Japan. Uncertainty about how Japan's security policy
and sluggish economy would be handled led to the change of
prime minister in June. Naoto Kan became the country's fifth
head of government in just four years. Like his predecessor
Yukio Hatoyama, he came from the Democratic Party (DPJ),
which came to power after a landslide victory in the 2009
Kan's wife published a book titled: "In what way does
something get better with you as Prime Minister?" By the end
of the year, Kan's opinion support was only 23.6 percent.
Disappointed Japanese obviously shared her skepticism.
Japan has a population of 126.5 million (2018). Justice Minister Minoru Yanagida was forced to resign on
November 22. He was considered to have taken on his task too
easily by jokingly stating that troublesome issues can be
rejected in two ways: "I refuse to comment on individual
issues" or "The issue is handled appropriately".
Economic development remained weak. GDP growth for 2010
was 0.5 per cent. The interest rate was kept at 0 percent to
stimulate the economy. Government debt was astronomically
225 percent of GDP. The lack of dynamics helped China take
over Japan's second place in the world economy in August.
In the technical area, a disappointment was also noted:
Japan failed to get its space probe Akatsuki to orbit Venus
in December as planned.
One important reason for Hatoyama's fall was that he
failed to make his promise to move the US navy base from
Okinawa. The locals on the island have long complained about
the noise and crime caused by the US presence. But China's
and North Korea's military force demonstrations and US
resistance forced Hatoyama to retreat. In May, after a
meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he
declared it impossible to move the base.
Neither could Naoto Kan be able to push through the move
as the tension increased. On the contrary, he agreed with
the United States to strengthen military cooperation.
At Senkaku (Chinese Diaoyu), an island group that both
Japan and China claim, it was named until September 7. A
Chinese trawling boat collided there with two Japanese
patrol boats. The Chinese crew was arrested. China protested
and demanded damages. Japan released the crew but otherwise
refused to give in.
Some time after the incident, Japan was concerned by the
decline in Chinese exports of rare earth metals, important
for the production of IT items. However, China denied all
connection to the conflict.
In January, the environmental movement Sea Shepherd tried
to sabotage Japan's whaling around Antarctica. Japan catches
around 1,000 whales a year, officially for research
purposes, but the meat has been found in markets.
The country's consumption of bluefin tuna also worried
about environmental movements. This species's tender meat is
sought after for sushi. The tuna organization ICCAT decided
on November 27 a new quota, which pleased Japan when it
meant a moderate reduction.
Japan's dolphin capture was attacked in the Oscar-winning
documentary "The Cove". The film faced difficulties in
appearing in Japan.
2003 was marked by one long trade policy conflict with
the United States. The Bush government had imposed a 30%
duty on steel products, and it particularly affected
Japanese manufacturers. Japan's Minister of Commerce, Soichi
Nakagawa, threatened the United States to impose sanctions
on goods from the United States if the superpower failed to
comply with WTO decisions, setting November as a deadline.
It was only after pressure from the EU, China, Brazil, Japan
and several other countries as well as the WTO that the
United States lifted the disputed tariff on 4 December.
The same month, the Japanese government announced its
intention to set up a North American missile shield -
"purely defensive". This immediately sparked protests from
China, which had also protested in May, when the Prime
Minister declared during a Senate meeting that Japan's
self-defense forces were, in fact, "Japan's army."
In February 2004, the Japanese government decided to send
a contingent of "non-combatant" soldiers to Iraq. The move
was criticized by the opposition for being unconstitutional,
but the government adhered to a 1992 law and the deployment
of peacekeeping troops to Cambodia in the 90s. But the
broadcast was in fact the first deployment of Japanese
soldiers to a combat zone since World War II.
On August 9, 4 people died and about 7 were injured by
accident at the nuclear power plant Mihama 350 km west of
Tokyo. The accident happened when a leak occurred in one of
the plant's turbines, causing hot steam to flow out.
However, the authorities did not believe that a radioactive
leak occurred. The work had been built 30 years earlier.
Acc. the owner of the plant, Kansai Electricity Company, was
due to the release of steam that there was no water to cool
one of the turbines. The accident was the most serious since
the radioactive spill at the Tokaimura nuclear plant, 140 km
northeast of Tokyo in 1999, in which 2 people were killed.
The accident sparked renewed debate about Japan's dependence
on nuclear power, accounting for 30% of the electricity
supply. Opinion polls indicated that half the population
wanted the number of nuclear power plants in the country -
52 - should be reduced.
In October, the typhoon Tokage cost 48 people lives, 200
injured and dozens of missing. It was the most powerful
typhoon that had hit Japan in more than a decade. Tokage
reached wind speeds of 229 km/h and led to the evacuation
of thousands of people. The typhoon was weakened when it
reached Tokyo, causing only limited destruction before it
swung out over the ocean. But the southern part of the
country was hit hard. Schools were closed and public
transport canceled. About 1,000 domestic flights were
suspended, affecting 127,000 passengers. Tokage is the
Japanese word for lizard, and was the 10th typhoon to hit
the country in 2004. This year, typhoons cost a total of
over 150 Japanese lives.
In January 2005, the government appointed a working group
of academics and legal experts to assess a change to the
throne law that will allow Princess Aiko to become a throne
in three years. She is currently the only child of the
The publication of Japanese educational books that
diminished Japan's war crimes abroad in the first half of
the 20th century triggered in 2005 the worst diplomatic
crisis in relations with China for several decades. From
late March and through several weeks, tens of thousands of
Chinese took part in anti-Japanese demonstrations in several
Chinese cities. The crisis was compounded by Japan's attempt
to secure a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and
because of disagreements over the right to oil extraction in
the East China Sea.
At the September parliamentary elections, Koizumi's LDP
got a comfortable majority with 296 seats out of the
At the same time, the economic crisis triggered in 1998
as a result of the financial collapse the previous year
triggered a sharp increase in the number of suicides,
increasing from 24,000 annually to 30,000. In December 2005,
the government devised a plan to reduce the number of
suicides. The plan operates with a reduction of 8,000 over
the next decade. The plan sets out a wide range of services:
promoting psycho-educational counseling in the education
sector; increased awareness of mental health in the
workplace; building railings on the platforms of the train
stations with the aim of reducing the possibility of the
suicide candidate to jump out in front of a train; free
distribution of software filters that can filter the
internet guides in suicide from. In previous years, an
increasing number of Japanese had committed collective
suicides over the Internet.