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Timeline for September 2015

Security legislation is passed in the House of Councillors, record-breaking rain causes major flooding in the Kantō and Tōhoku regions, and Japan wins a historic victory over South Africa at the Rugby World Cup. An overview of the key news stories for September 2015.

Thinking about Okinawa (1): A Historical Perspective on the US Military Presence

Okinawa Governor Onaga Takeshi’s staunch opposition to the Futenma relocation plan has deepened the rift between the local and central governments. In the first of a three-part series, political experts shed light on the issues involving US bases in Okinawa, host to 74% of American military installations in Japan.

Okinawan Identity and the Struggle for Self-DeterminationShimabukuro Jun

Since Onaga Takeshi’s successful campaign for governorship of Okinawa last fall, “Okinawan identity” has emerged as a rallying cry for unified opposition to plans for a replacement facility for US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma inside Okinawa Prefecture. Okinawan political scientist and activist Shimabukuro Jun explores the meaning of Okinawan identity in a historical context, focusing on the postwar experience of “structural discrimination.”

Weighing Vote Disparity in Japan’s Upper HouseTakenaka Harukata

The House of Councillors has been criticized for being too powerful, undermining the policymaking efforts of the cabinet in a divided government and making Japan’s parliamentary democracy dysfunctional. It has also failed to heed the Supreme Court’s warnings to fundamentally rectify voting-power disparities between electoral districts. As a result, some are now beginning to question the legitimacy of the upper house.

Clock Ticking Down on Upper House ReformTsuchiya Hideo

The House of Councillors is currently in a state of unconstitutionality, and unless sweeping reforms are enacted quickly, next summer’s election will no doubt be judged to be unconstitutional.

The Rightful Role of the House of CouncillorsOyama Reiko

The House of Councillors, Japan’s parliamentary upper house, was once seen as a mere rubber-stamping body. But since 1989 it has been a stronghold for whatever parties are out of power, and as such has managed to stifle ruling-party legislation. Is there a way for Japan to overcome this dysfunctional situation?

A First Step Toward Reform of Japan’s Agricultural Cooperative SystemYamashita Kazuhito

The government has embarked on the first overhaul of Japan’s agricultural cooperative system in around 60 years. Yamashita Kazuhito takes a look at the history of this powerful institution—whose influence stretches beyond farming to the worlds of politics and finance—and ponders its future role.

Japan and South Korea: Time to Build a New RelationshipKimura Kan

In addition to being the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II, 2015 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the normalization of ties between Japan and South Korea. The half century since 1965 has brought major changes in international relations, and the old bilateral framework is no longer functioning properly. Korea specialist Kimura Kan offers an overview of the problems and some ideas for mending the relationship.

Lower House Election Provides Little Drama as LDP Stays in Power

The forty-seventh House of Representatives election on December 14, 2014, saw the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Kōmeitō retain their two-thirds majority in the lower house by combining to capture 326 seats, an unchanged number. The much-expected gains of the LDP failed to materialize as the party lost four seats, slipping from 295 to 291. Coalition partner Kōmeitō managed to…

Abe Cabinet Rocked by Double Resignation

The administration of Prime Minister Abe Shinzō was hit by the resignations of two high-profile women ministers on October 20. On Monday morning, Obuchi Yūko offered her resignation as minister of economy, trade, and industry in connection with accusations of improper use of funds from her political support groups and campaign donors. That afternoon Matsushima Midori, minister of justice, stepped …

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