Archived drawing of newly styled Bentley in 1952.

The History of a Hobby, The End of an Era

I have a well-known passion for ​classic cars of a certain vintage and, generally, for working on older cars. My first “proper” vehicle ​(after cutting my teeth and knuckles on ​rebuilding a ’65 Corvair from scraps) is a lacquered black 1953 Bentley R-Type. I inherited this head-turner of a car from a friend at the US Embassy after tooling around Tokyo in it with him ​over ​30 years ago​. ​I’ve kept it ever since.
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Kokkai Insider | This Week in Nagatacho: A Star is Sworn (In)

Kokkai Insider

Overview

Nobuteru Ishihara has just been appointed the new Minister of State for Economic Revitalization following the voluntary stepping down of Akira Amari amidst accusations that Amari and his secretaries accepted bribes totaling at least 12 million Yen. As Amari was the point man for TPP negotiations as well as the Prime Minister’s spotlight Abenomics program, it is not difficult to view this as a significant turning point. However, it is expected that this roster shuffle will not affect the progress of either initiative despite Amari’s central role from their inception. There is good reason to believe this, though it has little to do with policymaking. To see the inner workings behind the appointment of Ishihara, it is first necessary to understand something about his background and where he fits into the complex world of Japanese politics.

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Kokkai Insider | This Week in Nagatacho: Suga’s Legacy

Kokkai Insider


The Incorrigible Mr. Suga

During Prime Minister Abe’s first run in office from 2006-2007, he had employed a relatively obscure politician by the name of Yoshihide Suga as his Chief Cabinet Secretary. Hailing from Akita prefecture, Suga’s main highlight after being elected to the Diet in 1996 was sticking to his guns and going against the grain in party votes – this, understandably, made him few friends. But Suga found one in Prime Minister Abe, contributing his iron will to the PM’s cabinet. Never one to shake his beliefs, Suga stuck by Abe’s side even after he left office, a particularly bold move considering this was when everyone else was angry about Abe’s over-abundant promises and underwhelming delivery, not to mention rumors that he bowed out due to purportedly dwindling health.

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Introducing our new video podcast series: Tokyo on Fire!

In early January of this year, someone told us that we should start a podcast. We followed their advice.

With the coming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, and other major internal and external events abound; the world is becoming increasingly interested in Japan. As Japan specialists, we at Langley Esquire are constantly sensitive to the gap of perception in the actions of Japan’s legislature between those on the inside and those commenting from overseas. Tokyo on Fire aims to bridge that gap in an informative and entertaining way. Whether we actually achieve such a lofty goal, however, is left to be seen.

This is what we have in store:


Tokyo on Fire!

Tokyo on Fire is a new video podcast series by the team at Langley Esquire. It focuses on news and (our) views on the politics of Japan. Each week, Langley Esquire Advisors Michael Cucek and Dr. Nancy Snow join host Timothy Langley in discussing a particular Burning Issue. With weekly updates from our Tokyo-based team, our aim is to deliver our audience a snapshot of Japan’s latest political developments.

At Langley Esquire, our mission is to excel in facilitating success in Japan. With Tokyo on Fire, we hope to give the global audience another venue from which to obtain more in-depth information on Japan’s political environment. It is our hope that more businesspeople and scholars will develop a greater understanding and appreciation for Japan, while also encouraging a greater global debate on Japan’s politics and foreign relations.

Tokyo on Fire is available to watch on YouTube, and is coming soon to iTunes as both a video and audio podcast. Our audience is encouraged to reach out to us on Twitter using #TokyoonFire or by sending us your comments at comments@tokyoonfire.com.


We hope you enjoy this series; and if you don’t, tell us what we could be doing better!

WATCH EPISODE 1: DEBATE ON COLLECTIVE DEFENSE
WATCH EPISODE 2: GROWING AGRICULTURAL REFORM
WATCH EPISODE 3: REVISING JAPAN’S CONSTITUTION

2015: The Year for Nation-led Brand Japan

2015: The Year for Nation-led Brand Japan

The snap election results of December 14th might make one think that Abe 2.0 has secured a new and reliable update. It was a landslide for the ruling coalition, but featured a twist in the record low voter turnout.

