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Japan’s tabloids book front-row seats at the Trump circus

by

Special To The Japan Times

Donald Trump. And now that we’ve got your attention …

“Abe loathes Trump!” screamed the Page One headline in Nikkan Gendai on March 7. And indeed in the Japanese media, “The Donald” — who has harshly bashed Japan over such issues as trade and defense — has fast been emerging as the man they love to hate.

The first magazine article to appear this year with a Trump-related story was in the February issue of Sapio, which went on sale Jan. 4. Titled “How would a ‘President Trump’ deal with Japan?” former Yomiuri Shimbun journalist Tatou Takahama wrote that Trump has been masterfully exploiting Americans’ annoyance over their country’s decline as a superpower. And self-funding his campaign makes it possible for him to ride the wave of populism.

Tsuda College associate professor Masaru Nishikawa, writing in business magazine Shukan Economist (March 8), voiced similar views, noting that political currents in America are the result of the country’s undergoing a “major deceleration,” as reflected in reduced consumer spending, declining corporate performance and energy industry woes.

Nishikawa notes that while President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal brought about major changes after the 1932 elections, “the U.S. currently lacks a leader with new ideas and a clear vision, and there’s no political platform capable of forming a stable majority. The points that Trump is raising before the voters are no more than a list of inflammatory issues,” he adds.

As more politicians resort to over-simplistic broadsides in efforts to sway voter anger over the widening gap between the haves and have-nots, or the political status quo, Nishikawa voiced fears for the future of American democracy.

Even the heretofore politically tone deaf Shukan Jitsuwa (March 17) gets in on the act, running a two-page story under the headline “A compendium of candidate Donald Trump’s reckless remarks and verbal gaffes.” The article also astutely pointed out that Trump had been prophetically parodied in the 1989 sequel to “Back to the Future.”

Set in fictitious Hill Valley, California, in October 2015, “Biff” Tannen — the town bully who torments protagonist Marty McFly — has struck it rich, reveling in a decadent lifestyle from his 27-story tower casino, while Hill Valley had been transformed into a dystopian nightmare under the thumb of brutish hooligans. Biff even sported an extreme hair style. (In an interview appearing in The Daily Beast published last October, the film’s scriptwriter, Bob Gale, acknowledged that he’d modeled Biff’s character on Trump.)

Writing in Yukan Fuji (March 10), economic expert and author Hajime Yamazaki believes it’s entirely possible that something similar to the Trump phenomenon could be spawned in Japan. Former Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto was also a popular TV personality and is known for his straight talk, snapping at news reporters to “do your homework.” But as voters began tiring of Hashimoto his “consume-by date” expired, and his failure to develop a nationwide power base can also be attributed to his inability to muster a core of capable allies.

Still, if Japan were to drop its current party-driven system — as some have been advocating — and opt for direct election of prime ministers by popular vote, Yamazaki opines, “There’s sufficient possibility that the boom spurred by Trump might inspire rapid changes in the style of Japanese politics.”

But why stop with direct election of the prime minister? What America really needs is a Japanese president. In the short term, Weekly Playboy (Mar. 28) thinks it’s got the perfect solution to keeping Trump from getting elected this coming November: proclaim Japan the 51st U.S. state so that Japanese can vote against him.

It seems that during Diet discussions concerning the Constitution on Feb. 17, Kazuya Maruyama, an Upper House member of the Liberal Democratic Party, sarcastically raised the issue of Japan becoming America’s 51st state, which he said would still be better than its current status as a “vassal state.”

Seeing this as grist for its mill, Weekly Playboy embarks on a fanciful unfolding of this scenario, extolling the likely benefits of trans-Pacific unification. First of all, the U.S. population would jump to 440 million, of which Japanese-Americans would become the second-largest voter bloc after Caucasians. The combined GDP of the two nations would rise to $21.5 trillion, double that of second place China.

A tongue-in-cheek illustration envisages the new national standard, in which the 16-ray Rising Sun flag supplants 50 white stars; and busts of the same four American presidents who adorn Mount Rushmore are carved onto the slopes of Mount Fuji.

