Cablegate: Daily Summary of Japanese Press 03/20/08

DE RUEHKO #0760/01 0800827
P 200827Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A



(1) Vacancy in BOJ governorship (Part 1): Japan may be unable to
send governor to G-7 in April; Concern that international confidence
in Japan will decline (Tokyo Shimbun)

(2) Editorial: Mr. Fukuda, the situation is more serious than you
think (Asahi)

(3) Dispatch Box: I want to believe that politics is now before dawn

(4) Fukuda stresses need to create consumer agency with strong
authority (Yomiuri)

(5) Poll in Iraq: Support for Prime Minister Maliki doubles to 40

(6) Thinking of whales while enjoying whale dishes (Mainichi)


(1) Vacancy in BOJ governorship (Part 1): Japan may be unable to
send governor to G-7 in April; Concern that international confidence
in Japan will decline

TOKYO SHIMBUN (Page 1) (Full)
May 20, 2008

An atmosphere of tension swept across the main office of the Bank of
Japan (BOJ) in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, yesterday, when Governor Toshihiko
Fukui's term of office expired.

The House of Councillors, which the opposition bloc controls,
rejected the government's nomination of Koji Tanami, a former vice
foreign minister, for the BOJ governorship in its plenary session
held yesterday afternoon. As related persons had worried since the
opposition voted down the government's first nomination of Deputy
BOJ Governor Toshiro Muto for the post, the top BOJ post has been
vacant since yesterday.

The BOJ sent to the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank (FRB) and other major
central banks on the phone or in writing the message that "Mr.
Shirakawa now serves as acting governor" after the expiration of
Fukui's term.

This is first time in 85 years, since September 1923, for the post
of BOJ governor to be left vacant. At that time, the vacated seat
was filled only two days later. This time, however, the leadership
vacuum at the central bank was caused as a result of political
strife in the politically divided Diet situation, prospects for the
situation to return to normal are nowhere in sight.

The central banks of other industrialized countries have set a
mechanism under which the incumbent will stay on if a new governor
is not selected even after the incumbent's term ends, from the
viewpoint of crisis management. That is because the central banks
deal with the global market that is in operation on a
round-the-clock basis. The current situation in the BOJ is quite
unusual internationally.

If the current situation continues for a while, the BOJ will face a

TOKYO 00000760 002 OF 010

major trial at a meeting of Group of Seven (G-7) finance ministers
and central bank governors to be held in Washington in early April.
Since there is no precedent in which an acting governor's
participation was approved as the central bank representative, Japan
may have to give up sending anyone from the BOJ.

A senior Finance Ministry official said with a serious look: "If the
governor of one nation is absent, its finance minister will explain
the nation's monetary policy. In such a case, though, there will
inevitably be a limit. There is the possibility that no probing
discussion will be conducted, with the finance minister just reading
a prepared paper."

The focus of attention at the upcoming G-7 will be on how to ready a
coordinated action plan under the lead of the U.S. to deal with the
U.S. subprime mortgage crisis. Great expectations are placed on the
roles to be played by the central banks at the meeting. Former FRB
Chairman Greenspan contributed an article to the British newspaper
Financial Times last month, in which he labeled the monetary market
turmoil set off by the subprime loan problem as "the largest single
crisis since the end of World War II."

The BOJ has started work to coordinate views with countries
concerned to enable the acting governor to attend the G-7. But the
possibility is growing that the BOJ will be left out of discussion
at an unprecedented crucial time.

Hugh Patrick, a professor at Columbia Business School and a
specialist on the Japanese economy, said that the BOJ leadership
vacuum will "result in sending to the world the message that the
Japanese government has become so weakened that it remains unable to
make an important judgment on economic policy." He added: "Japanese
politics is like a Kabuki performance. One cannot understand what is
going on behind the scenes and what negotiations are being carried
out." Professor Patrick then gave this advice: "I would be advisable
that Japan appoint a new governor prior to such an important
international conference as the G-7."

Deputy Governor Masaaki Shirakawa, who serves as acting governor, is
the best theorist in the BOJ and is also well known internationally.
A senior BOJ officer said: "He has to demonstrate that he can do
things without a hitch under this situation." But he angrily said
that the vacancy in the BOJ top post will deal a serious blow to
Japan, because its state governance will be questioned."

