Mr. Aso embarrasses Japan again

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, in part of a speech at a Tokyo symposium last Monday, called on politicians leaning toward revising the Constitution to learn from the teguchi (method) that the Nazi government of Germany used. Teguchi is a Japanese word that usually means a method a criminal uses in committing a crime.

In his speech, Mr. Aso also said he did not want debates on constitutional revisions to be done in a noisy environment. In his Friday statement, he retracted his reference to the Nazis as an example and said that it is highly important to discuss constitutional revisions in a calm manner.

Still, it was extremely inappropriate and careless of him to have referred to the Nazis’ method in connection with discussions on constitutional revisions. All the more so because he is a former prime minister. Some countries might use his remarks for the purposes of anti-Japanese political propaganda.

Worse is the possibility of creating the perception in the international community that a leading Cabinet member of Japan has ideological affinity with Nazism — or even the perception that Japan at heart is the very crucible for ferocious totalitarianism.

In an earlier part of his speech, Mr. Aso called attention to the fact that Adolf Hitler took power not through military force but through an election. He seems to be warning here that totalitarianism can be born out of democracy. But toward the end of his speech, he said: “Let’s do it quietly. One day suddenly (people) noticed that the Weimar constitution had been changed into the Nazi constitution. The change was made while nobody noticed. How about learning from this teguchi?”

Apart from mistaking facts related to German history, Mr. Aso seems to recommend that the forces pushing for constitutional revisions should try to achieve their goal by using a sly and secretive method that keeps people in the dark about changes to the Constitution — the total denial of a democratic process.

Protesting against his remarks, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, asked, “What ‘techniques’ from the Nazis’ governance are worth learning — how to stealthily cripple democracy?” His comment seems to be right on the mark.

By having the Reichstag pass the Enabling Act on March 23, 1933, the Nazi Cabinet gained the power to enact legislation, including laws not conforming to the Weimar constitution — said to be the most democratic constitution in those days — without the consent of the parliament. The constitution was not officially repealed but was completely ignored.

Following a fire set in the Reichstag building on Feb. 27 that year, the Nazi government arrested all Communist and some Social Democratic deputies expected to vote against the act. One wonders whether Mr. Aso wants to emulate this example.

Japanese leaders cannot be too careful about making comments on historical issues. In April, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Diet, “There is no definition of aggression, academically and internationally.” Such remarks by Mr. Abe, and now Mr. Aso, could create the impression in the international community that Japan has not learned the right lessons from its past militarism and has failed to uphold democratic principles. Mr. Abe and Mr. Aso should realize that if other countries come to perceive that Japan is the odd man out who does not share important democratic values with them, it will cause irreparable damage to Japan.

  • 思德

    What I wonder is, what do the people who voted for these guys think?

    • echykr

      These guys only form like 46% of the electorate that bothered to come
      out to vote, in a turnout of 59%, a new low for Japan. Do the math and
      you’ll realize the LDP only has 26% mandate out of the whole of Japan.
      i.e. Only 26% at best support the amendment of the constitution into

      This makes more sense as so far, none of my classmates in the college I
      attend in Tokyo remotely resemble anything like these nationalist

  • matsuda

    Deputy Prime Minister Aso said that the media had reported his words incorrectly and his true intension was not informed. But this is not the matter of misunderstanding. He really thinks that the method of Nati, which made Weimarer constitution invalid, is effective. We can learn it easily by listening to what he said in his speech with video.
    The world will not think that Japan’ cabinet is sensible if Aso is a member of the cabinet. Prime Minister Abe should take appropriate measures to retrieve the trust of the world.

    • Toolonggone

      Yes. He openly suggested that the government manipulate the language of Japanese constitution in a manner that the previous German fascist regime did in the past: “the change was made while nobody noticed.” Regardless of his intension (whatever it is), Aso gave much credit to the Nazi for sneak tactic that allowed them to manipulate the national law. Abe and LDP leaders are all for keeping their national profile under the hat. There’s no misunderstanding for that.

      • rayrega

        It seems you guys are also victims of the media’s biased reporting. Or perhaps you know it’s biased, and simply want to use the opportunity to spread anti-LDP propaganda.

      • Toolonggone

        The only fault you can find for media’s bias is the label of Nazi reference, but not for party’s ulterior motive. Aso made it very clear that it is his party’s approach to manipulate constitutional language in his full speech. His motive is quite revealing with his words that illustrate disingenuousness to the general public.

      • Dan Li

        Is it not plausible that Aso was employing sarcasm in his remarks? He seems to focus more on the economy than on the Constitution or anything else, and may think the issue is lost amongst all the debate.

