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    Notes from Japan

    My news-gathering has been pretty lite this week, but Asahi has the results of its latest poll up, and they’re interesting as always–particularly this nearly-even split:

    Asked whether Koizumi should continue to visit Yasukuni, 38 percent of those polled said yes, and 39 percent said no.

    Japan’s neighbors have strongly criticized the visits to the Tokyo shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, including Class-A war criminals.

    Asked about China’s stance, about 30 percent of the pollees said it was only natural, while 57 percent did not think so.

    Those polled in their 30s and 40s were more opposed to Koizumi’s visits, while more than 40 percent of those in their 20s or 70s and older said the visits should continue.

    Among those who wanted Koizumi to continue his Yasukuni visits, nearly 60 percent said measures should be taken to win the understanding of the Chinese and South Koreans.

    What, one wonders, did the other 40 percent say? Tell China and Korea to stick it? There’s nothing much surprising about the age breakdown: those in their thirties and forties are the ones whose lives are most directly affected by the economic environment, and trade with China and Korea plays a major, major, major role in the current Japanese economy. People in their seventies remember the War; and people in their twenties, I suspect, just don’t see what the big deal is one way or the other.

    The poll also included questions about the Koizumi administration overall and the deployment of non-combat SDF personnel in Iraq specifically. Support/oppose figures haven’t changed much for those.

    Speaking of the Koizumi administration’s performance in domestic terms, the three-pronged reform package has been finalized, naturally in much less aggressive form than was originally proposed. The amount of tax yen that will ultimately be spun off to regional and local collection is smaller than it appears:

    Under the decentralization plan, the central government will transfer 2.4 trillion yen in tax-collecting authority-and thus spending-decision power-to local governments. But that figure falls short of the 3 trillion yen sought by prefectures and municipalities and includes 650 billion yen that has already been transferred in the current fiscal year.

    As the Asahi mentions further down in the article, Koizumi–no fool, he–did not huff and puff and waste political capital fighting for every last coin, or even every last 10000 yen bill. But I think the changes will have the salutary effect of having framed government spending questions in terms of how much should be entrusted to local authorities, rather than how many hands money can be made to pass through on its U-turn from the provinces to Tokyo and back again.

    30 November 10:29 EST

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