The international confidence of the Japanese central bank will be
significantly undermined. The situation will be worsening every

(2) Editorial: Mr. Fukuda, the situation is more serious than you

ASAHI (Page 3) (Full)
March 20, 2008

The top seat of the Bank of Japan is now vacant, which is an
unprecedented emergency, especially at a time when the global
economy is being shaken.

A direct cause of the leadership vacuum at the central bank is the
rejection of the government's nominations for the new BOJ governor
by the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and other

TOKYO 00000760 003 OF 010

opposition parties. In the House of Councillors plenary session, the
opposition did not approve the nomination of Koji Tanami, a former
vice finance minister. However, the main cause lies in Prime
Minister Yasuo Fukuda's bungled handling of the nomination issue.

Although the DPJ's conduct was inappropriate, Fukuda is to blame for
failing to get approval of his nominees from the opposition. The two
nominations for the new BOJ governor were rejected due to his lax
approach to the problem.

The political situation has been in shambles for the entire six
months since the Fukuda government came into office.

For about three months after he took office, Fukuda spent most of
his energy on continuing and resuming the Self-Defense Maritime
Force's refueling operation in the Indian Ocean. He has been
striving hard to retain the current provisional tax for gasoline and
road-related taxes. But politics has not kept pace with his

Although only ten days are left until the end of the current fiscal
year, when the issue of revenue sources for highway construction is
hoped to be resolved, consultations on a revision of the
government's drafted bill have yet to begin. Fukuda said that he
would not interrupt the daily lives of the people, but the
possibility is strong that gasoline prices will drop in April 1 when
the terms of the provisional tax rates will expire. Does the prime
minister plan to hike those tax rates again by using the ruling
coalition's majority in the House of Representatives? He will likely
make the same mistake as he did when he nominated candidates to
serve as the new BOJ chief, saying: "It is unacceptable for the BOJ
helm to be left vacant."

Fukuda may want to say that the opposition camp, which has tried to
stand in his way in the Upper House, should take the blame. However,
he should have had the desire to overcome such situations when he
took over the government helm.

It is only natural that Diet business is not proceeding as smoothly
as it did before since the ruling parties do not control the Upper
House. The Fukuda government cannot make decisions in a flexible

The largest opposition party also is in turmoil. DPJ President
Ichiro Ozawa tried to form a grand alliance with the ruling Liberal
Democratic Party, but he has now locked horns with the ruling
coalition over various issues. One of the reasons for getting the
appointment of the new BOJ governor complicated is that the DPJ did
not easily reach consensus on the issue of whether Muto should be
promoted to the governor's post.

Why did the Japanese politics become such a mess? Many people might
think that a Lower House dissolution and general election would be
the only way to break the present political stalemate.

On the day when the Fukuda cabinet was inaugurated, we wrote an
editorial titled "Proposal for Lower House dissolution in January."
The point of the editorial was that the prime minister would not be
able to manage politics with confidence unless he established the
legitimacy of his government by asking the people's vote of

TOKYO 00000760 004 OF 010

We wrote the editorial because we felt a fear that politics would
come to a standstill. Our fear has turned into reality. The
international community may be disappointed at Japan more and more.
The prime minister should face squarely the seriousness of the

(3) Dispatch Box: I want to believe that politics is now before

MAINICHI (Page 2) (Full)
March 20, 2008

By Masao Yora, Mainichi Shimbun commentator

Public opinion on former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is still
divided. I think, however, the reasons the Koizumi government had
remained in power such a long time were that its consistent public
support and that the ruling and opposition parties feared the
unpredictable and eccentric prime minister might dissolve the House
of Representatives.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who has common sense, has been in
trouble, because he lacks two factors. The public support rates for
his cabinet have remained low. Both ruling and opposition camps are
confident that Fukuda will not be able to dissolve the Lower House
for the time being. For example, the main opposition Democratic
Party of Japan (DPJ or Minshuto) was able to reject the government's
candidates for the new governor of the Bank of Japan because the
largest opposition force believed that Fukuda would not dissolve the
Lower House.

DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa also lacks visibility in his party. He
had initially gone along with the government's nomination of Toshiro
Muto, a former administrative vice finance minister, for the BOJ
governorship, but he failed to convince party members, who have now
moved away from him.

Since the top leaders of the two parties have lost their grips on
their parties, the Diet has not decided anything, and the public's
anxieties about the economy will strengthen. I wrote in this column
last month that calls for a grand alliance from newspapers and
business circles would become stronger. However, it has now become
difficult to form a grand alliance (of political parties). I
strongly oppose the grand alliance notion. But political parties
have lost their energy to substantially move forward with politics.

