How Japan is run in real life. This isn't too relevant to Anime- there appears not to be a Japanese Government Procedural or even much reference to the system itself, although a Japanese version of The West Wing (or perhaps Yes, Minister, considering that the politician/bureaucrat dynamic in Japan is pretty much the same as in Britain, turned Up to Eleven) done anime style would probably be Made of Win (there actually is at least one manga - Kaji Ryuusuke No Gi - that deals with one young politician's journey to power, though it'll probably never be released outside Japan). Though the government of Japan is large and powerful, and plays a substantial role in the lives of many Japanese, Japan is overall a far less political society than most western nations, and interest in things like partisan commentary and political satire is generally much lower. This is not to say such things don't exist, of course, but overall, Japanese culture is (traditionally, at least) far more deferential to authority, and thus inclined to just assume the government is doing what it should do. This partially explains why when political scandals hit Japan, they hit hard.
No longer Semi-Divine- The EmperorThe monarch of Japan is the Emperor, called in Japanese tennō ("heavenly ruler"). When discussing him in Japanese, you call him Tennō Heika (His Majesty the Emperor) or "The Reigning Emperor". The Japanese monarchy is the longest continuous hereditary monarchy in history.note In fact, the supremacy and sacredness of the Emperor is so ingrained in the Japanese national psyche that a rebellion against the Emperor and seizing the throne was unthinkable; instead, ambitious nobles fight over the right to have their daughters marry the Emperor and gaining power that way. Some famous eras and emperors are:
The World's Richest DietThe Japanese legislature, the Kokkai, is called The Diet of Japan in English. Via the fact that Japan is the
Political PartiesThere are two big-name political parties in Japan, though only one has a great deal of clout.
Prime MinisterThe current prime minister is Shinzo Abe of the LDP. Like Italy, the average term of a prime minister is about two years. From 2006 until 2012, Japan changed prime ministers every single year.note There are a number of opinions as to what the cause of the instability was. Even though the LDP have nearly always been in power, the government has often struggled to get things done. This is partly due to the two chambers of the Diet often being in conflict with each other, and also and the "keiretsu" culture (see below) which makes it hard for the government to implement economic reforms. The media, electorate and backbenchers are generally unforgiving towards prime ministers who make mistakes or break campaign promises.
Major Japanese Political Issues
Yasukuni Shrine, "Comfort Women" and the legacy of the Second World WarThere are not many places where the very act of their own country's leader visiting them causes a diplomatic protest. Yasukuni Shrine is one of them. Dedicated to Japan's war dead, it contains a list of over 2.4 million men and women (not all Japanese) who died in the wars of the Meiji Restoration and Imperial Japan. This wouldn't be too much of a problem, except the list contains over 1,000 war criminals (not all of whom are Japanese either). 14 of the people enshrined there are Class A war criminals, including Hideki Tojo, the Japanese Prime Minister for much of the Second World War, considered responsible for the deaths of 8 million civilians. The Yushukan, a privately-maintained war museum on the grounds of the shrine, also presents a highly controversial revisionist interpretation of Japan's role in World War II, claiming that (among other things) Japan was merely "defending Asia" against the Western powers' influence, and that since Japan hadn't signed the Geneva Conventions at the time, the war criminals were convicted illegally. This highly annoys the two Koreas, China, Taiwan and the Japanese left. The official website is under a constant denial of service attack from China. Junichiro Koizumi visited five times during his premiership, and Abe once, during his present premiership. There have been calls to move the war criminals or take them off the list. The right cite Shinto religious teaching in response and little progress has been made, bar some minor museum changes. "Comfort Women" is the euphemism for the practice during the years before and during World War II of the Japanese military kidnapping and enslaving thousands of women, forcing them to be sexual slaves to Japanese soldiers. Japan insists that it didn't happen, or just a very few bad people did this to a very few women. Specifically, Prime Minister Abe denies that this happened. Previous prime ministers have acknowledged that it did, and have apologized, but Abe isn't budging. Naturally, other nations, especially North Korea, South Korea, and China, the three nations most of these women came from, aren't very pleased with this. This is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the Second World War. For more on the specifics of what actually went on see Imperial Japan. note Back in The Eighties, Japan's economy was the most dynamic in the world. Companies were making money, high-quality Japanese products flooded the world (and humiliated the Big Three), Japanese investors were buying up gigantic swaths of real estate in Japan and pretty much everywhere else. It was a great time for Japan; their influence was booming; every high-flying business student took Japanese (the stereotype of Japanese as the language of choice for adolescent Japanophiles didn't come until much later); the Japanese Tourist became a Stock Character; and dystopias (Blade Runner and Neuromancer are classic examples) typically presented a thoroughly Japonized future. There was serious talk about breaking away from the US and the West and Japan leading the world anew. The entire world was open for Japan. And then... It all ended very, very badly. The bubble burst around 1990, and thanks to incompetent management (on account of the LDP being so buddy-buddy with business), all attempts at economic rescue turned out to be too little, too late. The Nineties were Japan's "Lost Decade," with unemployment hitting the roof, industrial expansion sluggish, and the government seemingly incapable of doing anything about it. Some suggested privatization of things like the Post Office (it had worked for Germany); this was fought tooth and nail by the entrenched Post Office bureaucracy. Reform of the banking system was similarly stymied.note Koizumi managed to get some stuff going to help the country along, but by that point (2001) the country was already recovering. The problem is, even in The Noughties the economy was still sluggish and faces even bigger problems, as Japan faces the looming approach