  • Just as I supposed to, I couldn’t have got his actual point of view in several times reading of its original colloquial text.
    It’s not for Aso to be expected to make any logical speaking in the first place.
    Since he’s never a logical man, nor entitled to make a speech in public.
    In order of appearance,
    “Nazi came up from a decent election system not from force(←justifying Nazi?)”
    “But, what is important is, Nazi kind of thing is able to appear even from a decent constitution system(criticizing Nazi? or criticizing Weimar constitution?)”
    “We’d like to revise the Constitution”
    “But, it depends on the represented people you vote, or their knowledge, or behavior, to decide how to run a new Constitution(what did he wanted to say? it’s going to be A-OK if the represented are good people? or it doesn’t matter what constitution we have?)
    “We want to change the Constitution quietly”
    “The means which Nazi used is very available, why don’t we learn from them?”

    Makes no sense as always, at least, maybe he wanted to say “Let’s do it very quietly, in calm, before someone started to argue”, I guess.
    A man making no sense can be a deputy PM, which is how our country would be.

  • rayrega

    The problem is with the mass media. They’re going out of their way to try to make Mr. Aso sound as if he was holding the Nazis up as an example to follow. When taken in context, what he actually said was the opposite of what the media reported him as saying. What he actually said was that constitutional revision should be carried out in a calm and composed manner and not in the midst of tumult so that what happened in the case of Germany’s Weimar Constitution will not happen in Japan. The people listening to him understood his humor and irony and didn’t have a problem with what he said. A friend of mine was there attending the conference. The media was there, too, waiting for Mr. Aso to say something that they can construe as a “gaffe”. Below is what Mr. Aso actually said, translated from the audio recording of his speech:

    “On April 28–I cannot forget it–April 28 in the 27th year of Showa, from that day, because it’s the day that Japan became independent–it was a Monday–I was taken to Yasukuni Shrine. It was the first time I visited Yasukuni Shrine as far as I can remember. From then until now when I’m old I make sure I go every year I think. And so it was like that and then you go there one day and suddenly–so much noise! When did they start making such a fuss about it? In the old days everybody went there in peace. Every Prime Minister went there. Since when did it become controversial? It’s the mass media, I tell you! Right? [Applause] It’s the same with the Constitution. Since when did they start making a fuss about it? And when they make a fuss, China too has to make a fuss, and Korea has to make a fuss! That’s why, I say, let’s do it calmly. And the Constitution, too, one day you notice, as I was saying about Germany, the Weimar Constitution, before you know it was changed and had become the Nazi Constitution. It had changed without anyone noticing it! How about we learn from their tricks, eh? [laughter from audience]. Without making a great noise, and everyone really saying ‘this is a good constitution’–it was with everyone’s agreement that that Constitution was changed, mind you! That’s why, in that sense, I don’t mean at all to deny democracy, but we should say again at this point that this thing should not be decided in the midst of hustle and bustle. That’s all I want to ask of you.”

    • Toolonggone

      Thanks for providing a full translated text for his speech. That makes it very clear about what kind of attitude and mindset Abe and LDP leaders are holding as their ideological doctrine. It’s too easy to shift entire blame on the media for nitpicking, but he’s definitely not the victim of this controversy.

      • rayrega

        By what sort of logic do you come to that conclusion, I wonder?

      • Toolonggone

        It’s called cognitive dissonance. Aso’s entire speech goes against the grain of accountability for transparency. That’s a huge problem to the public.

    • leaf

      > so that what happened in the case of Germany’s Weimar Constitution will not happen in Japan

      I read the translation but I don’t understand how you arrived at this conclusion. I understand that his main point of argument was to stop with all the unnecessary fuss, but he doesn’t seem to presenting the Nazi constitution in a negative light at all.
      I dislike the media for pouncing on every mistake someone makes so I understand your frustration, but in this case I’m just puzzled.

  • Sam Gilman

    Taro Aso needs to make up his mind. As a public speaker, either he is a comedian who has the freedom to play with irony, sarcasm and ambiguity, or he is a senior government minister of a major industrial power with a nasty recent colonial history. He can’t be both at the same time.

  • 장훈 주

    I feel sorry to JP due to they may not know who they are.

  • 장훈 주

    Do they concern any human future or democratic instead of power struggle? They might forget what is human trend.
    Why should we concern about these guys?
    But, I am worrying about a couple of loach may be able to disturb calm and peaceful pond.

  • Umbra

    When there is No Trust, there is Nothing