Politics are now in a critical situation. Even though I want to
believe that politics will again move forward, what can I say about
what has happened to the Bank of Japan? There is no other way but to
rebuild politics by letting the voters have their say. Is this idea
overly optimistic?

(4) Fukuda stresses need to create consumer agency with strong

YOMIURI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
March 20, 2008

Prime Minister Fukuda stressed his determination last night to make
efforts to establish a new government agency separated from existing
government offices and tasked with dealing exclusively with consumer

TOKYO 00000760 005 OF 010

affairs. His determination reflects a call in a final report
submitted the same day by the Liberal Democratic Party's Research
Committee on Consumer Issues, chaired by Seiko Noda. Replying to
questions by reporters at his official residence, Fukuda said: 'It
is necessary to establish a government office that considers things
from the consumer's viewpoint."

The government's Council for Promoting Consumer Policy, composed of
experts, has discussed a new organization since last month. The
panel plans to come up with a conclusion on specific functions of
the new agency and other details possibly in May, based on the final
report and a report with recommendations to be submitted later this
month by the Council for National Consumer Affairs, an advisory
panel to the prime minister.

The prime minister said: "The policy direction shown in the final
report is similar to my own thinking." He then indicated that
powerful authority should be given to the new body, saying: "It is
necessary to set up a body with such powers as collecting
information, making policy plans, and issuing an instruction to
other government agencies if necessary."

The final report of the Research Committee on Consumer Issues called
the new body an independent-type "consumer agency" and proposed
providing the agency with great authority, including powers to (1)
make an on-site inspections into entities whose products caused
accidents; (2) confiscating the profits improperly earned by vicious
entities; and (3) urging other government agencies to correct their
practices. Regarding consumer affairs centers in local areas, a
number of local governments have reduced the scale of the centers,
reflecting their austere financial conditions. Given this, the
report proposed reinforcing their functions, including budgetary
allocations and the number of personnel.

(5) Poll in Iraq: Support for Prime Minister Maliki doubles to 40

ASAHI (Page 1) (Full)
March 19, 2008

Yasunori Kawakami, Samawah, Iraq

More than 70 PERCENT in the southern Iraqi province of Muthanna
support Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and his administration, the
Asahi Shimbun found from its public opinion survey conducted there.
In addition, the survey also found that the proportion of those who
think Prime Minister Maliki is appropriate as "government leader"
has doubled as compared with the last survey taken in August 2006.
The survey was conducted in Muthanna only. However, it shows that
the Maliki administration has now consolidated support and is
becoming stable in Iraq's central and southern parts, whose
population is mostly Islamic Shiite.

In the survey this time, respondents were asked about public
security in the province of Muthanna. In response to this question,
a total of 99 PERCENT answered that it was "good." In the summer of
2007, former Muthanna Gov. Hassani was assassinated. After that,
police and security forces controlled by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi
Council (SIIC), to which Hassani belonged, clashed with the Mahdi
militia led by Muqtada al-Sadr. The police currently set up
checkpoints all over the southern Iraqi city of Samawah to contain
Mahdi militants.

TOKYO 00000760 006 OF 010

Respondents were also asked who they thought was appropriate as
their nation's leader. In response, 40 PERCENT picked Maliki, who
was at 18 PERCENT in the last survey. In the survey this time,
former Iraqi Prime Minister Jafari was at 30 PERCENT . In the last
survey, Jafari was at 49 PERCENT , topping all others. In the latest
survey, however, Maliki topped Jafari. Meanwhile, Sadr was down from
14 PERCENT to 6 PERCENT . These figures can be taken as reflecting
a decline of the Mahdi militia's influence and a growing trend of
the public's stability-oriented mindset.

In the latest survey, respondents were asked to compare their daily
lives with the prewar situation. To this question, 29 PERCENT
answered that things have improved very much. In the last survey,
their proportion was 23 PERCENT . Asked how their daily lives will
change from now on, 44 PERCENT said their daily lives will improve
very much, up from 28 PERCENT in the last survey. As seen from
these figures, more people are now optimistic about their
present-day and future situations.

When asked about serious problems, "no job" accounted for 53 PERCENT
, followed by "radical terrorism" at 35 PERCENT and "electric power
shortage" at 32 PERCENT .

