Peru Election 2006

The archived version

Expert explains Japanese view of Fujimori

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Yves Tiberghien is a political scientist at The University of British Columbia, currently enjoying a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. As an exceptionally knowledgeable observer of Japanese politics, we asked him to explain why the Japanese public and political leadership seems to have such a positive view of Fujimori.

Q: Do you have any idea why Fujimori is so popular in Japan? Has the media given him a total whitewash? Why is there seemingly no ambivalence about supporting him?
A: 1. The treatment in the media has been balanced but tilted toward the positive. They usually report allegations of corruptions and human rights abuse, but continue on to say that nothing has been proven and that Fujimori on balance has played a positive role in rooting out terrorism and redressing the economy of Peru. It comes out as a roughly positive review for someone seen as having done his best in very tough conditions with a bad case of terrorism to fight.
2. The Japanese elite definitely feels nationalist affinities for Fujimori. There is the feeling that this is a rare second generation Japanese abroad who has been successful and has achieved a lot. The feeling is that second generation Japanese have suffered a lot of discrimination everywhere (for example, the internment camps in the US and Canada during World War II) and that it was particularly hard for someone like Fujimori to break free of this and make it to the top in democratic elections. This nationalist sympathy spreads to the overall public.
3. Fujimori has received some support from conservative politicians and business people in Japan. It is reported that they paid for his stay and sometimes met with him.
4. In addition, Fujimori won some kudos for his hard work since 2000 to learn Japanese language. I saw him in interviews with Japanese TV last week and his Japanese has really improved a lot. He could hold a whole interview in Japanese. Japanese usually appreciate this kind of effort very much.
5. Finally, the Japanese government and people stick with one of their own. Since he has Japanese citizenship, the government will assist him, visit him in jail, and do anything that governments do for their citizens abroad.
Q: Apparently Prime Minister Koizumi had a brief informal meeting with Alejandro Toledo at APEC, after declining to hold a formal meeting. What does “tachibanashi” mean?
A: Tachibanashi literally means “standing chat”—chatting while standing up, on the fly. That usually takes a few minutes. It is meant for very casual and brief things. The Japanese always sit down with tea for anything substantial.

Written by Michael Ha

November 20th, 2005 at 2:42 pm

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