Japan it appears, beleaguered by the after effects of the Tsunami and an economy with debt at 200% of GDP, is contemplating replacing the Prime Minister. Naoto Kan has been in power for 16 months, but natural disaster and a strengthening yen has made his tenure almost impossible.
This week has seen the rating agency Moody’s downgrade Japan to AA3 status. It seems that it’s Japan’s internal politics that dominate its markets and many believe that government policy is not doing anything to alleviate its current problems. The Guardian newspaper reports that Moody’s rating move was prompted by its lack of confidence that Japan’s politicians could make decisions. Indeed, the current Prime Minister’s lack of support, has led to a power grab by his colleagues leading to Japan contemplating its sixth prime minister since September 2006.
Philip Inman writing in the Guardian notes that some observers ‘believe the dysfunctional nature of the country’s democracy has reached a new low…’
The relationship of the power structures between the political parties, the whaling industry and the civil service has been an enigma to WDCS and observers for decades. It’s been almost impossible to trace the responsibility for its’ blinkered whaling policy to any one politician, but its been easy to see the civil servants who are preparing for their ‘amakudari’ post retirement careers ensuring that they get noticed by their somewhat uncompromising and loud strategies at the IWC.
So why am I digressing on about this. Well it all reminded me to mention that if you were really interested in this area of international policy I would commend to you two books that I am reading again. Jun Morikawa’s book, ‘Whaling in Japan: Power, Politics and Diplomacy’ and an older treatise, ‘The Enigma of Japanese Power’, by Karel Van Wolferen. Both books investigate the structure of decision making in the Japanese governmental systems and the reasons why Japan finds it hard to say no to its addiction to whaling.
Anyone thinking of trying to understand the IWC and Japan’s approach to international fisheries diplomacy could do worse than start with these two studies.
If anyone ever tries to persuade you that Icelandic Fin whaling is 'central to their culture' just ask why is there no Fin whaling this year. According to the whalers its because
the Japanese market is not able to absorb their commercial whale meat products.
According to Iceland Review, Gunnlaugur Fjólar Gunnlaugsson, director of Hvalur’s fin whale processing plant in west Iceland, stated that "the reconstruction after the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan is slow - whale product companies were damaged—but they are hoping that the
situation will have improved next spring."
So its market conditions that dictate Iceland's Fin whaling, not culture nor domestic demand. So don't get me wrong, I am pleased that none of these gentle giants are going to be savagely butchered this summer, but remember that when Iceland's pro-whaling interests next start their blubbering about culture and national identity its money that talks, - that's what underlies their rhetoric.