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ASCJ Executive Committee

Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

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Summer 2000 ASCJ Conference Details

18. Individual Paper Session: Politics in Japan

Chair: M. William Steele, International Christian University

 Paper 1: Nakachi Kiyoshi, Meio University. "Recent Political Movement on the U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa, Japan"  

Since the rape incident of an elementary girl student by the three U.S. military service members in 1995, the presence of the U.S. military bases has been a big theme in Okinawa, Japan. The Japanese government has an obligation to offer military facilities to the U.S.A. under the Japan-U.S. mutual defense treaty. However, the Okinawan local government and most of the most of the Okinawan people have continued to campaign to remove the bases from Okinawa. The movement of anti-bases is getting stronger and stronger toady. The former reformative government and some landowners denied the mutual defense treaty and even rejected to rent their lands for the bases. On the other hand, it is fact that the Okinawan bases is still a key stone of the Pacific in the U.S. military strategy and cooperative defense policies between Japan and the U.S. Okinawa have questioned why U.S. needs to maintain military bases after the reversion of Okinawa and the end of the cold war.

     The paper examines why Okinawans protest the presence of the U.S. military bases and what, in recent political movements, Okinawans expect from both Japanese and U.S. governments.

  Paper 2:  Peter Cave, University of Hong Kong. "Individuality and Educational Reform in Japan: A Guide for the Perplexed"

     This paper examines the significance of the current educational reform drive in Japan. It looks particularly at the concept of "individuality" (kosei), based on analysis of the reform debate, on the one hand, and school ethnography on the other. Changes to the post-war educational system have been proposed at least since the 1960s. In the 1980s, Prime Minister Nakasone set up the Ad Hoc Committee on Education or Rinkyooshin which succeeded in establishing a hegemonic rhetoric for the educational agenda. The term "individuality" (kosei) has been particularly central in subsequent reform debates and proposals. As far as reformers allied with the government go, the advantages of this term lie in its universal appeal and its vagueness. Almost everyone favours  individuality" and its promotion, but there are very varied opinions about what these things mean in practice. Some understand "individuality" in an elitist sense that centres on the production of creative leaders; others see it in an egalitarian sense, as enabling each child to realise her or his potential. It is currently unclear which of these visions (if either) lies behind the educational reforms being presently enacted. Initiatives taken by schools and teachers will have considerable influence on the end result. Primary level teachers may be best equipped to make significant changes in teaching practices.

 Paper 3:  Suzuki  Kenji, European Institute of Japanese Studies (Stockholm). "Rethinking Japanfs Bad Loan Management: Implications from a Comparison with the Swedish Case"

       In comparison with the cases of Sweden and other countries, the bad loan  management in Japan was extremely delayed. The Ministry of Finance (MOF)  is often accused of this, with the assumption that it has held, or had  held at least until recently, excessively strong power in the  policy-making process regarding the financial sector in Japan. Indeed,  it is true that the MOF enjoys a large scope of informal regulation  supplemented by the personal connections through "amakudari" system.  They also hold a close contact with some particular politicians called  "zoku."   While those elements are usually mentioned as the factors to facilitate  the power of the MOF, close connection with banks and politicians may  also reduce the scope of the MOF's competence. If the policy-making  process is conceptualized as the network linking relevant public /  private actors, the Japanese financial authorities are seen as trapped  into sticky relations with other actors in the network. As suggested in  the literature of network analysis, too close and closed connections may  deteriorate the competence of the actors in the network, partly because  their action tends to be restricted and partly because they tend to get  less information from outside.  This study aims to reconsider the direction of the ongoing reform in  Japan based on those considerations. To clarify the characteristics of  the policy network in Japan, some comparisons are made with the case of  Sweden, where the financial authorities' bad loan management is regarded  as one of the best practices in the world.

 Paper 4: Mika Mervio, The University of Shimane. "Anthropocentrism in Japanese Environmental Politics:  Birds and Politics in Japan"

    The ecological thinking has remained rather undeveloped in Japan. However, the environmental issues themselves have become more significant in Japanese politics, although the predominant approach tends to be quite anthropocentric. The Japanese state woke to environmental protection and conservation only after the World War II, and we have give a full credit to the environmental activism for pressuring the authorities to become more active in bird protection measures and, for instance, in developing more adequate environmental impact assessment procedures and in implementing the anti-poaching legislation.

   Ornithology in Japan has a history worth of respect dating back to the Meiji period. However, it took long before the ornithological research was brought to serve the aims of serious natural conservation. The Wild Bird Society of Japan (Nihon yacho no kai) was established in 1934 and nowadays represents well the community of Japanese birdwatchers but it has seen many difficulties before becoming the most important organization of birdwatchers in East Asia.

   Since Japan is a populous, industrialized and mountainous country, the environmental destruction has divided quite unevenly between different habitats. The richness of biotopes in Japan has made it possible for some 550 bird species to be found in Japan. However, loosely regulated hunting and disappearance of habitat have in many cases had a dramatic impact on the numbers of bird populations. In some cases of birds living on the verge of extinction there is, at least, massive popular interest in their struggle for survival, the most noteworthy example being the media circus around the Crested Ibis (toki, Nipponia nippon).

   The fiercest bird related disputes are connected with the wetland conservation. Since many of these habitats are well-suited for rice farming, most have been reclaimed already a long time ago (especially the once so widespread marshlands). Many of the silt areas have been reclaimed and layered with concrete only in recent years in the name of flood control and growing needs of expanding cities. Many of the best birding sites in Japan, including the great wader spots, are close to the big cities and their large bird watching communities. The bird protection disputes of the 1990s are largely confined to these locations.

   In my paper I examine more closely some of the burning issues in Japan. The dispute of the Isahaya Bay ended in the reclamation of the largest remaining tidal flat (3000 hectares) in 1997. The process, however, created an unforeseen public outrage in Japan and has permanently changed the atmosphere of environmental debate in Japan, which became obvious in the so-called Fujimae case. The Fujimae silt covers what is left of the large silt formation off the city of Nagoya. The city administration planned to build a garbage dump on the location of the most important birding site in Japan, but a massive popular campaign and the involvement of the Environmental Agency were able to stop the plan. Yanbaru in the northern part of Okinawa Island is the training area under the control of the U.S. Marines and it has remained as one of the few areas where the unique nature of the Ryukyu Islands has been well preserved. Due to the base relocation scheme the habitat may soon become threatened. Among the species of Yanbaru there are such celebrities as the Pryer's Woodpecker (Noguchi gera, Sapheopipo noguchii) and Okinawa Rail (Yanbaru kuina, Rallus okinawae).