Thoughts about the new Kan Government

Now that the Cabinet is taking shape, here’s what I think of the new Kan Government.

It looks like people who have been willing to be visible and to tackle some of Japan’s many issues seriously are being promoted. For example, Renho from right around the corner in Meguro Ward, is taking over all the portfolios that Mizuho Fukushima did little with. The new party chairman and the new Finance Minister are close associates of Kan.

Another guy I’ve been very positive about, Labor and Health Minister Akira Nagatsuma, stays on in the same role. Although some have taken pot shots at Nagatsuma (as “Mister Under Consideration” instead of “Mister Nenkin”), I think it’s clear that he was hamstrung by the structure of the Hatoyama-Ozawa DPJ. (I honestly don’t think those guys were letting him have his portfolio.)

The new Prime Minister expects to take up some bills in the next few weeks, which reports say means that the Upper House election will be delayed from July 11.

It’s not easy to conclude anything about the Japanese government until you actually see people in action, but it sounds like Kan is trying to get things out of this funk where nobody makes any serious decisions, and the popularity just sinks to 15%. Except with Koizumi, this is what has been going on since 2000, and you’d have to wonder–in a relatively tight community like Japan–that that’s not the formula for some later social disaster (like mass protests or mass riots).

People in this country love to sit around and buy time, not making decisions–especially people with power. But I think, even here, the breaking point gets reached. The bakufu (Edo era) had its long stable periods, but it also had its crises.

We will know if there really are any “seiken koutai” changes when we see which power groups start screaming about the changes and why.

[Update: Oops! Kyodo now reports that Renho will be the minister in charge of administrative reform, not consumer affairs. I guess consumer-cheating businesses of Japan can breathe easy again.]