In Japan’s bicameral parliament, the Lower House takes the lead in legislating. It can be dissolved, snap elections can be held, and its lawmakers have shorter terms, reflecting the voice of the people. The Upper House reconsiders, fine-tunes, and votes on bills passed by the Lower.
More than 75 years after World War II ended without an official peace treaty between Japan and the USSR, Russia has pulled out of talks over the disputed Kuril Islands off Hokkaido (which Japan calls the Northern Territories) because of Japan’s sanctions in response to the Ukraine invasion.
Japan lags behind other countries in easing curbs on arrivals from overseas, and many politicians and business leaders say this amounts to a “seclusion policy” that is damaging the nation’s economy and international image. With Omicron variant infections appearing to have peaked, the government now plans to scale back restrictions, boosting the quota on daily arrivals from 3,500 to 5,000 and shortening quarantines from a week to three days.
Rahm Emanuel, whose former positions include US Congressman, Obama White House Chief of Staff, and Chicago mayor, made his first visit to Japan as US ambassador. The post has been unoccupied for over two years. Known for his aggressive demeanor, Emanuel seems to be an appropriate choice as the US and Japan strengthen military and other ties amid China’s growing presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the Liberal Democratic Party have agreed to allow distribution of a one-time benefit to child-rearing households entirely in cash, after earlier insisting that half of it be put in the form of vouchers. While apparently caving in to opposition pressure, the ruling party maintains that its policy remains unchanged, and it still hopes to stimulate the economy through vouchers, which encourage people to make purchases.
A significant reason for Japan’s low turnout in elections is that young people tend not to vote. Many feel the government and particularly the ruling coalition, dominated by older male lawmakers often belonging to political dynasties, has no connection to their lives and concerns.
The new LDP president Fumio Kishida has promised to boost incomes and economically assist those affected by COVID-19, but a general election in November will indicate public approval of these policies and the potential longevity of his administration.