It’s been 70 years since Imperial Japan walked itself into a bar room brawl it couldn’t win. And everybody remains chasing ghosts. China and South Korea still won’t talk to Japan on a reasonable level, in large part because Shinzo Abe can’t choose to spend some of his off time playing Pachinko instead of crawling around Yasukuni.
And today’s Diet debate has brought to a head the obscure local concepts of collective-self-defense, constitutionalism, pacifism, and so on. It’s all part of Abe’s effort to make Japan a “normal nation” again. For the majority of the Japanese people who want no part of this, it’s about defending 70 years of prosperity and not pointlessly starting vicious bar room brawls.
It’s the push and pull of a culture struggling with the reality of an increasingly withdrawn America. Poland, Saudi Arabia, and Japan are all starting to realize they have to do more themselves. The difference is none of these other countries have the historical baggage Japan does. A significant portion of Japan’s population quite literally despise their own history. All you have to do is carefully watch two or three old Japanese golden-age movies to figure this out.
I could talk about this defense / historical discussion for four hours, but honestly, I can’t get past the idea that Japan is debating the wrong issue. The future of Japan is not going to be about collective-self-defense, constitutionalism, pacifism, and so on. The future of Japan is demographics.
By 2050 Japan’s population will have declined by 1/3. Nearly one out of every two Japanese will be over the age of 65. No country on Earth has ever gone through such a transition before. It’ll literally reshape Japan as we know it.
How will this change society? The culture? The people? And most importantly, how will Japan pay for all of this?
They should be talking about this in the Diet, in yakatori houses, Pachinko parlors, and on street corners. But the best they can seem to manage is the occasional dialogue on how many Philippine nurses are allowed in to work in nursing homes.
I don’t have an answer for this problem. At this point nobody does. But China is not Japan’s biggest threat. Nor is Japan’s history the biggest concern that should drive the future. Demographics is going to determine Japan’s path. Until Abe, the Diet, and the country tackle this, everything else is a sideshow.