The case for Toru Hashimoto

Every so often in politics, the proverbial pot is stirred. Japan’s last ladle came in the form of Junichiro Koizumi. Fast forward six years, and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is shaping up to be the next.

Young, charismatic and belligerent, Hashimoto is the antithesis of a typical Japanese politician in both personality and policy. The 43-year-old maverick has proposed sweeping change in the municipal public sector, including the implementation of performance-based benchmarks on grade and secondary school faculty; the privatization of the Osaka Municipal Subway; spending cuts to the fine arts; and a near 50% reduction of the municipal government workforce. On the national front, Hashimoto has called for abolition of nuclear power; the elimination of the Diet’s upper house; and strongly supports upping national defense. Substantial views, from a politician with no real political experience on the federal stage.

Substance, however, is what the public seems to want from a national government that - in recent recollection - has had anything but. Movement on Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreements has been slow, if not wholly nonexistent. The only result yielded by Japan’s continued spat with China over the Senkaku islands has been damaged economic relations. It does not come as any surprise to those even vaguely familiar with East Asian politics how poorly the Japanese government currently sits in the view of its people.

It is easy to see the sway Hashimoto holds in light of the above; more than ever, change is needed in a country that, for all its hustle and bustle, seems to be at a standstill. In the eyes of many, his brand of politics is certainly preferential to that of the old guard. Change is needed, and Hashimoto has promised to deliver change.

How effective Hashimoto will be in delivering this change, however, is an entirely different matter. Pointing the metaphoric gun and shooting everything on site may not bode well in a system that has largely been run by mutual backscratching. Farmers and rural dwellers, who hold a disproportionate amount of power in Japanese government, are staunchly opposed to his plan of joining the TPP.

While popular in Osaka, recognition of the political firebrand dips as one ventures farther from Kansai region. The internal power struggle between him and ex-Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara following the merger of his party with Ishihara’s certainly lends no favor to his cause. Although surmountable, the challenges facing Hashimoto in his quest to the top are not insignificant.

Nonetheless, Hashimoto’s existence in the oft-opaque world of Japanese politics will spark inevitable change. Whether that change is for the better or worse is a matter that can only be told through the passage of time.

Author Infomation

Peter Dyloco
Peter Dyloco
Peter Dyloco is concerned about the gradual decline of the Japanese economy. His objective is to bring a fresh perspective to the issues currently facing the country, and spark discussion that may lead to their potential resolutions.
Website: http://www.facebook.com/hkborntokyoinspired
  • 5

    Thomas Proskow

    Performance based grades for faculty, but still not for students.....,

    Sorry, the first thing Japan SHOULD do is get rid of the ridiculous "escalator" system of education, treat students like individuals and not "group members", treat students like ADULTS and not kids, and start putting more pressure on parents to raise their own children instead of treating teachers like shit and making THEM do the jobs the parents are supposed to do!!!

  • 3

    2020hindsights

    I think a lot of the things Hashimoto wants to do, I support. Cutting the public service workforce, privatising the subway and the stuff he wants to do with primary and secondary schools is great. However, I really feel he has too much of the right-winger in him. And hooking up with Ishihara was a bad idea. No one in my house would vote for them.

    I agree. He was quoted as saying Japan needs a dictatorship. He lost my respect when he asked all civil servants to declare whether they had tattoos. He has no right.

  • 2

    Scrote

    Other than open his big mouth, what has Hashimoto done so far? Let's see what Osaka looks like in a few years time before anointing him as a reformer. He'll probably quit before the end of his term, after having achieved precisely nothing.

  • 2

    as_the_crow_flies

    Yes, we have issues with the neighbours, so let's do something really constructive - bully some teachers we don't like. We have a complex about our Dad's roots, so let's browbeat public servants into telling us whether they have tattoos. We have elections to win, so let's flip flop on minor details like nuclear policy to try and mop up as many votes as possible. Let's call it change.

  • 1

    LiveInTokyo

    I think a lot of the things Hashimoto wants to do, I support. Cutting the public service workforce, privatising the subway and the stuff he wants to do with primary and secondary schools is great. However, I really feel he has too much of the right-winger in him. And hooking up with Ishihara was a bad idea. No one in my house would vote for them.

  • 1

    Betraythetrust!

    A man with an overblown ego is annoying one who also wealds power is very dangerous.

  • 1

    philsandoz

    What about his demands that Osaka bureaucrats be banned from drinking in public places, even in their private time; his demand that all teachers stand for the singing of the national anthem "with gusto" every day; his statement that there is no proof of any Korean women being forced to work as "comfort" women during WWII, and that an Oska City employee with a tattoo, no matter in how an intimate site, must declare it? Don't these ring of totalitarianism; not to mention fascism? I don't think I'd like such a person to be in any position of power over me.

  • 1

    volland

    What utter nonsense !

    "Young, charismatic and belligerent, Hashimoto is the antithesis of a typical Japanese politician in both personality and policy. "

    There is NOTHING different aot Hashimoto. He is simply younger and he is better looking than those 80+ normal politicians. It is the same trick that Koizumi used. And it worked perfectly well with a politically completely ignorant populace like the japanese, and it works again this time.

    Hashimoto is no different at all! Wake up ! He is actually a lot worse than the ones of the past years, like Kan and Noda...

  • 1

    Thomas Proskow

    Hashimoto is the singular embodiment of EVERYTHING wrong with Japan nowadays!!! The fact he is so popular is proof of how far this kind of sickness has reached in Japan.

    We are looking at societal collapse, and the Japanese, so stubborn and controlled, will fail to recognize it even long after it has already happened.

  • 1

    senseiman

    Just as a factual matter with the article, there is no such thing as a federal stage in Japan. Japan is a unitary state with a central, rather than a federal government.

    Such errors aside, there isn`t much being said here. Basically the conclusion of the article is that Hashimoto is different from most politicians and that might be a good thing but it also might be a bad thing. This is kind of obvious.

  • 0

    semperfi

    LiveinTokyo - Right On

  • 0

    Kabukilover

    What has got to be said about Hashimoto is that he is the shape of things to come as Japan continues to be economically stale. This does not mean that Hashimoto types with take over. It does mean we will see more of them.

    There is no question that Hashimoto is a totalitarian creep. This has been documented and redocumented.

    There is one thing that marks a true totalitarian: a narrow minded and intolerant view of art. Case in point. Hashimoto went to a Bunraku performance probably for the first time in his life and did not like it and so decided to cut municipal funds for this traditional and brilliant puppet theater. His complaint was that he could not understand the old Japanese and said Bunraku should be modernized. The fact is that you cannot "modernize" Bunraku's language any more than you can "modernize" Shakespeare's language. This one thing showed what an uncultured lout Hashimoto is, as was Hitler and as was Stalin. You wonder when the book burnings will start in Osaka.

    What is most disturbing is that a sizable majority of Osakans voted for this totalitarian lout.

  • -6

    Thomas Anderson

    Every so often in politics, the proverbial pot is stirred. Japan’s last ladle came in the form of Junichiro Koizumi. Fast forward six years, and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is shaping up to be the next.

    Hah what a joke, the "reformist" Koizumi was nothing but a good show hyped up by the media in order to create the illusion that "change" was coming to Japan, kind of like how it went with Obama... However there was never any real change because Koizumi was never about change. I think Hashimoto is just Koizumi 2.0. There won't be any real changes.

    The REAL change will come from Ozawa! Period.

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