose a lower tax rate on publications as well as newspapers. The same step should be taken in Japan, and we urge the ruling parties to hold discussions on designing such a system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 17, 2015)


中国軍機構改革 対米挑戦姿勢は緊張を高める

The Yomiuri Shimbun
China’s military reform could lead to heightened tensions with U.S.
中国軍機構改革 対米挑戦姿勢は緊張を高める

China has started a structural reform of its military to enhance its readiness for modern warfare entailing the full use of high-tech weapons.

The latest move can be described as a new phase in China’s drive to build a strong army, the goal pursued by President Xi Jinping through rapid progress in his country’s military build-up. Japan and the United States must closely cooperate to strengthen their guard against China’s continuously evolving military.

At a recent military conference, Xi emphasized that deepening national defense and military reform are “requirements of the times” to be fulfilled in pursuing “the dream of a strong army.” He also said China would seek to build, by the end of 2020, a structure for the integrated operation of units from its army, navy, air force and 2nd Artillery (strategic missile forces).

The reform drive entails a plan to reorganize the current structure, which divides the whole country into seven major military districts, each mainly controlled by the army. The plan will rearrange these districts into four to five combat zones, followed by a measure to establish a joint operational command organization in each zone. The reform is aimed at ensuring that orders from the nerve center of the military are thoroughly enforced among frontline troops, thereby making it possible to flexibly respond to any situation.

The current military districts are so strongly influenced by the army that there is a serious degree of vertical segmentation in military management there. There is inadequacy of the army’s cooperation with the navy, air force and missile unit. Xi’s reform drive seems to reflect his belief that, if the current situation goes unrectified, his country will not be able to effectively implement its strategy — known as “anti-access area denial (A2/AD)” — for preventing U.S. intervention in a military contingency.

Xi in command

China’s military reform reflects Xi’s wishes. Since the launch of his administration in the autumn of 2012, he has striven to build “an army that can win a war,” a task necessary for transforming his nation into “a great maritime power.”

The prevailing view has been that it will be difficult to reorganize the military districts due to strong resistance from the army. However, Xi’s success in initiating his reform drive means that he has cemented his power base by removing all foes within the military through his policy of clamping down on corrupt practices. He may also have intended to further tighten up the military.

Earlier, the Xi administration said it would slash his country’s 2.3 million soldiers by 300,000. This seems to entail cuts mainly in the number of noncombatants in the army, a task that can be made possible through a reorganization of the military districts. Budgetary resources to be accrued from this will likely be used for selected purposes of high priority, such as those tied to state-of-the-art weapons to be used by the three arms of the military.

China is reportedly accelerating efforts to develop a next-generation stealth bomber and a new intercontinental ballistic missile while also building several domestically designed aircraft carriers.

We believe Xi’s decision to unveil his military reform plan at this point in time signifies he was keenly aware of how relevant nations have acted in connection with China’s recent movements. For instance, the United States sent a warship to the South China Sea, and conducted patrol activities in waters near artificial islands reclaimed by China in the region. Japan too has been trying to restrain China.

China is also increasing the frequency of naval exercises in the Western Pacific, with a view to advancing into the so-called Second Island Chain, which extends from the Izu Islands to Guam. China’s maritime activities have also been noticeable in waters around the Senkaku Islands. The country’s undisguised provocative acts against the Japan-U.S. alliance will only add to tensions in the region.

However, it should be noted that even the U.S. forces required many years to achieve integrated military operation. Our nation’s Self-Defense Forces are still halfway there in pursuit of a similar goal. China’s neighboring countries need to closely watch whether Xi’s military reform drive will proceed as he calculated.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 16, 2015)


パリ協定採択 世界全体で目標を達成しよう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Close global cooperation needed to achieve Paris accord emissions targets
パリ協定採択 世界全体で目標を達成しよう

The agreement by all participating countries to work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a significant step forward in dealing with global warming.

The 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) ended in Paris on Saturday after adopting the Paris agreement, a framework designed to take effect in 2020.

The Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997 called only on developed countries to carry out emissions cuts, but this time all parties are obliged to make efforts to curtail emissions in line with nationally determined goals. The new framework does not make it mandatory to achieve targets and is a loose structure, but calls for reexamining them every five years to make further efforts to cut emissions.

The Paris agreement aims to hold the rise of the world’s average temperature to “well below 2 C above preindustrial levels.” It also mentioned a commitment to “below 1.5 C above preindustrial levels,” which was demanded by island countries, as a target for which efforts must be made. Both these goals will be hard to achieve.

The effectiveness of the agreement will be put to the test with regard to how each country can achieve its target and whether it can raise its target further.

