JIN-327 -- It's Enough to Make You Drink

T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News

Issue No. 327
Tuesday June 28, 2005 TOKYO

+++ VIEWPOINT It's Enough to Make You Drink
1. Sober Thoughts on the State of Parliament
2. A Dark "White Paper"


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+++ VIEWPOINT It's Enough to Make You Drink
1. Sober Thoughts on the State of Parliament

There is a resolution to enforce discipline amongst Lower
House members in the chamber. Discipline? Let the
resolution speak for itself: "We believe preservation of the
sanctity of the chamber is the greatest duty to gain the
trust of the nation. Accordingly, henceforth members shall
be strictly prohibited from entering the chamber or committee
meetings in a state of intoxication."

The resolution dates from late 1948. Shortly before its adoption
the finance minister, dead drunk, had embraced a female
parliamentarian in the cafeteria. No such resolution was ever
adopted by the House of Councilors, a body that, after all, was
called the House of Good Sense.

Now, more than a half century after its adoption, the resolution
is again in the limelight. The other day lawmakers introduced a
motion to punish 18 Lower House members, from both the ruling
and opposition parties, for attending a floor session in the Lower
House after drinking. Prime Minister Koizumi objected strongly to
a Democratic Party of Japan accusation he was tipsy in the
chamber. "I didn't drink a drop," he retorted to Katsuya Okada,
president of the Democratic Party of Japan, during a committee
meeting. With the Diet facing a mountain of serious problems,
including North Korea and postal system and pension reform,
the conspicuous attention devoted to a debate between party
leaders over alcohol consumption is a little weird and suggests
less than engaged, far-sighted political leadership.

The first parliament was in Britain. Near the Houses of Parliament
is a traditional British pub. When parliament is not in session,
lawmakers are wont to drop by there for a drink. When a plenary
session or a vote draws near, a bell in the pub rings. The legislators
troop out of the pub and head for parliament.

No one should drink to where alcohol impairs good judgment. In
Japan, however, you sometimes hear just the opposite: Alcohol
improves judgment. Such a statement is testament to the fearful
power of drink.

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2. A Dark "White Paper"

"The sunlight through the sage green leaves imbued the whole
scene with a refreshing verdure," wrote Naoya Shiga (1883-1971),
the future novelist and storywriter, on his way to the hot spring
town of Kusatsu, in Gunma, one early summer day while he
was a student at the Peers' School in Tokyo.

The fifteen-year-old who is accused of the murder of his parents
at their home in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, last week was arrested
at a Kusatsu hot spring after he allegedly committed the crime.
One wonders what colors and light he saw?

After he killed his parents, live-in superintendents of a company
dormitory, he reportedly detonated a time bomb to destroy evidence --
his parents' bodies riddled with stab wounds. He has confessed his
motivation for the double murder was his father's having said he was
"stupid." Just as we don't know what scenery he saw during his flight,
we don't the landscape of his mind before commission of the crime.
But his behavior, a mixture of nearsightedness and meticulousness,
fills us with horror.

The average Japanese has by now heard of the rupture of parent-child
relations until they have calluses in their ears, yet they are still
mortified by the statistics in the "Juvenile White Paper" recently
released by the Cabinet Office. Less than 30 percent of children surveyed
said their fathers knew them well. Children are in their own way coldly
observing their fathers' ignorance and indifference.

On the other hand, nearly 50 percent of the children surveyed said
their mothers understood them. The low mark given to fathers is striking.

To the question, Does your father find life worth living? only 10 percent
replied yes. In this age of peculiar difficulty in getting ahead in the work
place, the White Paper gives a glimpse of the somewhat bitter parent-child

It's enough to make you drink.

--Burritt Sabin

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Written and edited by Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)

(C) Copyright 2005 Japan Inc Communications KK. All Rights Reserved.