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Japan

Yearbook 2009

2009 JapanJapan. 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 election.

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 October.

2009 Japan

According to 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 profits.

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.

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