Endeavors by emerging countries are key to cutting global emissions as a whole. China and India, among other nations, argued that “our per capita energy consumption is small and we are developing countries.”

The fact remains, however, that China and India are the world’s top and the third-largest emitters of greenhouse gases, respectively. To fulfill their responsibilities, the two countries must make greater efforts to curb emissions without limiting their efforts to nationally determined contributions.

Realistic choice

During the Paris conference, developing nations called on developed countries to increase their financial assistance and technological transfers, arguing that they “became rich as a result of consuming huge quantities of fossil fuels.”

The agreement made it mandatory for developed nations to assist developing countries but did not put a monetary value on such assistance. Annual assistance of ¥100 billion in 2020 and onward was incorporated in a separate document of a nonbinding agreement. A realistic judgment by developing nations that placed priority on the conclusion of an agreement is laudable.

Using such assistance to carry out measures to fight global warming is important. It also is necessary to ensure transparency of this assistance and work out a system to verify its effectiveness.

Japan proposed a “bilateral credit system” under which Japan would assist in the energy-saving measures of developing countries, with portions of emissions curbed calculated as its own. The scheme, adopted as part of the agreement, was the outcome of diplomatic efforts by Japanese officials.

Japan has already agreed to apply the bilateral credit system to 16 countries, including Mongolia and Bangladesh. Assistance in the energy-saving efforts of developing countries has greater cost-effectiveness than measures taken domestically. The application of the system must be expanded positively.

Japan’s target is to reduce emissions by 26 percent in fiscal 2030 from the levels in fiscal 2013. Reliance on coal and other fossil fuels must be corrected. It is essential to promote the reactivation and new construction of nuclear power plants to lower the cost of renewable energy generation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 15, 2015)


軽減税率 円滑導入で増税の備え万全に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Launch lower rate smoothly to prepare for sales tax hike
軽減税率 円滑導入で増税の備え万全に


All possible measures should be taken to prepare for future tax hikes by ensuring that the new system is put into practice smoothly.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito have reached a broad agreement on formulating a reduced tax rate system. The lower tax rate is to be put into effect at the same time as the scheduled hike in the consumption tax from the current 8 percent to 10 percent in April 2017.

Both fresh and processed food and drinks, excluding alcohol and eating out, are eligible for tax relief by keeping the rate unchanged at 8 percent. The reduced tax rate plan will lower the government’s annual tax revenue by an estimated ¥1 trillion. The lower rate measure is expected to alleviate the pain felt by the public, especially low-income earners, due to the higher tax rate, thereby helping household budgets.

The ruling coalition parties should be praised for clinching the tax relief deal by putting their differences behind them.

Bridging the gap

The additional revenue resulting from the planned consumption tax markup is to be used solely to cover social security costs. Budgetary appropriations for social security are bound to continue to grow rapidly with the graying of the country and the low birthrate.

If the government’s stringent fiscal conditions is taken into account, we cannot help but feel that further consumption tax hikes are likely in the future. It is significant that the introduction of the reduced tax rate system agreed on this time means that daily necessities will be exempt from the hike, so it will become simpler to make preparations for possible additional tax increases in the future.

Talks between the LDP and Komeito experienced rough going because of the difficulty in bridging the gap between the two parties on what items should be eligible for the lower tax rate.

Although earlier calling for limiting the scope of the lower tax rate to fresh food, the LDP made a concession by accepting Komeito’s demand that processed foodstuffs should be made eligible for the reduced tax rate. The LDP even went so far as to propose that the reduced tax rate cover eating out, a suggestion that led to confusion.

The two parties eventually agreed to exclude dining out from the list of the eligible items, because of objections that it would be unduly generous to people in high-income brackets as they have many opportunities to enjoy meals at luxury restaurants.

The concession made by the LDP in the final phase of the talks is due to the strong determination on the part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his close aides who placed priority on cooperation with Komeito in the electoral campaign for the House of Councillors election scheduled for next summer.

Processed food includes bread, noodles and others that are indispensable in people’s daily diet. We welcome the two parties’ broad agreement that makes the foodstuffs people purchase every day eligible for the lower tax rate.

The ruling coalition parties will now focus their talks on whether to apply the lower rate to items other than food.

Most countries with the reduced tax rate arrangements have made newspapers and other publications eligible for the tax relief along with food.

They have contributed to the development of democracy and the promotion of reading culture. They should not be simply considered consumption commodities, but public goods that enrich the lives of the people.

In light of their roles in society, newspapers and other publications should be covered by the reduced tax rate in Japan.

The ruling coalition parties also decided to make it mandatory for business operators to adopt an invoice system in which the amounts of tax and tax rates would be included in their bill, effective from fiscal 2021.

