First published in Stockwin et al, Dynamic and Immobilist Politics in Japan, Basingstoke, Macmillan, in association with St Antony's College, Oxford, 1988
IN NOVEMBER 1987 Nakasone Yasuhiro was replaced as prime minister of Japan by Takeshita Noboru, a politician of the same party that had ruled without interruption since 1955, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Nakasone had been widely regarded abroad as a thrusting dynamic leader determined to exercise personal power in order to 'settle accounts with the postwar period'. By contrast Takeshita-little known outside Japan hitherto-comes over as a behind-the-scenes politician who hesitates to move politically until he has constructed a broad consensus of opinion behind him. Does this mean, then, that Japan has once again entered a period of immobilist politics after five years of unusually dynamic leadership? Why did an established leader who seemed to have given the government and politics of Japan a much more modern image than it had previously enjoyed have to yield office to someone whose approach appeared traditional and unexciting?
This kind of question is merely one example of a much broader issue: why is Japan at one and the same time dynamic and immobilist, and what is the relationship between these two apparently opposite aspects of politics and policy making? This issue is what this book is about.
The world, which has grown accustomed to the extraordinarily vigorous and innovative ways in which the Japanese have gone about developing a competitive and formidable economy over the past four decades, is often confronted with what seems like policy paralysis in many areas. Contemporary examples include slowness in the liberalization of commodity and financial markets, some aspects of defence policy (at least until the very recent past) and issues of administrative and educational reform and of agricultural protectionism.