Ships out at sea or troops in a war zone?

| Oct 23, 2007

Ships out at sea or troops in a war zone?

by Reiji Yoshida

The special antiterrorism law that expires Nov. 1 is the hottest dispute in domestic politics and could even determine the fate of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and his administration. The stalemate over extending the law led in part to Shinzo Abe’s resignation as prime ...

ODA shrinking but still key tool

| Oct 9, 2007

ODA shrinking but still key tool

by Setsuko Kamiya

Official development assistance is an important diplomatic tool for Japan, which relies heavily on other countries for resources, food and many other economic necessities. ODA is used not only to help developing countries pursue sustainable socioeconomic development, but also to combat global issues such ...

| Sep 11, 2007

Funds law no match for wily politicians

by Masami Ito

Almost every day it seems another politician is making headlines over a money scandal. Four members of embattled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet — administrative reform minister Genichiro Sata, and farm ministers Toshikatsu Matsuoka, Norihiko Akagi and Takehiko Endo — have been forced from ...

| Aug 14, 2007

The impact of Upper House president

by Hiroko Nakata

For the first time in the postwar period, the House of Councilors has an opposition lawmaker as president, 66-year-old Satsuki Eda. Here are some questions and answers as to why this historic event occurred and what the role of the president actually is: How ...

How Japanese tax-payers' money is lost in bid-rigging

| Jul 3, 2007

How Japanese tax-payers' money is lost in bid-rigging

by Reiji Yoshida

Every few years, politicians, bureaucrats and construction company bigwigs get embroiled in bid-rigging scandals — and the public’s faith in government sinks deeper. In bid-rigging, or “dango,” corporations ostensibly competing for a government contract ferret out the secret ceiling bid price. With that knowledge, ...

Crime victims get their day, say in court

| Jun 19, 2007

Crime victims get their day, say in court

by Masami Ito

The Diet is expected to pass a controversial bill this week to revise the Criminal Procedure Law to enable people victimized by crime to participate in trial proceedings. Despite concern by the legal world that courtrooms could become venues for revenge, the bill is ...

Headline-grabbing gun crimes mar safe image

| Jun 5, 2007

Headline-grabbing gun crimes mar safe image

by Akemi Nakamura

Japan, whose strict gun controls have long helped its image as the safest industrialized nation, has recently seen its reputation slip in the wake of headline-making shootings. Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito was gunned down by a yakuza during his re-election campaign on April 17; ...

'Amakudari' too entrenched to curb?

| May 29, 2007

'Amakudari' too entrenched to curb?

by Hiroko Nakata

The Diet began deliberating a bill this month aimed at curbing “amakudari,” the practice of giving retiring top bureaucrats lucrative jobs in private-sector firms and quasi-government entities in the business sectors they oversee. The notorious practice, literally “descent from heaven” — a phrase well ...

Opening the courts to ordinary citizens

| May 22, 2007

Opening the courts to ordinary citizens

by Setsuko Kamiya

In less than two years, when a new criminal trial system is introduced, citizens will be obliged to serve as “saibanin,” or lay judges. The general public in some 80 countries around the world already plays a role in their nations’ judicial systems, such ...

| Apr 17, 2007

SDF emerging as the military it truly is

by Kanako Takahara

The government has steadily expanded the activities of the Self-Defense Forces since the 1990s as the nation sought to play greater roles in international political and security affairs. Public perceptions toward the SDF have also changed in line with changes in the security environment, ...