When considering stability in the Shiite region including Muthanna,
the influence of Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem, who leads the SIIC, is a key
factor. The SIIC controls province governors, police, and security
forces in the central and southern parts of Iraq. However, only 3
PERCENT answered that they thought of Hakeem as a government
leader. That is because he does not have a widespread base of public
support. Hakeem is close to Iran, and Shiite people are strongly
prone to react against him.

Hakeem's low popularity shows that the Shiites in Iraq would not
move close to Iran even if the United States pulls its troops out of

Muthanna is situated between Najaf and Basra, which are the center
of religion and the center of commerce in Iraq's central and
southern parts. The 1920 riot against Britain's rule and occupation
started in this province. Samawah is essential to observe the
political situation in the central and southern parts of Iraq.

Questions & Answers
(Figures shown in percentage)

Q: What do you think about the Self-Defense Forces'
two-and-a-half-year deployment? (One choice only)

Very good 37
Generally good 42
Not very good 6
Not good at all 7

Q: How were the SDF activities? (One choice only)

Very helpful 38
Somewhat helpful 39
Not very helpful 7
Not helpful at all 8

Q: What was helpful? (Only for those who answered "very helpful" and

TOKYO 00000760 007 OF 010

"somewhat helpful" to the foregoing question. Up to two choices.)

Medical support 59
Water supply 38
Road repair 26
School, facility repair 51
Electric power supply 18
Employment promotion 8

Q: Why was the SDF not helpful? (Only for those who answered "not
very helpful" and "not helpful at all" to the foregoing question.
Only one choice.)

Results short of expectations 41
Results in specific areas only 27
Results for specific people or individuals only 20
SDF activities didn't meet local needs 11

Q: Was the SDF loved by local residents? (One choice only)

Very much 56
Somewhat 32
Not very much 3
Not at all 2

Q: Did the SDF's deployment make you change your view of Japan? (One
choice only)

Improved very much 40
Improved somewhat 34
Unchanged 18
Worsened somewhat 2
Worsened very much 4

Q: How is public security in Muthanna? (One choice only)

Very good 81
Somewhat good 18
Somewhat bad 0
Very bad 0

Q: Do you support the current government? (One choice only)

Yes 72
No 28

Q: Who do you think is appropriate for government leadership? (One
choice only)

Nouri Maliki 40
Ibrahim Jafari 30
Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem 3
Muqtada al-Sadr 6
Iyad Allawi 16
Ahmad Chalabi 2
Other answers 3

Q: How are your daily lives now as compared with the prewar
situation? (One choice only)

Improved very much 29
Improved somewhat 33

TOKYO 00000760 008 OF 010

Unchanged 24
Worsened somewhat 6
Worsened very much 6

Q: What about your daily lives from now on? (One choice only)

Improve very much 44
Improve somewhat 36
Unchanged 12
Worsen somewhat 3
Worsen very much 3

Q: What is the most serious problem to you? (Up to two choices)

Unemployment 53
Radical terrorism 35
Potential civil war 9
Foreign military presence 15
Rising crime rate 4
Rising prices 26
Housing 12
Water shortage 13
Electric power shortage 32

Polling methodology: The survey was conducted Mar. 13-15 in and
outside the Muthanna capital city of Samawah, in the northern
Muthanna city of Rumaythah, and in the southern Muthanna city of Al
Khodair, with 20 areas selected in each of these four regions. For
the survey, 20 pollsters visited houses with odd numbers on their
door plates. Voters aged 18 and over were chosen, and the one whose
birthday is closest to the survey date in each family was picked and
questioned. Answers were obtained from 1,215 persons, broken down
into 516 men and 699 women.

(6) Thinking of whales while enjoying whale dishes

MAINICHI (Page 2) (Excerpts)
Evening, March 19, 2008

By Taku Endo

Whaling is still a highly controversial issue. The Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society, a marine mammal protection group, even used
force recently against research whaling vessels. People must be
reminded that whaling is neither a political tool to be used in
disputes between countries nor a dish served up by environmental
groups. Eating whale meat has long been part of Japanese culture.

"We are not saying that we should catch all the whales. But price of
whale meat is still high, and the public is not convinced with the
government's eagerness to settle the issue (by resuming commercial

This comment came from Keiichi Kikuchi, 75, a local historian in his
studio in the city of Abashiri, Hokkaido, overlooking the Sea of

Abashiri is one of the five whaling bases in Japan that include
Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture and Wada in Chiba Prefecture. Japan
annually catches several Baird's Beaked whales, apart from research
whaling authorized by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
Unlike before and after WWII, there is no craze for whale meat today

TOKYO 00000760 009 OF 010

in Japan.

