Japan Digest #356

1.        12th Anniversary Of The Eastern Japan Great Earthquake


This past March 11 marked the 12th anniversary of the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake, which subsequently caused giant tsunami leading to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant’s serious damage.

The natural disaster is still deeply felt not only by the surviving families of the dead of 22,215 but also by 30,884 of evacuators, who are not able to return home due to the nuclear power plant accident (Only a 18% of the original population of Fukushima’s affected towns has been able to be back home).

The population in the affected 42 cities and towns as a whole during the past decade declined by around 140,000. 

Fukushima observed a largest declination of prefectural population by 9.6%, followed by Iwate (8.9%) and Miyagi (1.9%). 

Younger generations have been moving to major cities despite the fact that both the central government and local governments heavily invest in the affected area to rebuild local industries.


2.   Korean President’s Visit To Japan To Symbolize The Thaw Of The Bilateral Relationship


Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol  visited Japan this week and met with PM Kishida at PM’s house on March 16. 

Besides solving the drafted labor issue, the two leaders agreed to resume the shuttle diplomacy between the two countries and the bilateral security dialogue, which had been frozen since the drafted labor issue was caused by the Korean Supreme Court and fully normalize the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA)

It is the very first ad-hoc visit by a PM or a President between the two countries since December 2011 when then President Lee Myung Bak visited Japan.


When the Korean Supreme Court concluded in 2018 that the Korean plaintiffs, who claimed that they were forced laborers by Japan during the WWII should be compensated by the Japanese companies who used the laborers, then Japanese government publicly responded that the sentence is totally unacceptable due to the fact that Japan’s liability against any loss and damage caused to Korean people during the war should be covered by and indemnified under the Japan-Korea Claims Agreement that was concluded by the two governments in 1965, and that the Korean government should be fully responsible for the claims from the plaintiffs and should keep the accused Japanese companies harmless. 

President Moon Jae-in, during his tenure, didn’t stand by the international agreement and showed the attitude to support the Supreme Court’s judgement, which frozen the bilateral relationship of not only the diplomacy but also the tourism and some businesses. 

In the last presidential election, Yoon Suk-yeol, who  represented the conservative People Power Party, promised to improve the diplomatic relationship with Japan during his campaign, and defeated the Democratic Party's nominee Lee Jae-myung, who stood by the Supreme Court’s decision and demanded Japan to further compensate the plaintiffs. 

Around 8 months have passed since his presidential inauguration, the Yoon administration officially announced a plan on March 6 to use a government affiliated foundation to compensate the claim from the plaintiffs in place of the accused Japanese companies. 

Since then, close and intensive diplomatic exchanges have been in place between the two administrations based on this Korean initiative to thaw out the frozen relationship, which led to the presidential visit this time.


3.  Back-To-Normal Life Hoped To Stimulate Japan’s Economy


The Japanese government lifted its suggestion to wear a mast in the public on March 13.  

Literally, no restriction or conditions for dinning and drinking, gathering, events, travels remains except for crowded trains or senior care houses etc. 

The government does hope that post pandemic consumption will come back to stimulate the economy. 

The Kishida administration has been urging the industries to raise salary to add a moment over the post covid-19 economy.

The Cabinet Office announced on March 9 that Japan’s GDP for the 4th quarter was just +0.1% on an annual basis after the seasonal adjustment. 

Earlier in February, it was estimated to be +0.6%, but the recent high inflation of almost every item discouraged the individual consumption, especially home electric appliances, dinning out and lodging.


4.  Kishida’s Approval Rating Continues To Grow


NHK’s monthly survey, which was conducted on March 10 through 12, found that Kishida Cabinet’s approval rating went up by 5 points to 41% while its disapproval rating went down by 1 point to 40%.

It’s been for the first time since August last year that the approval rating was higher than the disapproval rating. 

Some other major findings are as follows: 


The government’s explanation of why and how the defense spending is to be increased is;    

Sufficient 16%  Not sufficient 66%  

Are you hopeful about the government’s countermeasures against the declining number of new birth?

            Very much so 7%         To some extent so 32%            Not much 37%      Not at all 19%  

Do you think the Bank of Japan should continue the large scale easing?           

Yes 24%          No 11%            Don’t know 53%          

How do you approve the Korean Government’s recent decision to indemnify the plaintiffs who claim compensation against several Japanese companies that drafted them for labor during the World War II?


Approve a lot 17%        Approve to some extent 36%    Not much 23%                  Not at all 11%