Reporting in From Japan

Had a productive first full day in Tokyo yesterday. Met with two leading members of the Japanese Diet, one from each of the two main parties (DPJ and LDP), and covered a great many issues.   The photo to the left is of me and Shoichi Katayama of the Tokyo Foundation, who along with Dr. Fumiaki Kubo, has put my trip together.  Afterwards I was able to tour the beautiful campus of the University of Tokyo and led a seminar for students of American politics there.  Ended the night with a wonderful dinner with Dr. Kubo and several members of the influential think tank here, Asian Forum Japan. I am, needless to say, learning a great deal at a time of siginifcant political foment and change here in Japan.

Some initial observations:

- Absent some significant blunder, the newly in power Democratic Party of Japan appears to be in a very strong position for the short and medium term, and is likely to take over the Upper House in next year's elections.  They are aggressively attacking some of the LDP's sacred political cows, shaking up politics here more than it has been shaken up in perhaps half a century.  It feels like a transitional moment, from one political era to the next, with the DPJ in control but not quite yet on an even keel.

- As Rob Shapiro and other analysts have noted, it is important for America to be following what is happening in this economy, the 2nd largest in the world.  While not directly analogous to what is happening in the United States, the lack of income growth, overall slugishness of this mature, developed economy and a newly elected political party not yet exactly sure what to do next to revive broad-based prosperity reminds me a bit of the debate at home.   The Times/Herald Tribune has this piece today looking at the latest move by the Bank of Japan to increase lending and investment.  Our two large, technologically advanced, global, mature economies may have more in common than either country would like to admit, suggesting greater collaboration opportunities in the future.

- Finally, the Hatoyama Administration's review of the US-Japan relationship.  I will have more to say about this in coming days, but there can be no doubt that the DPJ is raising fundamental questions about this long and successful alliance that have perhaps not been raised in the last 50 years.  This is a complex issue, and feels like in the end, if handled well by all involved, could result in a strong affirmation of our powerful alliance with our old and good friend here on this remarkable island nation.  Of course it could end up otherwise too.  But it is clear the new Party is putting some important issues on the table here and intend to have a substantive conversation about whether Japan needs to recalibrate its foreign policy in a changing world.  It will be important for American policy makers, led by our able Ambassador here, John Roos, to be significantly engaged in this important debate in the months and perhaps years ahead. 

More meetings today.  Will report in later on.