With Japan now part of a superpower, the Stars and Stripes will fly over the Senkaku Islands, hopefully settling that territorial dispute for good. Acrimonious trade friction? A thing of the past. America’s new “Big Three” automakers would become Toyota, Nissan and Honda. And best of all, perhaps, Hawaii would become a domestic destination, with no passport required.

Of course, there’s always a downside to such moves. For one thing, America’s Second Amendment would ensure every Japanese has the right to bear arms. Bilingual American TV personality Patrick Harlan — known to TV viewers by his stage name “Pakkun” — joked that “In the midst of an ongoing gangster dispute, it will become easier for the hoods to obtain automatic weapons. So local residents will have to be careful not to get hit by stray rounds.”

The pros and cons of such a union would undoubtedly raise a host of new problems. For instance, what would happen to Japan’s current system of universal health care? And would Japan, as a U.S. state, be drawn into the current mess in the Middle East, and with it, an even greater chance of being targeted by international terrorists?

At least one publication, Shukan Gendai (March 19), almost seems resigned to a Trump victory in November.

“He’s crude, but tough,” its article concludes, adding, “The prospect of a Trump presidency is gradually starting to assume an air of reality.”

  • tisho

    Japan is already a vassal state of the US.

    • Bernadette Soubirous

      Tishio, not so…The vassal in these cases is the ruler, rather than the state itself. A man may imagine things that are false, but he can only understand things that are true, for if the things be false, the apprehension of them is not understanding.

      • 151E

        - The Japanese constitution was chiefly written by Americans during the occupation.

        – Every year the Japanese state pays the US a large tribute or omoiyari yosan for the ‘privilege’ of hosting US forces.

        – Most observers agree that Japan doesn’t have a truly independent foreign policy, but instead takes its cue from the Americans. In fact, when the Japanese people elected the DPJ into power, bureaucrats charged with implementing government policy reportedly worked instead to undermine the newly elected government in deference to maintaing the status quo relationship with the US.

        How exactly then is Japan not a vassal state?

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        A vassal state provides military support to the dominant state. Where does Japan currently provide military support to America? Joint exercises don’t really count, I’d say.

      • 151E

        My understanding was that a vassal state (in broadest terms) is a state that is subordinate to another, with varying degrees of independence in its internal affairs but largely or wholly deferential in foreign affairs.

        True Japan has not provided fighting forces in support of America, but it does provide military bases and material support, and has provided logistical support for US force in Iraq and the Indian Ocean.

        Perhaps you’d be more amiable to the term tributary state or client state. Regardless, I feel the gist of tisho’s original criticism still stands.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Nope, because it is not a vassal state. Call it what you like, but that definition does not stand.

      • 151E

        I suppose I shall have to concede the point if you are really going to be that pedantic (despite Japan having provided modest military assistance though hobbled in its ability to do so under the US Occupation Forces’ imposed peace constitution). Still I think tisho’s intended meaning is clear if not entirely technically precise – Japan already acts much like an unofficial 51st state.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        No more than Canada does.

      • 151E

        Well, as far as I’m aware, Canada doesn’t host US bases and maintains a more independent foreign policy – having, for example, recognised PRC in 1970 (some 16 months before Nixon’s famous visit) and kept uninterrupted diplomatic and financial ties with Cuba after the revolution despite US pressure.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Meh, all the best to you. If you think Canada doesn’t kowtow to America, I guess I’ll leave that blindfold alone. It’s a different level of bowing than if America had bases in Canada (which would be the biggest waste of money ever, it being… next door), but Canada still loses a lot to “beneficial deals” with the U.S.

      • Bernadette Soubirous

        There are some US Air Force personnel stationed in Thunder Bay, Ontario. There are USAF military personnel working in some Canadian Forces bases as part of our NORAD system as Canada is a permanent partner for our shared defense of North America. We also have Canadian Forces personnel working in USNORADCOM down in Colorado Springs, CO. Canada and US have used their mutual bases for training their troops and pilots to conditions not available in their countries, ie: winter weather warfare in Cold Lake, AB to desert warfare in Fort Hood, TX.

      • 151E

        Yes, I’m aware of US and Canadian Forces close co-operation. That’s not the same as Japan paying to host foreign bases that many local residents oppose.

