Japan’s savior or dictator or both?

09/22/2012
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New political parties are no new thing in Japan, but suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a major new force has appeared.

TOKYO (majirox news) — Charismatic Toru Hashimoto, the former governor of Osaka prefecture and currently mayor of Osaka City, has formed a new political party. He has developed into a national political figure who has many worried.

Toru Hashimoto, the popular Osaka mayor, has launched a new political party. Critics say the Japan Restoration Party has some nationalist overtones amid the country’s growing tensions with China and South Korea. The polls suggest the new group is more popular than Japan’s ruling party and is ranked even higher than the country’s biggest opposition party.

“Our glorious country Japan has fallen into a state of decline,” Hashimoto said. “Dismantle everything and start from scratch. Let’s fight together and once again revive a glorious Japan.”

Hashimoto, who does not intend to run, has gathered hundreds of candidates for the next general election. He aims to transfer power from a centralized Tokyo to a number of regional areas, where elected officials would have something approaching absolute power. He has proclaimed that without making such radical changes, Japan will sink within three to five years.

“The Japanese are desperate and many are worried about their own economic situation,” said Shoko Egawa, commentator and author of several books. “They are fed up with the established political parties and their inability to change the current situation. Hashimoto is a newcomer who attacks them, so he gives them a sense of hope. However, many of the changes he wants to make are unrealistic, but the people don’t see that.”

Hashimoto’s policies make him appear as a would-be dictator to some. However, he’s gained at least token support from many Japanese in a country that, although it values novelty, is usually closed to outside political challengers and minor parties.

Businessman Ikaku KomimaToru Hashimoto said, “He’s given us specific plans. While the current political parties haven’t accomplished or done anything they promised.”

Hashimoto has already raised eyebrows in Osaka with some of his ordinances, such as the ban on tattoos for city employees. Some of the planks in his platform, such as the abolition of the upper house in Japan’s parliament, are likewise too radical and off-the-wall for some.

Although he has support, he must also gain backing from the roughly 40 percent of the Japanese voting population. If his group is to have any say in the future running of Japan this could be tough to obtain from a traditional electorate.

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