Saturday, April 23, 2005

Japan and thoughts on Prime Minister Koizumi

Junichiro Koizumi is Japan’s prime minister. Where ever he goes he is surrounded by critical media frenzy, and people either love him or hate him. Much like the U.S.’s President Bush, Koizumi gets a lot of public coverage –and whether this is good or bad, I believe it to be good. I makes them seem personal and in touch with the current events. Television appearances have become increasingly necessary in winning elections and swaying voters, but I think when it is used smartly, these savvy politicians have a greater advantage, and also have a greater moral obligation to act honorably.

I personally like Koizumi. He does things differently than many Japanese expect. But he's always smart in how he does them.

For example, I've read many reports on how Hu Jintao has been putting pressure on Japan to "preach forgiveness" for the war time past. However, from many readings I come to understand that most Japanese see themselves today as a peaceful superpower, and that 60 years or more was a long time ago. What's in the past is in the past.

However, for those who experienced such oppression and hardship the painful memories always linger. Many foreigners who live in Japan today often make the observation that when talking to certain Japanese people, they disregarded the immediate history saying that it was in that past, but the moment anyone talks about the Atomic bombings -then everyone has immediate memories of remorse. This is the same feeling China and Korea have, because they had worse hardships inflicted by Japan than even the Atomic bombings. This history is interesting and very delicate. This is why I think Koizumi is really smart in his actions. Ultimately, it is actions that speak louder than words.

When he apologized in Aceh publicly this past week about the past war times, even though Japan has apologized many times, it is good that he did it again. One reason is that Koizumi is much more "televised" than any other person in the world with the exception of President Bush. This "TV air time" helps Koizumi to reach many people all over the world and internet.

His actions ease the minds of the Chinese peoples, and those who experienced such hardship. By making the apology in such a public manner, he also lets the world know that Japan is sorry, and reaffirms that Japan is now a peaceful & loving nation. After the apology he went to Jakarta and engaged Hu again, they talked about peace. This effort shows that he is also concerned with the future economies of both countries, and is doing everything in his power to make the future a better place to live.

Japan will always have to stand up and be strong. It purposely put itself at the head of the Asian superpower race by militant methods from Meiji to the 1940’s, but now must act as the "big brother" to the other countries. I think that Koizumi gives today’s Japan a very good 'public image' because he makes Japan seem like a loving “big brother” that is willing to help and share the painful memories. Even the decision to go to Iraq was an intelligent move on the behalf of Japan. Even though many more Japanese citizens were opposed to this idea and action too.

Many Japanese, as other countries, thought going to Iraq was not their concern. That to support the U.S. would be to support a dominating superpower and make them look militant again. However, Koizumi pushed for the decision and sent relief workers, against much of the public’s anti-war sentiment. Many Japanese are entirely opposed to the concept of war all together, because of the tarnished image it left with them from their war historicity. Even though it was a dangerous situation, and a delicate sociopolitical climate, Koizumi was sending a good message. Japan is a big brother and must help its little brothers and sisters when they need it. Even if it is just a friendly word, however, he didn't send armed soldiers to Iraq, and even though Japanese people may occasionally have to make a sacrifice for the good of the present and future world I don’t think that the Japanese can forget that it is important to be a part of the world community. Working together is always the best way to solve a problem. Team work creates close unions and tight friendship that can benefit everyone. And even if the action is a mistake, it is these very actions which still say a lot about the integrity of the people who make them.

Many Japanese have an introverted way of thinking (and by this I mean bubble effect). A lot of the feeling I got from people in Japan is often, "it's none of our concern. Japan shouldn't bother with such and such, and so on..." However, this seems like a "small island" mentality. I hope Japan decides to continue its world relationships and not exclude itself with silly excuses. Japan is a superpower, and must take the responsibility to act like one always. Even though it may not concern us (or the country we live in) stepping up and being mature about the situation makes one stronger. To have a big heart makes you seem real strong. I think Koizumi's actions give Japan a big heart in the eyes of the world.

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