June 4th, 2010
12:37 PM GMT
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Tokyo, Japan (CNN) – Every international journalist covering Japan has been talking about the country’s revolving door of prime ministers this week. But believe it or not, having a series of prime ministers who have all served a year or less is not so unforgivable by Japan’s electorate.

A more dangerous problem in this latest political upheaval is expressed by Maya Sugiyama, a 20-year-old commuter we met this morning. Sugiyama was heading into work, one of the many young people trying to make ends meet in Tokyo, the world’s most expensive city.

Japan’s young have a disproportionate rate of unemployment compared to their elders. They also feel the shrinking of the world’s second largest economy and in public opinion polls say they lack a sense of hope in a country rapidly aging and racking up the world’s highest debt-to-GDP ratio - a debt they fully expect they’ll be saddled with.

“Because the prime minister changes so often, I can’t trust anybody,” said Sugiyama. “They’re all the same. I have no interest.”

Yukio Hatoyama and his Democratic Party of Japan roared into power eight months ago, promising a change in the way the political business is done in the country. The DPJ promised more power to the people and less power to the bureaucrats; less political corruption and more political action. Voters felt it was a new dawn in politics for Japan.

But Hatoyama stumbled early, unable to contain the problem of relocating the U.S. military base in Okinawa. Eight months later, his poll numbers, which started at 71%, had fallen to 17%.

Voter let-down and the resulting apathy from Hatoyama’s fast fall is a much bigger problem, says Doshisha University Professor Noriko Hama, than the seemingly big problem of Japan’s revolving door of prime ministers. Professor Hama believes this is a critical time for democracy in Japan. Voters could become “so exasperated and so disappointed that they actually turn their backs on politics and no one goes to vote anymore,” warned Hama. “I think that would be the really frightening situation.”

Prime Minister Kan spoke at length and multiple times in the early hours of his tenure about regaining the public’s trust, eyeing the upcoming parliamentary elections in July. He knows what’s at stake for his party —that is clear. Analysts warn there’s also the bigger issue of keeping the public engaged in the political system, that in the last four years has only expanded the rift between it and its people.

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soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. fanta

    My Sons are married to Japanese and I have been visiting there for over 30 years. FRom what I can see, it seems China with it's aggressive economic diligence is destined to become the new leader in Asia ! One of the major problems in Japan is that only a handful of un-elected, VERY rich old men run and control everything. This has been the way for generations. They own the choice land, the biggests industrys and corporations,etc. No one dares to disagree with them and all employees are righteously obedient,etc ! THis is why there are numerous homeless people everywhere these days, you only have to pass by Kawasaki on the train to see dozens of makeshift tarp tents,etc everwhere. It runs right through the society. The price of accomodation and foof is highway robbery and if you become sick you can empty your bank account just visiting the emergency room some $ 300.00 up !
    If you are a geijin (foreigner) you will never be equally accepted and if you have a well paid job even with a foreign company you will be resented ! It is a great place to live and work.....IF YOU ARE RICH !


    June 4, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  2. dump the US

    and join korea and china for a better century.

    June 4, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  3. William Ishiwata

    I agree with Prof Hama, the youth in Japan can't trust the elders. The politicians are 2 generations removed for the most part, a lot of the power players in the parties are over normal retirement age.

    Those in their 20s get worked ragged (if they opted or got a full time job) the "freeters" and "neets" on the other hand , barely scrape by and by the time they are mid 30s they can't even consider having a family without full time employment.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:47 am |
  4. John HOPKINS (PhD)

    Your 'news item' is deeply flawed. Tokyo is NOT the most expensive city in t he world–by a long shot. There is NOT one 'US base' in Okinawa, but a large number of separate facilities (see below).
    Do your newshounds: 1, really live in Japan?; 2, speak FLUENT Japanese?; 3, hold a Japanese university degree? If they lack even one these things, they are NOT qualified to make pronouncements on Japanese society and culture.

    Kadena Air Base
    Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler
    Marine Corps Air Station Futenma
    Camp Courtney
    Camp Foster
    Camp Hansen
    Camp Kinser
    Camp Mctureous
    Camp Schwabb
    Northern Training Area
    Naha Military Port
    Naval Facility White Beach
    Naval Hospital, Okinawa
    Torii Station

    June 7, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  5. A Regular Joe

    In the forseeable future, Japan will be facing a lot more political and economical challenges resulting directly from American spying mission deployed in Japan. They see Japan's mainstream's growing concern for American Base and it's relocating is not in their favor. Anyway, Japan knows how to eliminate those American spy agents in and their operatives engaged in staging polical unrest, economical disaster and the like in Japan. Unfortuantely, Japan's Government will cave in to America's presure and actively help America to cause political and economical troubles until the time comes when its mission is completed.

    Some Possible solutions: Keep an watchful eye on every American. British and an Israeli in Japan. Arrest them for questioning if necessary but with respect and dignity, not like those savage in Israel.

    As a matter of fact, in the near future, the rest of the World will have to adopt this foreign policy to toward America, UK and Israel to keep their individual country safe from them. Russia and China are the only hopes for the rest of the world.

    June 7, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  6. Not a Regular Joe

    @ A Regular Joe: What you are describing is a fascist police state. I'm moving there in August for civilian work and I can only hope that your idiotic suggestion does not gain traction. Japan is dependent on the US for military support, as REQUIRED by their federal Constitution and treaties with us. If they want to amend that out, that's their business, but don't pretend the US military presence is completely about power projection, even if that's what the US gets out of it.

    June 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  7. Average Joe

    Wow, lets be honest. If you feel that Russia and China are the best hope for humanity, then there is little hope. That being said, you are correct. American should take all of its military facilities off foreign soil. People don't want our help, don't appreciate when they do, and we simply can't afford it any longer.

    However, you better hope they are not replaced by Chinese or Russian facilities, as their history is less, shall we say, peaceful. Regardless, the US does not need to be, and should never have been, and occupier of countries, whatever your definition. "Beware of foreign entanglements"! Nicely said.

    June 8, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  8. Jackie Jackson

    Listen John HOPKINS, if reporters would be required to live in the country they report about and speak the language of the country they report about, we would not know anything about North Korea, Afganistan or Iran.

    June 8, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
  9. coke

    @Fanta: This describes South Korea as well, except for the homeless people and emergency room expenses...

    June 9, 2010 at 11:43 am |

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