Monday, August 31, 2009

New Era Dawns with Japanese Election Landslide

Sometimes even huge stories get pushed down the news page as a result of a different ongoing media event. While much of the United States was focused on the high-profile laying to rest of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy this weekend, there was a political change of potentially gigantic proportions over in Japan. After more than five decades of almost uninterrupted rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, yesterday the Democratic Party of Japan won a landslide victory in Japanese elections, beating the LDP by a margin of 3-1 and capturing an outright majority in the lower house of that nation's parliament (it already controlled the upper house, albeit with the help of smaller parties allied to it).

There has been much talk in the media about what this could mean for Japan's relationship with the United States, as well as how the DPJ will carry out its promises to increase assistance to consumers, increase welfare, and end the cozy relationship between the government bureaucracy and big business.

But long-time Japan-watchers in the United States will likely also be looking into what this means for Japanese society and whether it is changing. On October 17, 2006, Michael Zielenziger, author of Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation, spoke to The Commonwealth Club that "Japan is an unhappy county going through a form of rebellion." He suggested that the country's rigid social and educational establishment had led to a group of lost young people who didn't fit in and who were ostracized by peers and the society at large.

It is a pity that Zielenziger's blog hasn't been updated since 2008. He's most likely very engrossed in the developments in Japan this week. But in the meantime, you can listen to the streaming audio of his Commonwealth Club program and see if it influences the way you see this week's big news from Japan.


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