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.”