Japan. The biggest event of the year in Japan was the
change of government this autumn. The party that has
dominated for half a century, the Liberal Democratic Party
(LDP), must relinquish power after a landslide victory for
the opposition party Democratic Party (DPJ) in the August 30
Center-Left Party DPJ took 308 of the 480 seats in
Parliament's lower house. Liberal Democratic Prime Minister
Taro Aso was succeeded by the Democratic Party's Yukio
Hatoyama. Hatoyama, the 62-year-old minister's son, had 70
percent opinion support, compared to Aso's race to under 20
percent. Aso was not considered to have succeeded in lifting
the country out of the global financial crisis quickly
enough. His Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa also caused
scandal when he appeared drunk and forced to resign at the
G7 meeting in Rome in February. He was found dead in
countryaah, the colorful Hatoyama in his youth sang a pop album
entitled "Take Heart". His wife Miyuki, a former actress,
has been aroused by the fact that she and her husband "eat
sunshine", that in their sleep they have traveled to Venus
and that Tom Cruise in a previous life was Japanese.
Hatoyama wants to lose Japan's power structure and give
the individual more power. The party has promised to raise
the minimum wage and give the unemployed the equivalent of
about SEK 7,000 a month. Families should receive SEK 20,000
per child per year to promote childbirth. The population is
shrinking, while the country has the highest average life
expectancy of 82.6 years.
Government debt is twice as large as GDP and questions
are asked about where the government should take the money
from. DPJ claims that they will be loosened by dismantling
LDP's overloaded power apparatus. Hatoyama wants to give up
less for the United States. A controversy concerns the US
airbase on Okinawa. There is a 2006 agreement to move it,
but only to the coast. Hatoyama wants to move it completely
off the island, which the United States is firmly against.
US President Barack Obama visited Japan on November 13. He
stressed that Japan and the US will remain "equal partners".
The visit was characterized most by friendship guests and
there were no plays on Okinawa.
Hatoyama tripled LDP's pledge to cut greenhouse gas
emissions ahead of the Copenhagen environmental summit in
December, from LDP's 8 percent to 25 percent by 2020. Japan
slowly emerged from its deep economic crisis. After six
months, it was officially announced that the country was out
of recession, but GDP growth was weak: only 0.6 percent in
the second quarter. However, it rose to 1.2 percent in the
third quarter. Unemployment continued to rise, from 4.4
percent in February to 5.3 percent in September, and
consumption was low. According to the central bank,
deflation was expected to prevail for three years. Car
sales, especially environmental cars, started to improve
thanks to government subsidies. Toyota and Nissan, which
suffered losses at the beginning of the year, later reported
The currency yen was strong against the weakening dollar.
New Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii said the dollar is still
the world's strongest currency. Japan has the world's second
largest foreign exchange reserve, after China, mostly in
dollars. This means that there is reason to keep the dollar
exchange rate high.
North Korea on April 5 launched a long-range robot that
passed over Japan and landed in the Pacific. Japan responded
by tightening its sanctions on the Communist state. However,
relations with South Korea and China were quite relaxed in
2009, despite the bitterness still there over Japan's
invasion during the Second World War.