There is currently no credible opposition to Abenomics and little, if any, chance for voters’ concerns to be heard, which is why nearly half of the electorate stayed home. For those who voted, it may have been to follow the political standard: “You got to dance with them what brung you,” and the Abe-lead slow dance of recovery from the Bubble.

Japan’s internal politics aren’t likely to change anytime soon, but an area that needs rapid improvement is its soft power and image abroad—nation brand Japan. In this realm, Abenomics may have been a starting point of publicity but should not be the end point of results. I have met countless numbers of Japanese who express frustration with what is a predictable democracy here—a democracy in name but with little surprise and cookie cutter candidates. In such a system there is slow movement to change and a veritable lack of creativity.

In nation brand Japan, it’s long overdue time for the people to lead the politician.

You can’t manage a nation’s brand through a political leader’s capital that waxes and wanes like the phases of the moon. Just ask Obama or Putin. A much larger number of Japanese people need to take the lead in engaging with the world. Enough of the steady drip of world headlines about the yen’s rise and fall, adult versus baby diapers, the robot restaurant or cuddle cafe. Japan is anime, manga, and cat café, and it is so much more that doesn’t have cute or weird taglines.

Japan hosted a record 13 million international visitors in 2014, majorities of who were neighbor tourists from Taiwan, South Korea and China. How many of these visitors had a chance to experience an interpersonal encounter outside of a shopping transaction or hotel restaurant? Too often, visitors see Japan through an economic or commercial lens (e.g. Abenomics, Womenomics, yen’s rise and fall) but the real asset to life here is the culture. An authentic culture means people, their habits, beliefs, and ways of life passed down from one generation to the next. Those collective stories aren’t being heard because the people aren’t being asked to help shape Japan’s narrative in the global media environment.

Right now the people of Japan have the best opportunity to make 2015 the kick-off year for telling Japan’s full story to the world. Cool Japan, which launched November 2013, is a public-private partnership driven by successful status quo industries working with the government to expand their market share overseas. That’s just one business-as-usual approach, but it’s not enough to improve Japan’s story to the world.

2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of relations with South Korea. Anniversary periods generate a lot of emotion—both good and bad—about a country’s history, present and future. There is no guarantee that everyone can come together in a spirit of mutual understanding but I’m sure about one thing: I’d rather rely on the people of Japan to promote this country than the government or industry alone. Right now the government and industry are working together to promote Japan; which is simply insufficient and inefficient. This isn’t just one outsider’s opinion, but the opinion of many of my well-intentioned friends who are working in the areas of international public relations and public diplomacy. They tell me that they cannot do this work in a vacuum and need more domestic engagement.

The advantage that the Japanese public has, is freedom from the burden of a hidden or official agenda. As a former government official, I know all too well that governments have to deal with litmus tests on their credibility, depending on who is in power and for how long. Likewise, industries rise and fall with the marketplace and use their own public relations to maintain a good corporate image in support of the bottom line.

As I’ve often told my Japanese counterparts: your nation brand is only as good as you make it. If you want to improve it, embrace 2015 as the year to begin to tell a fuller, people-driven story about Japan to the world.

Dr. Nancy Snow will publish a bilingual (Japanese & English) book on nation brand Japan in 2015.


Dr. Nancy Snow

Dr. Nancy Snow

Dr. Nancy Snow
Advisor

Dr. Nancy Snow is Langley Esquire’s chief advisor for public relations, media relations, public diplomacy, and leadership branding. Dr. Snow is a two-time recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship, as a Fulbright student in the Federal Republic of Germany, and as Fulbright professor of international relations at Sophia University. She is an Abe Fellow at Keio University’s Institute of Media and Communications Research, where she is conducting research for a forthcoming book on Japan’s nation brand global image and reputation. Dr. Snow also completed the two-year Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) at the United States Information Agency and U.S. Department of State.

