Japan Bank Regulator Weighs Departure
Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE
"Japan Bank Regulator Weighs Departure"
(By Ken Belson) The New York Times
Arguably, the most visible, active, and controversial among the members of the Koizumi cabinet is Heizo Takenaka, Minister of State in charge of Financial Services as well as Economic and Fiscal Policy.
His responsibilities are to devise means to revive Japan's economy that has been barely afloat for a decade, while reorganizing Japan's agonizing financial industry back into shape. It is a formidable task for anyone. But whatever the excuse, not much, if any, has been accomplished so far in this area of policy objectives set by Prime Minister Koizumi, and Mr Takenaka has been the focal point of accusations by disgruntled people as well as political opponents.
A sentiment shared among ordinary people under the circumstances has been that Mr Takenaka is having a hard time by being assigned an impossible task and then yelled at for not accomplishing it, which could have led to unspoken and faint speculation that Mr Takenaka may be looking for an opportunity to quit.
It is against this backdrop that the article introduced here caused havoc among journalists in Tokyo, who swarmed around Mr Takenaka for confirmation, to which the minister replied "baloney!" The exact wording differs depending on which report you refer to, but there have been reports of him also saying, "It must be some sort of a plot!"
The article above clearly stipulates that Mr Takenaka's departure is only a speculation, as you might notice if you really read it. But a hefty article of a thousand words, signed by a distinguished reporter well versed in Japan and its ways, could not be ignored. Just about every Japanese newspaper, Nikkei, Asahi, and Sankei among them, followed it up, and all major news agencies, too, all citing Mr Takenaka's bemused, if not infuriated, response.
One Japanese reporter informally commented that if this original NY Times article had been written by a Japanese reporter, he could be bullied and sacked.
Indeed, it is this liberty that foreign ("gaijin") correspondents have that makes them valuable, which would allow for them to report many affairs Japanese writers would hesitate to, not because of any explicit restrictions but as they are obsessed with "shigarami", a sort of implied social constraint, which is one of the very most sacred of mentalities that constitute Japan.
It is all the more important, therefore, for respectable foreign media to write articles freely, so long as the facts and speculations are clearly marked as such.