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[EDITORIALS]A Worrisome Right Turn in Japan

May 16,2001
Where is Japan headed? If it is going to the right, as it appears lately, just what would be the end of that road? If it is going backward, as it appears to be doing with the adoption of a right-wing revisionist history textbook, would it go as far back as to the lunacy of militarism?

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been in office for three weeks, and his staggering popularity makes us concerned about these questions. Most of the polls are showing that Mr. Koizumi enjoys more than 80 percent support, some showing 90 percent.

These results are the highest level of popularity a Japanese government has had. Even considering that the new government is on a honeymoon, its popularity is nearly at a fever pitch, and it is alarming. The mood is such that anyone who is critical of the new leader would do well to look out for trouble.

Mr. Koizumi ran on a platform of dramatic reform of the country's economy as the highest priority. But he has not presented anything so far. It would appear that the government is putting off reform, which is sure to be a painful experience, and instead going on an all-out campaign to capture the heart of the country, with slogans like "a strong Japan" and "a Japan that gets it said."

Mr. Koizumi recently pledged to pay a visit in his official capacity as prime minister to Yasukuni Shrine, the symbol of militarist Japan. He has said that the country's constitution should be reinterpreted to allow the military a stronger role in self-defense. He also proclaimed that the revision of the pacifist constitution, which renounces war, is on the agenda.

He has made his position clear on the issue of the textbook, saying a revision of the revisionist portions is out of the question.

We are concerned that mass populism, rather than doing what is right, is perfectly suited to the frustrated people of Japan who are looking for a way out, and that the government's explosive popularity is merely a result of that.

We believe that the events within Japan, coupled with the launch of a conservative administration in the United States, are driving the island nation rapidly to the right. Japan must remember the unfortunate past that showed how the nation can get caught up in something it has set its mind to. Mr. Koizumi would do well to remember that what Japan truly needs is honesty and courage that can ask the people to make sacrifices.



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