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Japan

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Index
  1. Japan Main Page
  2. Japan Expands Its Empire
  3. Japan Tests Its Military Might
  4. Economic Recovery Is Followed by Deep Recession
  5. Succession of Prime Ministers Meet Only Fleeting Popularity
  6. Scandals Taint Leadership
  7. Tsunami Devastates Japan and Causes Nuclear Disaster
  8. Tension Increases with Asian Neighbors Over Islands
  9. Noda Wins Party Leadership Vote, but Faces Strong Opposition
  10. Shinzo Abe Becomes Prime Minister Again in Late 2012
  11. Ongoing Fukushima Leak Declared an Emergency
  12. Japan Lifts Decades Old Arms Ban
Scandals Taint Leadership

Abe faced international criticism in early 2007 for refusing to acknowledge the military role in forcing as many as 200,000 Japanese women, known as comfort women, to provide sex to soldiers during World War II. In March, Abe did apologize to the women, but maintained his denial that the military was involved. "I express my sympathy for the hardships they suffered and offer my apology for the situation they found themselves in," he said.

A 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck in northwest Japan in July 2007, killing 10 people and injuring more than 900. The tremor caused skyscrapers in Tokyo to sway for almost a minute, buckled roads and bridges, and damaged a nuclear power plant. About 315 gallons of radioactive water leaked into the Sea of Japan.

Prime Minister Abe abruptly announced his resignation in September just days into the parliamentary session, during which he stated his controversial plan to extend Japan's participation in a U.S.-led naval mission in Afghanistan. The move followed a string of scandals and the stunning defeat of his Liberal Democratic Party in July's parliamentary elections. The Liberal Democratic Party elected Yasuo Fukuda to succeed Abe. Fukuda, a veteran lawmaker, was elected to Parliament in 1990 and held the post as chief cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. His father, Takeo Fukuda, served as prime minister from 1976 to 1978.

In June 2008, the upper house of Parliament, which is controlled by the opposition, censured Fukuda, citing his management of domestic issues. The lower house, however, supported him in a vote of confidence. Fukuda unexpectedly resigned in September, barely a year in office. Shortly before he stepped down, Fukuda made several cabinet changes and announced a $17 billion stimulus package, making his resignation that much more stunning. He had, however, been unable to break a stalemate in Parliament that prevented passage of several pieces of important legislation.

Taro Aso, a conservative and former foreign minister, was elected as president of the governing Liberal Democratic Party in September. Two days later, on Sep. 24, the lower house of Parliament selected him as prime minister. At the same time, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which won control of the upper house of Parliament in 2007, was threatening to end the 50 year reign of the Liberal Democrats in the next election cycle.

In Aug. 2009 parliamentary elections, the opposition Democratic Party won in a landslide over the ruling Liberal Democrats, who had been in power nearly uninterrupted for a half-century. The Democratic Party increased its number of seats from 119 to 308, while the Liberal Democrats slid from 296 seats to 119. Yukio Hatoyama, who became prime minister in September, promised to lift Japan out of economic stagnation and a culture of corruption–malaise widely credited with sparking the popular backlash against the Liberal Democrats. Hatoyama campaigned on promises to move the U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma off the island of Okinawa and recast the relationship between Japan and the U.S. as one of equals. Okinawans had long complained about the noise and intrusion of the base, and tension between residents and marines soured after the rape of a 12-year-old local by three marines in 1995. The U.S. resisted Hatoyama's plan to move the base off the island, and insisted that Japan comply with 2006 agreement to relocate the base to a less populated part of Okinawa. However, in early 2010 as tension mounted between North and South Korea over the sinking of a South Korean warship and China indicated it planned to beef up its military, polls showed that most Japanese endorsed the role of the U.S. as a protector of Japan, and support of plans to move the base off Okinawa was largely limited to the island. Hatoyama's popularity took a nosedive, and he resigned in June. He was the fourth prime minister to step down in four years. The Democrats elected Foreign Minister Naoto Kan, a former leftist activist, to take over for Hatoyama.

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