Invoices good idea

With multiple tax rates, there is a possibility of operators engaging in a rash of fraudulent practices, such as by disguising sales actually made under the standard tax rate as having been made under the reduced tax rate, thereby allowing them to retain part of the tax as profit.

In preventing such fraud, the adoption of invoices is deemed reasonable.

Now that the ruling parties have reached an agreement, the government needs to steadily move ahead with preparatory work to introduce the reduced tax rate.

To prevent confusion among consumers and business operators at stores over the multiple tax rates, the government should make a clear distinction between items subject to the reduced tax rate and those that are not, come up with ways to deal with problematic cases and spare no effort to disseminate the multiple tax rates as widely as possible.

The reduced tax rate is not applied to dining in restaurants but a question arises as to how to distinguish between eating inside a fast-food restaurant and taking out food. It is important to establish precise guidelines.

It is also vital for the government to help small stores deal with the multiple tax rates by, for instance, financially assisting them in having their cash registers modified and by holding instruction courses for them to learn the new accounting system.

A major worry is that there are no prospects at present in securing the necessary financial sources to make up for the revenue shortfall when the reduced tax rate is introduced.

Currently, the government has decided only on a policy of allocating ¥400 billion that had originally been earmarked to assist low-income people when the tax is raised.

The LDP has been saying that the necessary financial sources should be managed within the framework of social security expenses. But it is undesirable to put an excessive burden on health care and nursing care programs. The party should deepen its discussions on whether the government can hold down expenditures in areas other than social security spending or make use of other tax revenues.

LDP Secretary General Sadakazu Tanigaki emphasized: “We will uphold the government’s plan to restore its fiscal health. We will take responsibility for securing stable and permanent fiscal resources.” We hope the LDP will continue studying ideas such as raising the tobacco tax as advocated by Komeito.

Reduce ‘tax profits’

Also remaining to be worked out is the issue of what to do with “tax profits” as some business operators pocket part of the consumption tax, rather than turn it over to the government.

It has been decided that even after the reduced tax rate is introduced, the current consumption tax exemption system for small-business operators and the simplified tax system that makes tax calculations easier are to be kept in place.

At present, tax profits are estimated to amount to ¥600 billion a year. It will be unavoidable that tax gains will grow following the tax hike.

As the government will make consumers pay a higher tax, it is logical to reduce such tax profits. Should the government allow such profits to expand instead, the public would not understand.

The ruling parties must examine this issue in a much more sincere manner.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 13, 2015)


香山リカのココロの万華鏡 がまんせず助け求めて /東京

December 13, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Don't hesitate to seek help
香山リカのココロの万華鏡 がまんせず助け求めて /東京

One thing I often hear from patients in my consultation room is, "Why did this have to happen to me?"

Depression is said to be more common among people who are devoted.

They work past their natural limits, or don't say when they are tired, not wanting to impose on those around them.

When I say, "Your devotion backfired," and they reply back softly, "Is it wrong to be devoted?"

I always regret what I said.

Devotion is a strong point of such people, and we shouldn't say, "If you were less hard-working, you would have gotten by without getting depression."

In other cases, they say, "I was betrayed by my colleagues," or "I was diagnosed with cancer." Having fallen into low spirits and been recommended to see a psychiatrist, they visit my clinic and say, "Why me?"

"Is there no God, no Buddha?" I then give a muddied response.

When I see these people, I wonder whether, even without an unequal society, life is simply unfair and absurd from the start.

Not everyone who works hard is rewarded like in "The Ant and the Grasshopper."

Before I resign myself to believing that life is unfair, some people come to my mind.

One of them, after suffering from a disaster in their life, began working to help society because they "wanted to help people suffering in the same way."

Another person had struggled against a string of unfortunate incidents, saying, "Still, I don't want to become someone who is jealous of others." 気の毒になるくらい不運続きの人生で、「それでもほかの人たちをねたむ自分になりたくない」と必死に歯を食いしばっている人もいた。

Another person said, "I can't fully recover, but I want to live out this life I was given," and continued living out their days with care, cooking and cleaning.

So many times, I have been shown by my patients how dignified humans can act.

Of course, we should do what we can to avoid meeting unfortunate events in our lives.

But there will still be some probability that problems will occur.

Sometimes we will be visited with multiple bad things in a row.

It's normal at those times to feel down, or to curse one's fate, and we needn't overly restrain our feelings.

At the same time, we shouldn't completely give up, and as long as we have a means of recovery left at our disposal, we have the ability to pull ourselves back up.

It's OK to ask for help from experts or friends, too, and this is what I want to say to people who feel that this year has been an unlucky one for them.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist) (精神科医)
毎日新聞2015年12月8日 地方版