Scrutinizing Japan's New Prime Minister

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Japan’s Prime Minister Koizumi is called the Japanese John McCain; a maverick who won his post in April on a platform of economic reform and record popularity. Today, though, Koizumi is under fire for visiting a controversial shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals.

The response from neighboring nations has been dramatic: Protesters in South Korea are slicing off their fingertips and mailing them to the Japanese embassy. In the Phillipines, elderly women who claim they were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military are demonstrating for compensation.

So why would a reformer who’s trying to bring Japan’s economy back to life and focusing on his country’s future get mired in a controversy that’s all about its past?


Richard Samuels, professor of political science, Director of the Center for International Studies, and Founding Director of the Japan Program at MIT;
Toshiaki Miura, Washington based political reporter and consultant with the Asahi Shimbun newspaper