Matsushita Seikei Juku Graduates set to Save Japan
John de Boer (University of Tokyo & GLOCOM Platform)
Now that Prime Minister Koizumi has been ruled incapable of carrying out the reforms he pledged, the outside world has been struggling to locate the next generation of Japanese politicians that could bring about "true political reforms". The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) thinks it has found the fountain of youth in Japanese politics at the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management (Matsushita Seikei Juku). This liberal US based newspaper published an article entitled, "Where Japan's next leaders grow" on 15 August describing the 21 Matsushita alumni Diet members as the "new breed of reformers in Japanese politics and a viable threat to the tired old political establishment". Strengthening this viewpoint is the fact that three candidates to head Japan's Democratic Party are graduates of the Matsushita Institute.
The article describes Matsushita graduates as cultivated, disciplined, progressive and efficient; characteristics gained through the Institutes "boot camp" like program. Apparently a typical day at the Institute starts with cleaning the dormitory premises, a run on the beach before breakfast, and a joint recitation of the Institute rules, teachings, and "Five Oaths." By the time they graduate, Matsushita students have transformed themselves into effective "managers" who are not only well versed in politics, economics, and international relations, but also have mastered the art of the tea ceremony, speech making and debating. Managers because, according to Konosuke Matsushita (the school's founder), "politics is really management". Matsushita's theory was that, "a successful government should be an outstanding example of management. After all, in business, he who fails in management will have to go out of business. Why not in politics?"
This sounds a lot like the 'American way'. Considering that many Matsushita graduates have worked as interns with several members of the US Congress, it's likely true that their thinking is much closer to the US than that of the traditional Japanese politician. According to the CSM, Shigefumi Mitsuzawa (member of Japan's House of Representatives from the Democrat Party and former graduate of the Matsushita Institute) returned to Tokyo after his internship with Beverly Byron, a congresswoman from Maryland, "determined to introduce the openness and informality he found in US politics to his own country". In fact, the political platforms of Matsushita graduates resemble those most popular in the US. Asahi Shimbun journalist, Shinichi Yamada, described Matsushita graduates as "mainstream reformers, in the sense that they may be conservatives or liberals but not Socialists or Communists. Generally, they call for smaller government, deregulation, and competition in an open market".
In contrast to the efficient and honest Matsushita graduates, traditional politicians have been described as either, "the children of Diet members or former bureaucrats from powerful ministries like Construction or Agriculture." Basically, as politicians that are unqualified or implicated in pork barrel politics.
The logical conclusion spelled out by this CSM article is that, "the time is ripe for a generational change in Japanese politics". The old guard has to go, making way for Matsushita graduates to clean up government and manage the country as though it were a business.
- Takashi Oka, " Where Japan's next leaders grow", The Christian Science Monitor, 15 August 2002.