Feelings about Japan depend on who’s polled, and where

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Public sentiment about the economy and the direction Japan is taking has improved somewhat since last year, according to a study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

But the way Asia looks at Japan and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is mixed, with highly unfavorable ratings in South Korea and China but Southeast Asia moderately favorable.

Meanwhile, the gap between young Japanese and other young Asians over Japan’s need to apologize for its wartime action is particularly wide.

“The public mood in Japan remains mostly one of dissatisfaction. Only a third of the public is pleased with the direction of the country, barely a quarter think the economy is doing well and just 40 percent are optimistic about the future, the Pew center said.

But while just 33 percent of Japanese are content with their country’s direction, that’s still 13 percentage points higher than last year, and better than the public mood in South Korea, Britain or France, and comparable to that in the U.S., it added.

Abe is seen favorably by 71 percent of the Japanese public, with no evident gender gap, generation gap, class difference or rural-urban split in his support.

Abroad, however, it’s a different story.

“Eight in 10 Malaysians and nearly as many Indonesians (79 percent), Australians (78 percent) and Filipinos (78 percent) see Japan in a positive light. However, anti-Japanese sentiment is quite strong in China, where 90 percent of the public has an unfavorable opinion of Japan, and in South Korea (77 percent unfavorable),” the center said.

Abe’s international image is mixed, with favorable ratings between 9 percent in China and 62 percent in the Philippines. His unfavorable ratings in South Korea and China were 85 percent.

“This may, in part, be a byproduct of Abe’s 2012 visit to Yasukuni Shrine, which includes homage to some of Japan’s Class-A war criminals,” the Pew center said.

Asked if Japan has sufficiently apologized for its military actions during the 1930s and 1940s, only 1 percent of South Koreans, 4 percent of Chinese and about 29 percent of Filipinos, Indonesians and Australians said yes. But among Japanese, almost half — 48 percent — answered in the affirmative.

“Such views are even more prevalent among young Japanese. Seventy-three percent of those aged 18 to 29 think Japan has already asked enough for forgiveness or need not apologize at all. The contrast with the views of other young Asians is quite striking. Just 3 percent of young (South) Koreans, 4 percent of young Chinese, 31 percent of young Indonesians and 36 percent of young Malaysians are willing to drop the issue of Japanese war guilt,” the center noted.

  • Stack Jones

    Er… What accurate information. Thanks!

    I did a poll of 187 adults in Japan (all Japanese), asking if they wanted Ishihara as their leader. This was way back before he, and Hashimoto were certified as insane. 185 said NO, most laughed. The JT did a survey too, 3 for and 3 opposed. That’s the greatest aspect of “journalism” you’ll always get fair and balanced reporting. (Don’t want to stir up any prospective advertisers.)

    Recently, I did a second poll asking 192 Japanese (planned 200 but the results were lopsided), if they supported Abe’s desire to strip Japan of it’s already abysmal free speech record, where the ever backwards looking “leader” wants to force all Japanese to salute the national flag, and sing the national anthem with gusto; an anthem that includes words that praise the emperor as a god (not at all unlike North Korea’s anthem). 192, ALL OF THEM were extremely opposed to any changes in the constitution. Curious what a JT poll would look like?

    These kind of polls never get posted anyway! The reality… Nobody in Japan supports Abe’s feigned non-existing economic plan, or any of his ridiculous ideas to set the nation back 100 years.

    An aside…

    The reason America wrote Japan’s constitutional clauses regarding free speech, and equal protection is because Japan’s leaders couldn’t even comprehend the concepts. They were given ample opportunities to write it themselves. They failed miserably, each time returning to those that had the power to keep their heads out of war crimes trial nooses, with the same antiquated laws that kept the emperor as god, and where there were no rights for women or foreigners. No equal protection, no free speech, no freedom of association. Enough was enough!

    Japan should be ashamed of the idoits they constantly vote into power.

    • Smokey Snaps

      It’s a Pew Research Center survey . . .

    • Spudator

      Thanks for a very entertaining post. Enjoyed it.

      The reason America wrote Japan’s constitutional clauses regarding free speech, and equal protection is because Japan’s leaders couldn’t even comprehend the concepts.

      Indeed. Because of America, Japan has a fine constitution that its citizens should feel proud of. And most of them probably do; your straw poll indicates as much. It’s a shame a minority consisting of right-wing, militaristic nut jobs can’t get over the fact that America defeated Japan so resoundingly in World War II and so, in their bitterness, view the constitution as something imposed on them by oppressors. If the war had gone differently, Japan could have ended up being occupied by the Soviet Union instead of the Americans; it would then have discovered the true meaning of oppression.

      The nut jobs really need to come to terms with the past and move on. Their predecessors foolishly took on a superior military power and deservedly got their butts kicked. The victors, instead of punishing Japan, gave it the precious gifts of freedom and democracy, and the country is now all the better for it. There’s no undoing the consequences of the war and going back to a glorious Japanese empire that never existed even though the nut jobs imagine it once did. But as you point out, these strange, bitter men who want to turn the clock back a hundred years keep getting voted into power.

      Living in Japan really feels like being on another planet sometimes.

  • phu

    The insider/outsider opinions here are actually very interesting; some are obvious at their roots, but the overwhelming majorities in some of the results are interesting. This article deserves a far better title; the current one actually made me laugh. Opinions about things vary from person to person and location to location? Holy crap, really?