Japan Digest #375

1.        Abe Faction’s Financial Scandal Making PM Kishida’s Approval Rating Fall In The Alarming Zone


According NHK’s monthly survey for the month of December, PM Kishida’s approval rating went further down to 23% from 29% last month, while his disapproval rating went up by 6 points to 58%.

The Abe Faction’s financial scandal, namely the intentional elimination from the booking of the incomes and their sources that were generated through various political contribution parties was revealed last month led resignations of four ministers of the faction and some other politically assigned high-ranking officials es as well as two top leaders of the ruling LDP last week. 

By law, elected officials have to write down all the political contribution incomes on political contribution books.

And this week,  Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office conducted a compulsory investigation in the office of the Abe faction and Nikai faction for the charge of the violation of the Political Fund Control Law. According to Yomiuri, the approval rating of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party went down below 30% for the first time since it went back to power in 2012.  

36% of the respondents of the Yomiuri survey want Kishida to leave the office immediately, while 52% replied that he should continue to serve through September 2024 when his term as the President of the party expires.  

As for the post Kishida as the party leader, following are the top five choices out of the Yomiuri survey:  

Mr. Shigeru Ishiba        20%

Mr. Shinjiro Koizumi      17%    

Mr. Taro Kono               12%    

Mr. Yoshihide Suga      8%      

Ms. Sanae Takaichi      7%


2.   Japan And ASEAN Celebrate The 50th Anniversary Of The Friendship And Cooperation


PM Kishida held on December 17 the Commemorative Summit for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation in Tokyo with the top leaders of the ASEAN nations except for Myanmar.  

Mr. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste also attended as an observer.  

Timor’s membership of ASEAN is unofficially decided.

The summit was cochaired by Mr. Ir. H. Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia. 

All the leaders agreed to strengthen the present “Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership” between ASEAN and Japan by showing specific directions of cooperation in a variety of field including economy and ocean security in the joint statement. 

PM Kishida announced on the same day that Japan’s public and private sectors would invest in the ASEAN region 35 billion dollars for the purpose of climate change adaptation and social infrastructure buildup.   

Japan and the ASEAN nations also agreed to start discussion to make mutual standards of QR-code based payment interoperable. 

In fact, Cambodia already agreed to have a unified QR-code payment standard with Japan and will get into operations before April of 2025 when the Osaka/Kansai Expo will be held in Osaka. 

This would significantly facilitate visitors from ASEAN to Japan and Japanese visitors to ASEAN to make a payment on their smart phones.


3.  Japanese Government To Allow Ridesharing In The Next April


Knowing the scarcity of taxi drivers, especially in local cities and towns, the Kishida Administration solidified the policy to substantially lift in April next year the restriction of what is called the “ridesharing service” that an individual driver provides with his or her own car for a fare.    

The number of taxi drivers was around 290,000 in 2019, but it significantly went down to 230,000 as of this March.

Under this new policy, local taxi companies are expected to provide education, training and operational management for those individuals who wish to be ridesharing drivers.  

The administration is expected to fully liberate the ride-sharing market for non-taxi companies in June next year.


4.  Japan To Export PAC2 And PAC3 To The U.S.


Assuming that new three principles of Defense Equipment Transfer and its operational guideline will be revised in April next year, the Japanese defense industry will enter final coordination of exporting the Patriot Surface-to-Air Missiles to the United States. 

Japan had acquired the manufacturing license agreement of the missiles from the U.S. and has been producing the PAC2 missiles, followed by PAC3 under the license.

Since the United States has been providing Ukraine with these missiles to support their defense against Russia, Japan is to fill possible shortage of the missile inventory of the U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Although Japan changed its arms export ban policy to the present three principles of defense equipment transfer, the defense articles that could be exported have been limited to the use of logistics and non-combat equipment. 

The said revision of the principles and its operational guideline will allow for the first time Japan to export frontline defense equipment. 


5. JAXA To Acquire Planetary Defense Technology With Hayabusa 2 


The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) recently revealed a plan to demonstrate its planetary defense technology by its asteroid explorer Hayabusa 2.  

In December 2020, Hayabusa 2, which was left the Earth nine years ago, completed its original mission to capture specimen of an asteroid called Ryugu and send it back to the Earth. 

With the remaining fuel, the asteroid explorer is continuing its flight arriving in 2031 at the final destination of an asteroid called 1998KY26, which is positioned between the orbit of the Earth and of Mars.

On its final voyage, Hayabusa 2 is set to fly near another asteroid called 2001CC21 in July 2026. 

Taking that opportunity, JAXA will send a command to make the explorer approach the asteroid as close as 10 km passing through it very fast. 

This demonstration represents a scenario to intentionally make an explorer collide with an asteroid, which has a collision course against the Earth and to change the asteroid’s orbit.


NASA successfully demonstrated its planetary defense technology in September last year when it made its unmanned explorer DART collide an small asteroid Dimorphos, which changed the orbit of the asteroid.