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Abe cabinet has close ties with rightist political lobby Japan Conference

(AERA: January 25, 2016 – pp. 17-20)


 By freelance journalist Osamu Aoki


 Japan Conference [Nippon Kaigi] is a rightist political group formed in 1997 as an umbrella organization of various conservative rightist groups whose ultimate goal is to revise the Japanese Constitution.


 Of the 20 incumbent members of the reshuffled Abe cabinet inaugurated on Oct. 7, 2015, 12 are reportedly affiliated with this group, namely:


l Prime Minister Shinzo Abe


l Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso


l Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Sanae Takaichi


l Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida


l Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki


l Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Motoo Hayashi


l Defense Minister Gen Nakatani


l Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga


l Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Minister Aiko Shimajiri


l Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari


l Minister for Society of Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens Katsunobu Kato


l Regional Revitalization Minister Shigeru Ishiba


 Japan Conference has a Diet members’ caucus under it, and some 280 lawmakers of both houses of the Diet are reportedly members. The Abe administration is said to be particularly close to Japan Conference. Of the 19 members of the second Abe cabinet launched in September 2014, 15 actually belonged to this caucus.


 While the group is not often the focus of much media attention in Japan, The New York Times calls it “the biggest nationalist group in Japan”; the British paper Guardian says the group “was founded to promote patriotic education and put an end to the ‘masochistic view of history'”; the Economist refers to it as the “most powerful lobby group in Japan that embraces blatant historical revisionism”; and Australia’s ABC TV terms it “the ultra-rightist lobby group that is reshaping Japanese politics.”


 According to its website and official organ, the objectives of Japan Conference include:


l Veneration of the Emperor and the Imperial family


l Revision of the Constitution


l Revision of the so-called “masochistic view of history”


l Promotion of patriotic education


l Development of national defense systems


l Opposition to the introduction of systems that will cause the “disintegration of families,” such as allowing husbands and wives to have different surnames


 Japan Conference, which is believed to have a membership of 38,000, counts among its former presidents prominent business leaders and even a Supreme Court justice. Its current president is Kyorin University Professor Emeritus Tadae Takubo. Its vice presidents include the president of the Association of Shinto Shrines, the chief priests of Yasukuni Shrine and Meiji Shrine and other Shinto leaders, former National Police Agency Director General Yasumitsu Kiuchi, Saitama University Professor Emeritus Michiko Hasegawa, and other prominent conservative opinion leaders.


 Japan Conference is rumored to be funded mainly by Shinto religious groups. (Summary)

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