Japanese politics: watching and waiting


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Japanese friends like to remind me of the saying frequently used in describing Japanese politics: 'one inch ahead is darkness'. This phrase has seemed particularly apt over the past decade or so as Japan has grappled with it longest recession since the post-war economic miracle began as well as suffered from the most fluid and incoherent period in politics since the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) first assumed office in 1955. No-one, least of all the Japanese themselves, seemed to know what would happen next or how Japan could extract itself from its problems. There certainly seems to have a been a rather grey colours to politics - and life - in Japan in the 1990s. Little wonder that the Japanese media has coined the phrase 'the lost decade' to cover this period. Yet, while my students might well have wondered whether there was any point is still studying about Japan (apart from its ubiquitous pop music, fashion and comics, that is), it is that very uncertainty which has helped to provide interest for Japan-watchers.

In my search for an alliterative title for my talk to the Japan Society of Hong Kong four years ago, I suggested that Japanese politics and policy-making could be characterized by a heavy reliance on 'managers, mandarins, and musical chairs'. Does that rather flip analysis still make sense.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages3
Specialist publicationThe Japan Society of Hong Kong 40th Anniversary Commemorative Volume = 香港日本文化協會四十周年特刊
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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