"When Japan accepted the IWC moratorium 20 years ago, nobody
imagined that it would last long -- this long. Whaling is

Striking a balance between traditional culture and natural
conservation is never easy. To Kikuchi, the Japanese government and
whalers seem too reluctant to take action against the international
anti-whaling movement.

Kikuchi and I headed for the city's No. 1 whale restaurant as part
of my assignment to write an article on whales, while enjoying whale

At the restaurant, we first ordered a raw whale meat plate including
slices of lean meat, jaw, tongue, and belly, followed by fried whale
meat and tailfin dressed with vinegar miso sauce. We also ordered a
pot with whale meat and vegetables in soup stock.

Putting whale meat into the pot, Kikuchi said: "Blubber tastes
exquisite. It's so mild that you can't stop eating it."

Minutes later, restaurant manager Masamichi Ishiguro, 41, came to
our table, and explained:

"To anyone who has never tasted whale meat, I would recommend lean
meat for starters. People generally think that whale meat has a
smell. That is not the case with our meat. We serve meat from minke
whales that were caught in research whaling. The meat today is
tastier than in the past."

The dishes at the restaurant were a surprise to a person like me who
had only tasted fried whale meat on school lunch menus. Cooked whale
meat tastes like venison, and raw whale meat resembles tuna or

Kikuchi said cheerfully:

"Tasty foods are readily available today, so whale meat may not be
appealing to young people who are accustomed to fatty foods. But I
want people to be able to enjoy whale meat, which is really tasty,
without reserve."

Activists aboard anti-whaling vessels of the Sea Shepherd group
recently attacked research whaling ships in the Southern Ocean.
Japan hosts this year's G-8 Summit in July in the Lake Toya
hot-spring resort area in Hokkaido. Are some anti-whaling activists
going to come all the way to Hokkaido? Mr. Ishiguro categorically
said: "We have never experienced any harassment or trouble, and we
are going to run business as usual."

Even after returning to Tokyo, I clearly remembered Mr. Ishiguro's
words, "Whale meat today is tastier than in the past." Is it true? I
asked Toshio Nukui, 57, of Kyodo Senpaku, which sells meat from
whales caught in research whaling.

"A sense of taste of those who ate whale meat in a food shortage and
that of young people today is different. Whale meat today should
feel tastier than in the past to those who ate whale meat in such an

TOKYO 00000760 010 OF 010

The reason is because whale meat is frozen quickly today. Every
whale caught in research whaling is slaughtered within two hours and
frozen speedily. Frozen meat is also thawed out slowly so as not to
produce meat juice.

Nukui also noted:

"In the past, supplying meat was top priority and quality was
secondary. So there was meat that was sinewy or smelly on the
market. But today, we are very careful to provide meat that fits the

At present, the wholesale price of lean meat is 1,990 yen per
kilogram, and the quantity is limited. It is cynical to say that
prices are too high since the taste has improved.

The existence of whales carries special significance for the
Japanese people. When unilaterally told by foreign countries not to
catch whales, we would like to rebut that eating whale meat is part
of our food culture. At the same time, whale meat is not necessarily
indispensable for dinner tables in Japan. Many young Japanese people
have never tasted whale meat.

Sonoda Women's College Associate Professor Hisashi Hamaguchi, 52,
who has written many books, including Hogei no Bunka Jinruigaku
(Cultural Anthropology of Whaling), took this view:

"Whether to regard whaling as the culture of entire Japan is
controversial. There is no doubt that common wisdom has been handed
down for generations in some areas. In other words, whaling reflects
the diversity of Japanese food culture."

Whale meat, once highly valued as an important source of protein, is
now an expensive commodity. I fear that whale meat might disappear
some day. Hamaguchi does not think so.

"Whale culture exists only in whale-eating areas in the world.
Whaling technology and using whales as food are two sides of the
same coin. In Japan, too, whaling and food culture are likely to
persist for a long time."

In 2001, Hamaguchi had his students taste six whale dishes. A
majority said that all dishes were tasty. In fact, some 80 PERCENT
said that fried whale meat, whale meat boiled in soy sauce, and
whale soup were tasty.

"Many students think that whales are just for watching. But once
they taste whale meat, they recognize the existence of whale meat in
their food culture."

Young men and women today seem to have an aptitude to accept whale
meat as part of their food culture. The tradition of tasting whale
meat is alive in our culture, albeit quietly yet firmly.


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