        Look, I’m pro-Japan on this. I support a Japan that can say ‘no’ and that can set its own foreign policy without fearing what the Americans might think. But as things stand, some 70 years after WWII, the relationship between these purported allies remains decidedly unbalanced, with Japan more closely resembling a tributary or client state than a fully equal partner. And that is what I suspect tisho was suggesting. If you feel otherwise, that Japan is a strong and equal partner in alliance with the US, I’d be interested to hear your reasoning.

      • Bernadette Soubirous

        Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has snubbed an appeal by U.S. President Barack Obama, who asked that he not visit Russia in May, sources close to Japan-Russia relations said Tuesday.

        Obama made the appeal by phone on Feb. 9, but Abe rejected it and will press ahead as planned with a visit to the Russian city of Sochi for talks with President Vladimir Putin, likely in early May, the sources said.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        A vassal state provides military support to the dominant state. Where does Japan currently provide military support to America? Joint exercises don’t really count, I’d say.

  • Bernadette Soubirous

    People please understand that Japan is an independent nation. The governments of Japan and America are an ally due to the Africanesque behavior of China. The point could be made that China is the 55th African nation seeing that China and the Chinese people are closely related / associated to the great people of Africa.

    • J.P. Bunny

      Person, please understand that the article was not meant to be taken literally. Check a dictionary if you know not what that means. “Sarcastically, fanciful, and tongue-in-cheek”, along with other over the top suggestions, were used in the sections of the article describing Japan as the 51st state, clearly stating the humorous aspect of the piece.

      • Bernadette Soubirous

        Pentalagus furnessi, good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.

      • J.P. Bunny

        I’m guessing that there is a coherent thought somewhere in your reply, but have not the time to waste searching for it.

  • Mesto Spb

    Trump is Biff Tannen

    • Bernadette Soubirous

      I disagree, Mr. Trump is more like John Galt. Could you be John Titor?

  • anon

    Japan will never become part of the union because of one simple reason, pride. The Japanese male can not accept any other rule other than Japanese. They wont’t even allow non-Japanese run their companies. The few companies run by foreigners rarely listen to “the boss” and operate as if they weren’t there.

    The only person that can defeat Trump is Trump.

  • http://nisekodesign.com/ miso

    While the article here is largely tongue in cheek, I’ve seen very little on their (already woeful) programming & coverage here that adequately covers Sanders; Masaru Nishikawa’s article that suggesting there’s no candidate to provide real solutions is hardly a surprise.

  • Paul Martin

    Well ask yourselves who needs who more? Without Americans buying Japanese cars, electronics,etc and protecting Japan from NK and China,
    (it’s US troops who would do the fighting) how would Japan survive?

    It’s NO secret the government do NOT like us Western gaijins but just tolerate us because they need us at this time, so why should America or any other Westerner give a damn about Nippon? (And this writer has lived here for years and has Japanese daughter in law and part Japanese grand children!)

    Bottom line like or hate Donald Trump, he may well be the next potus and much of what he says is absolutely tellin it like it is! He wants to make America great again, he is American NOT Japanese, Asian,etc so MOST Americans agree with him on many issues!

    • Steve Jackman

      As an American and a long-term resident of Japan, I often find myself asking the question, What has Japan ever done for the U.S?

      The U.S. for its part poured Billions of Dollars in financial and technical assistance to Japan in helping it rebuild itself after its crushing defeat in WW2. It then offered full and open access to American markets for Japanese products. This allowed Japan Inc. to become as successful as it did, even though, much of this success was based on taking apart American and European products and reverse engineering them. The U.S. continues to foot the bill for much of Japan’s defense needs, which has allowed the Japanese government to funnel more money to support and subsidize corporate Japan (this just provides more unfair competition to American companies)

      In return, I cannot think of a single thing that Japan has ever done for the U.S. Japan remains an extremely closed market for American products, its unfair business practices at home means that most American companies have been forced to either leave Japan or to severely cut back their operations here, Americans living in Japan are denied basic civil and human rights because of systematic racism and xenophobia, and anti-American sentiment remains high in Japan. The U.S.-Japan relationship is such a one-way street and so lopsided that America needs to wake up and realize that it has always been on the losing end when it comes to its interactions with Japan.

