Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

"LDP lawmaker Nagaoka found hanged" read the Japan Times front page headline today. "Nagaoka who was serving his second term representing Ibaraki Prefecture's No. 7 district, was one of several lawmakers criticized by a magazine for changing positions on postal privatization, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's priority policy initiative. The magazine called Nagaoka a traitor for his actions... Nagaoka opposed the the bills in the ruling party's decision-making General Council but later voted for them in a crucial Lower House vote on July 5. The bills passed by a razor-thin margin of five votes." He left no suicide note and his wife had not witnessed any suspicious behavior.

Suicide is common in Japan and is sometimes considered even honorable. However, whenever I hear about these suicides that appear to benefit the establishment, I remember a conversation I once had with former chairman Shima of NHK. NHK is the public broadcasting organization of Japan, the largest broadcaster in the world (I think), and not privatized. I used to interpret for the late chairman and helped him set up his web site when he was ousted from NHK. I remember him telling me that half of the officially reported suicides were actually political murders/assassinations and that the corruption went all the way to the top. If I had heard this from anyone other than the chairman of the largest broadcaster, life-long political reporter and behind-the scenes kingmaker, I would have thought it was a stupid conspiracy theory. Coming from Shima it carried some weight. I do not have any evidence that this is true, and I realize this would be an irresponsible allegation, but those words spring to mind whenever I read, "Lawmaker found hanged. No suicide note. Lawmaker cast swing vote against controversial bill to privatize..."

"You have dishonored your faction and your family and you must take responsibility if you want to avoid consequences to you and your family," a voice in my head whispers... An offer that he couldn't refuse. This is called otoshimae in Yakuzaese. There is a crime in Japan called kyoyozai which makes it illegal for someone to say something like, "You SHOULD pay me money," with an implied threat. This law is to specifically prevent the exercise of this kind of indirect force.

Jiji Press notes in a separate article that if the bill doesn't pass the Upper House, Koizumi has threatened to dissolve the House of Representatives. If this happens, it is more likely that he will visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in mid-August to rally the votes of conservative LDP voters.

And some people ask my why I don't go into Japanese politics...


As much as hara-kiri is honorable, changing position re postal privatization doesn't really justify it. I read the same newspaper article this morning and also found it odd there was no note or any other sign that this lawmaker actually put the hand on himself. It smells. Were there other swing voters?

I agree. The postal system's assets in PSA's (postal savings accounts) total over 93 TRILLION (as in thousand billion) dollars. If you need perspective, that's about 13 times the size of the entire US annual Gross Domestic Product. On top of it, the only things that I've seen slimier than the average japanese politician live under rocks and aren't usually seen during the day...

The old-line LDP politiciansbent on maintaining the status quo around this issue have a considerable interest (to the tune of $93,000,000,000,000) in doing so.

Speaking of unexplained political deaths, remember PM Obuchi?

For a fun read on how the PSA money gets used by the LDP, pick up Alex Kerr's "Dogs & Demons" (ISBN 0809039435)

Dogs & Demons is an excellent book.

Be sure to give us more inside opinions on the latest political events in Japan. I have no idea how to interpute most of what goes on.

There is a good item on the banking issue at this address

I hope this guy who wrote it has taken some basic lessons in rope safety.

for those who dont know much about the Postal Savings thing here is a brief link

Shouldn't your post read "Lawmaker cast swing vote for controversial bill to privatize..." ?

You SHOULD go into politics.

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