of retirement age for a large portion of its population on top of decades of declining birthrates, meaning an ever-smaller group of people have to take care of a large elderly population. Additionally the Japanese government is dealing with a debt that makes the American one look minuscule in comparison in order to pay for social services along with taxes that can't pay back the costs. Combine this with an increasingly disenfranchised youth generation whose ennui is fed partially by a feeling that they can't get ahead in life due to the mistakes of their progenitors and that there's no real hope for themselves or others, and you have not only continued economic stagnation but a recipe for an economic apocalypse of a kind not seen since the Great Depression. Others however posit that the mere fact that Japan hasn't imploded yet, despite having had many potential opportunities to in the past decade alone, suggest that the country may actually be running on its own pace and not exactly along conventional socio-economic thinking. Those who subscribe to this view tend to see the aforementioned debt as an asset and that the country is a preview of what a developed country would be like in a "low/zero-growth" system, which some see as preferable. Likewise, the disenfranchised youth are seen as symptomatic of a population decline that at least some Japanese deem necessary (as discussed below). World War II baby boom, the birthrate in Japan has fallen like a stone. It now hovers at around 7 per 1000 - the lowest birthrate of a full nation in the entire world. Meanwhile, the death rate has steadily crept up as those baby boomers age and die - several years ago, the death rate officially outnumbered the birth rate, and Japan's population began to contract. As the Japanese allow very, very few people to immigrate permanently, this essentially means that birth is the only way they have of growing or even sustaining their population - and that isn't happening. The causes are widely debated - independent women not wanting the burden of a family, Japanese men being overworked and not very attractive mates, social pressures to not have many children, some combination thereof, something else, note there's no obvious answer. But the result is clear: deaths outnumber births, and even with a larger overall population compared to several decades ago, there are fewer and fewer children in Japan. The current median age of the Japanese population is *45*. Relevant to TV Tropes, this answers a question or two a reader may have had - "Hey, why do so many entertainment companies in Japan these days focus so much on "kiddie" entertainment that works for adults, too? Or why is so much anime made for otaku in the style of the cartoons they used to like, when a fair amount of anime was made for kids back then?" Well, the answer is simple: there are practically more otaku than kids nowadays. Anime has taken different bents in the past decade or so because the kids who grew up have a lot more buying power, and because the number of new kids to sell products to has been going down constantly. Many companies are abandoning children's programming altogether or "diversifying" their products (see: Nintendo's "for everyone" approach with the DS and Wii) simply because the money isn't there in the kid market anymore, and it doesn't look like it will be there any time soon. This isn't to say that everyone has abandoned the market - Shonen Jump and whatnot still exist, after all - but the kids market is getting ever-smaller and the entertainment products of Japan have been changing to reflect that. (And even SJ, for example, has seen a readership decline over the past two decades simply due to, well, a lack of available shonen.) This obviously has reach far beyond just entertainment, however - Japan is littered with closed elementary schools that were shuttered simply because there weren't enough pupils to justify keeping the school open. It's become harder and harder to run places like a dedicated "baby supply" store, as well, since so few people need such supplies. The effects of constantly declining birthrate are felt in every part of Japanese life. This isn't necessarily treated as absolute doom-and-gloom - Japan is already a famously crowded country, and many people are of the opinion that an overall population reduction would have many beneficial effects - but the immediate consequences are potentially quite dire and often drive debate despite the fact that the actual topic doesn't come up much. The whole thing is seen as deeply embarrassing and generally not something a public figure should talk about - which simply makes it harder to deal with the core problem and at least stabilize the birthrate. This is probably going to come to a head in coming years, however, as more and more baby boomers retire and/or die, and the nation is forced to confront its lack of children. This is also why there's so many stories about using robots as caregivers coming out of Japan - the number of people in need of caregivers will soon far outnumber the willing providers. Unfortunately, perhaps since they have Astro Boy rather than Rosie the Robot in mind, many tend to run into Uncanny Valley issues. Mega Corps called keiretsunote were very tight. As a result, the Japanese civil service—being both public-sector and permanent—got its hands on a great deal of power. How much power, you ask? Well, think of how much power Yes, Minister claimed the British Civil Service had, then double it. That is how powerful the Japanese Civil Service actually is. As a result, the previous DPJ government tried to put the bureaucrats in their place. It's debatable as to whether they were more successful than Jim Hacker. Meanwhile, the current overall power in Japan is also an issue. In America, for instance, most of the actual power is in Congress. Japan, on the other hand, has something referred to as the "Iron Triangle", which is apparently hollow. The triangle represents the three great powers in Japan (Business, the Diet, and the Civil Service) which have to work against each other to get anything done. The politicians want good press and re-election; the businesses want subsidies, breaks, and general government goodies; and the bureaucrats want, well, more bureaucracy (those sick bastards). It is called "hollow" because the three-way struggle leaves a situation where no one can be held accountable for almost anything. Any attempt at pinning anyone down for something will result in an endless game of finger pointing. Then pile onto that the fact that even though it's a democracy, most of the citizens are voting blind. In Japan there is no freedom of information or "right to know". The government decides what the people NEED to know, and (this might come as a shock) so far the consensus is that the public probably knows too much as it is.