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Fumio Kyuma

Today, Fumio Kyuma resigned from his position as Minister of Defence for Shinzo Abe, finally succumbing to his terrible affliction of foot-in-mouth disease. It is unseemly for a minister representing Nagasaki to suggest that the atomic bombings were inevitable, just as it was unseemly for a cabinet minister of a US chief ally to criticise the US decision to go to war while his troops still operated with the US in-country.

However, in both these cases, was Kyuma necessarily wrong?

I don’t think so. In the latest case, Kyuma was stating only what we often here spoken in our own countries: the atomic bombings of Japan were necessary in order to save the lives of the invading Allies in the face of a Japanese government that just would not quit. Now, sure, Nagasaki is a more difficult case to justify, but apart from showing himself to be a poor politician, I believe that Kyuma’s slight against Japan’s victim-status has been overstated and overpoliticised. However, he seemed to lose the confidence of his constituency, so thus it is right that he should resign. As Kyuma himself put it:

“I have caused Nagasaki citizens a great deal of trouble, and since I don’t seem able to get their understanding, I feel sorry and I feel obliged to take responsibility by quitting.”

Yuriko Koike, previously Special Advisor on National Security, is to replace him. As Minister for the Environment under Koizumi, she created the Motte Nai campaign, and as Abe’s go-to girl on security, she has had a firm hand in elements of MoD affairs for a while now. She will make for an interesting change.

No doubt everyone already knows what I’m going to talk about, simply from reading the title: the propensity of Japanese politicians to say the wrong thing.

Some modern legends have been Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and current Foreign Minister Taro Aso, but it seems we have additional candidates popping up every week: Defence Minister Fumio Kyuma and Health Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa. Are these all just ham-fisted individuals? How did these people become politicians? Are they saying these things on purpose? Does this tell us something about Japanese politics? Is there a honne/tatamae distinction come in this? That is what I want to get through in this post…

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