Japan’s Leadership Merry-Go-Round
( New York Times )

Japan’s frequent leadership changes are dizzying and increasingly
counterproductive. The country has had 14 prime ministers in the last two decades and could soon have another. That would make three in the last 12 months alone ― hardly time enough to introduce new policies, much less effectively implement them.

This phenomenon would make successful governance difficult in any country. But Japan is the world’s third largest economy and a technological and regional power. It needs a prime minister who can offer robust, principled leadership over a sustained period, win support for economic policies that would help pull the world out of recession and maintain a strong alliance with the United States.

Mr. Kan has more popular support. Mr. Ozawa ― who has largely operated in the political shadows ― has more chits with the party members who will actually elect the party chief. Analysts say the contest is too close to call. Both men have their flaws but are preferable to the last few prime ministers under the Liberal Democratic Party, which governed for most of 50 years until the Democratic Party of Japan broke the hold in August last year.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・implement (契約・計画などを)実行する、実施する、道具、用具
・recession 景気後退、不景気
・alliance 同盟(を結ぶこと、同盟関係(動詞:ally)

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Japan’s Ruling Party Suffers Setback
( New York Times )

Japan’s governing Democratic Party suffered a stinging setback in midterm elections on Sunday that showed growing voter disappointment with the party’s apparent inability to deliver on promises to revamp the country’s sclerotic postwar order.

The Democrats are not in danger of losing control of the government, since they have a comfortable majority in the more powerful Lower House. But their failure to control the Upper House could result in a split Parliament, making the Democrats’ promises to strengthen social welfare and assert more control over the nation’s powerful bureaucracy far more difficult to achieve.

Opinion polls had predicted a tough race for the Democrats, who suffered as Mr. Hatoyama’s popularity plummeted. The party then voted in a new prime minister, Naoto Kan; his approval ratings also fell after he proposed an increase of the national consumption tax only to waffle about it later, raising questions about his leadership skills.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・sclerotic 硬化症(sclerosis)の
・comfortable 快適な(ほど十分な)
・assert 主張する、行使する
・plummet 急落する
・waffle あいまいなことを言う

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Political Survivor Inherits Japan’s List of Troubles
( New York Times )

SIX years ago, after resigning as the leader of his political party in a pension scandal, Naoto Kan saved his political career by making an unusual show of atonement, shaving his head and donning the plain white outfit of a Buddhist pilgrim to spend 11 days walking a famous circuit of temples.

Now, as Japan’s new prime minister, and the nation’s fifth new leader in just four years, Mr. Kan will need that same knack for political survival to avoid the fate of his short-lived predecessors, and particularly the man he replaced, the unpopular Yukio Hatoyama.

While it remains far from clear whether he will be up to these tasks, one thing is certain: in turning to Mr. Kan, the Democrats have picked a seasoned political veteran who will most likely be a very different kind of leader from the ineffective Mr. Hatoyama.

Indeed, Mr. Kan, 63, is cut from a very different cloth than most Japanese political leaders. While politicians here are often former elite bureaucrats or the scions of political families, Mr. Kan is a former civic activist who rose through the country’s progressive opposition before becoming one of the Democratic Party’s founding members.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・don 身につける、着る
・outfit (特定の目的のための)服装一揃い、道具一式
・predecessor 前任者
・scion (貴族・名門の)御曹子、子孫

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Japanese Leader Backtracks on Revising Base Agreement
( New York Times )

Backtracking on a prominent campaign pledge, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told angry residents of Okinawa on Tuesday that it was unrealistic to expect the United States to move its entire Marine Corps air base off the island.

Visiting Okinawa for the first time since becoming prime minister, Mr. Hatoyama asked residents to entertain a compromise that would keep some of the functions of the base on the island while the government explored moving some facilities elsewhere.

Residents and experts say Mr. Hatoyama’s troubles also reflect a weakening of Tokyo’s ability to impose its will on Japan’s regions. The Liberal Democratic Party relied on generous public works spending and back-room bargains to push through big projects like this one. Mr. Hatoyama, who rode to power with vows to cut wasteful spending and increase transparency in politics, may find his ability to make deals thwarted by such changes.

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90,000 Protest U.S. Base on Okinawa
( New York Times )

More than 90,000 Okinawans rallied Sunday to oppose the relocation of an American air base on their island, adding to the pressure on Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to resolve an issue that has divided Tokyo and Washington.

The demonstrators, in one of the largest protests on Okinawa in
years, demanded that Mr. Hatoyama scrap a 2006 agreement with the United States to move the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to a different site on the island. Many of the protesters wore yellow to signal they were giving Mr. Hatoyama a warning for appearing to waver on election promises to move the busy base off Okinawa altogether.

Since his party’s landmark election victory last summer, Mr.
Hatoyama has promised to come up with an alternative plan that would reduce the heavy American presence on the southern Japanese island, home to nearly half of the 50,000 United States military personnel in Japan. He has given himself until the end of May to put together such a plan that would also be acceptable to Washington.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・resolve 解決する、決意する
・waver 揺れる、揺らぐ
・alternative 代わりとなる、代わりの
・personnel (官庁・会社などの)全職員、(軍隊の)隊員
・acceptable 容認できる、受諾できる

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