When she’s not seeking out hidden meanings and spreading Southern hospitality, Dr. Snow can be found on Twitter at @drpersuasion

Read more about Dr. Snow

2014 Sydney hostage crisis

Save the Humans: From Sydney to Tokyo

On Monday, December 15th, 2015, I gave a guest lecture on media and politics at Sophia University. The three-hour lecture didn’t require any notes, since media and politics were playing out in real time. CNN International was airing live coverage of an ongoing hostage situation in Sydney, Australia. In an unprecedented move, Prime Minister Tony Abbott took to the airwaves to urge calm, given the overtones of political violence given off at the Lindt Chocolate café by hostages pressing Islamic flags up against the windows.

I discussed the power of the media in shaping agenda—in this case, a lone wolf with a history of political grievances, and his ability to grab world press coverage by seizing holiday shoppers and morning caffeine addicts. His message: no one is safe this holiday season. The United States State Department (@TravelGov) subsequently issued a rare, 90-day worldwide travel alert stating that terrorists may be targeting ‘soft’ (unguarded, low security) areas such as hotels, places of worship, and schools.

Coverage of the hostage situation immediately usurped news of the elections here in Japan that had taken place only a day before. Prime Minister Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party won by a landslide, as everyone (Okinawa excepted) assumed it would, but without a real mandate, seeing that the single-seat voter turnout dropped from 69% in 2009 to 52% in 2014—the lowest in post-WWII history. A poll taken by Japan’s leading newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, showed that 65% of respondents chose the LDP because it was the “best of the worst.” In other words, outside of party cheerleaders and zombie politicians, the Japanese people are not thrilled with the LDP but feel that they have to let Shinzo Abe steer his boat away from the political and economic rocks (low fertility, aging populace, underemployed women) that continue to plague the country.

One Japanese lady from whom I buy an occasional sandwich bumped into me on the way to the train station and declared that the election was ‘pure B.S.’; or, rather, she spelled out the universal word for it being a giant waste; signifying that the snap elections meant more to the viability of the LDP than to any voter.

Politics-as-usual and public apathy are the greatest threats to an otherwise safe, clean, and pleasant country.

Abe gave a victory speech at LDP HQ the same day as the Sydney Siege, and it appeared that the world didn’t take notice how ramped up his rightist rhetoric was. Declaring a renewed opportunity to update the Japanese Constitution, he also promised to make schoolchildren learn more about Japan’s history and retell Japan’s wartime stories from a pro-Japan perspective. Abe 2.0 postures as being more attuned to the will of the people, as he pledged to “work hard to deepen people’s understanding and receive wider support from the public.” Being attuned, however, does not mean that he truly cares for voter concerns about the rising inequality gap, stagnant underemployment, rising food prices, or any other social condition that cause people like my sandwich lady to tune out and turn off.

Abe has secured his place in history as one of the few Japanese prime ministers to garner global name recognition. The question remains if Abe’s ability to hold power in this snap election will embolden his nationalistic tendencies, or if he will make a genuine effort to listen to a divided populace that seems to be ‘just holding on.’


Dr. Nancy Snow

Dr. Nancy Snow

Dr. Nancy Snow
Advisor

Dr. Nancy Snow is Langley Esquire’s chief advisor for public relations, media relations, public diplomacy, and leadership branding. Dr. Snow is a two-time recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship, as a Fulbright student in the Federal Republic of Germany, and as Fulbright professor of international relations at Sophia University. She is an Abe Fellow at Keio University’s Institute of Media and Communications Research, where she is conducting research for a forthcoming book on Japan’s nation brand global image and reputation. Dr. Snow also completed the two-year Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) at the United States Information Agency and U.S. Department of State.

When she’s not seeking out hidden meanings and spreading Southern hospitality, Dr. Snow can be found on Twitter at @drpersuasion

Read more about Dr. Snow