      • TokyoMommy

        Same here, American, long term resident of Japan. I have no less rights here as a permanent resident here than my husband had with a green card in the USA. Our taxes are cheaper, the health care is more afforable, the educational/day care is far more affordable, I rarely face violent crime here (living in the US, more sexual assults than I can count over my life time, cars broken into countless times, home broken into, constantly on the edge when even going outside at night, drugs, addicts and mentally ill people running the streets at all hours of the day). Nearly half my life living here, I have only experienced a fraction of that here, and in many cases Japanese have recovered anything that has been stolen or lost. But what has Japan done for the US? Well, Japan has been peaceful, it has become an ally which not only respects the US, but has, at times fallen in love with it, and in turn, many Americans have fallen in love with Japan. Japan has created friendship with the US, Japan has relaxed its import laws, Japan has created jobs in the US through tourism, using the US as its host country for thousands of students, Americans, for the most part are treated well in this country with few exceptions, and in some cases, those exceptions have actually been justified to a certain degree. Is Japan perfect? No, but neither is the US. Is it able to adapt everything to fit American principals? No, but it is working on it, and quite rapidly I may add. In 2 decades this nation has made exceeding progress but has also found that adapting to American standards is also devistating. Let me remind you….Ameican crime, drugs, violence, sexual assult and discrimination…has not exactly been an issue solved in the US either.

  • アニア(XITLALI)

    Japan… although it may have lost the war.. and not be the biggest military potency currently.. is still much older as a culture and people than America. It simply is a piece in the puzzle that is not part of the American puzzle. Although their constitution was written by Americans, their culture as a people did not break or die. And that was the fore ring test of time. And they passed it with flying colors and became the 3rd most powerful economy in a time span … I’ve yet to see another nation do. Character, culture, principles, morals, and heritage like that, are things that will simply not be thrown easily. They forgive but do not forget. And they surely won’t forget what is the good core that makes them. I think we could all learn from this and think what is the good core that makes us we in the most positive way?

    • Bernadette Soubirous

      Great Post!!!

    • Paul Johnny Lynn

      What on earth is a “fore ring test of time”?

  • アニア(XITLALI)

    Japan… although it may have lost the war.. and not be the biggest military potency currently.. is still much older as a culture and people than America. It simply is a piece in the puzzle that is not part of the American puzzle. Although their constitution was written by Americans, their culture as a people did not break or die. And that was the fore ring test of time. And they passed it with flying colors and became the 3rd most powerful economy in a time span … I’ve yet to see another nation do. Character, culture, principles, morals, and heritage like that, are things that will simply not be thrown easily. They forgive but do not forget. And they surely won’t forget what is the good core that makes them. I think we could all learn from this and think what is the good core that makes us we in the most positive way?

  • http://bckowalski.com BC Kowalski

    Actually, it’s “Back to the Future II” in which Biff Tannen becomes a Trump-like hotel/casino mogul.

  • TokyoMommy

    I have looked carefully at every single US candidate and let me tell you, I am completely baffled in this election. Is it because I am getting older or is it obvious to everyone else? Hillary Clinton: Lawsuit happy..sure lets sue the company every time a customer uses their product incorrectly or for the wrong purposes. That is going to create more jobs, more innovation, more creativity and more money…why dont we just sue banks for giving bad loans, after all they lost all that money because someone they helped start a business wasnt successful enough or scammed them, .so lets sue them for being scammed!! Bernie Sanders’ Nice guy really. Too nice. Sure, lets let everyone into the country that wants to come and let them stay and take jobs that we dont even have. Do they have money to pay for anything? No! But lets give it to them anyways. Lets let all the non violent criminals out of jail Yes..the scammers, the corporate criminals, the extreme drug offenders (the guys selling drugs to little kids), the folks that break in to homes, steal property, money launder, embezzle, They are non violent though after all? Why should they face any consequences? Republicans…Oh good God! Lets just give everyone a gun and have a shoot out! Yeah, good idea. No health care, just shoot em. That will take care of it.