Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Yoshiko Sakurai

【#565】Fill This Year with Good Chances for Japan

Yoshiko Sakurai / 2019.01.10 (Thu)

January 7, 2019

     Japan could fill this year with good chances depending on its own preparedness. Instead of being plagued with urgent problems that put Japan’s fundamentals into question, we can fill the year with good chances by tackling these problems dauntlessly. I strongly feel that Japan should determine its fate on its own.
     While the U.S. Trump administration is somewhat unpredictable, it is clear that Japan’s national security can no longer continue its dependence on the United States that has remained for about 70 years since the end of World War II. Japan should develop a more independent posture and become an indispensable ally for the United States. Under the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, I appreciate Japan has been gradually going in that direction. Fortunately, peace and security legislation three years ago expanded the scope of operations for the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
     However, whether we can change towards a truly independent nation depends on whether we can break away from the outdated exclusively defense-oriented policy and amend the constitution in the face of cyberattack and missile threats. This is the biggest theme for this year.

Japan becoming a normal nation in dealing with history issues
     History issues are also significant regarding the desirable course of the nation. These issues are closely linked to whether Japan as a nation can say what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. Over a long time, the Japanese government has refrained even from defending Japan regarding history issues. Even in the face of groundless denunciation, the government has repeated unilateral apology or remained silent. However, we have seen a sign of change from such bad habit at last. Regarding the issue of wartime Korean workers, Prime Minister Abe instructed five relevant ministries and government agencies at the beginning of the year to prepare countermeasures against South Korea.
     The issue has emerged since the South Korean Supreme Court made rulings last year against the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, an official agreement that the two countries signed over a half century ago. Abe’s instruction indicates a determination to prevent the problem from becoming a second comfort women issue. It is not easy to reverse the allegation spread in the international community that comfort women were sex slaves. Any issue should be tackled as soon as it emerges. Regarding the wartime Korean workers issue, the government has demonstrated its readiness to defend Japanese companies subjected to lawsuits in South Korea since the beginning of the issue. At last, Japan has shown a normal action of a normal country.
Ideal and real timing for announcing a new era name
     While believing that Japan as a democratic nation with deep traditions can demonstrate itself as a nation that is significant for Asia and the world, I was surprised a little to read an article on the Sankei Shimbun newspaper on January 5.
     The key factor behind the government’s decision to announce the name of a new era on April 1 before the new era begins upon the abdication of Emperor Akihito and the enthronement of new Emperor Naruhito on May 1 was that Microsoft Corp. of the U. S. would take time to update its Windows operation system with the new era name, according to the article. In consideration of annual book closing and tax payment procedures by hundreds of thousands of companies in Japan, the government has no choice but to announce the new era name one month before the enthronement of the new emperor.
     Priority has been given to the reality of the computerized society rather than an opinion based on culture and tradition that any new era name should be announced when a new emperor is enthroned. Such change comes inevitably. In this context, I determined at the beginning of the new year that we must be more conscious about how Japan should be and how Japanese people should be.

Yoshiko Sakurai is a journalist and President of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.