歌舞伎座新築へ 伝統芸能を発展させる礎に

2010-04-30 08:53:00 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 30, 2010)
Reinvigorate traditional performing arts
歌舞伎座新築へ 伝統芸能を発展させる礎に(4月29日付・読売社説)

The stage on which many fine kabuki actors performed some of their greatest shows is about to be reborn. The curtain will come down on the antiquated Kabuki-za theater in Ginza, Tokyo, with a closing ceremony Friday. The theater will be torn down and rebuilt.
新歌舞伎座のイメージ図 数々の名優たちの足跡を刻んだ舞台が生まれ変わる。東京・銀座の歌舞伎座が老朽化に伴う建て替えのため、明日の閉場式を最後に休場する。

The Kabuki-za, built with a grand architectural style evocative of the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600), has been a cultural space and distinctive landmark in central Tokyo. Many people were surely saddened to bid farewell to the venerable theater.

The first Kabuki-za theater in Ginza was built in 1889. After the theater burned down several times, the present structure opened its doors in 1951.

A new Kabuki-za building will be completed in three years as a multifunctional facility that will house a new four-story kabuki theater and a 29-story office building.

Farewell performances at the theater, which lasted for 16 months, were filled to overflowing every day.


Interest reignited

Kabuki has entered a new phase of prosperity. Public performances are being well received at Shinbashi Enbujo in Tokyo, at the Minami-za in Kyoto, and at the Shochiku-za in Osaka.

This marks a turnaround from about 30 to 40 years ago, when kabuki was in a slump. At that time, some people harbored grave doubts about kabuki's future.

Since the mid-1980s, however, kabuki has regained popularity. Interest in kabuki has been rekindled by performances commemorating an actor's succession to the stage name Ichikawa Danjuro--the name of the person considered to be the founder of kabuki performed in Edo (present Tokyo)--and attempts to create new styles of kabuki, starting with "super kabuki," a combination of traditional kabuki with contemporary playwrights' work and modern stage technology.

Since the 1970s, the National Theatre in Tokyo has devoted considerable resources to training kabuki actors and musicians. Those who earned their stripes at the theater are now supporting the foundations of kabuki.

Everyday terms such as "nobetsu makunashi" (without intermission), "oozume" (the final act), and "ohako" (one's specialty) originated in kabuki. This brings home again the depth of Japanese language and the aesthetic sense of the Japanese people.


Laying the groundwork

Audiences can feel the actors' powerful performances or marvel at the elaborate stage sets all the more when they watch a show at the theater. If kabuki is performed at more local theaters while the Kabuki-za is being rebuilt, the traditional art's fan base will widen even further.

Such traditional performing arts as kabuki, noh plays and ningyo-joruri bunraku puppetry are registered on UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritages. Although kabuki's popularity stands out among these performing arts, the origins and themes of all three are inextricably linked.

The revised Fundamental Law of Education stipulates that educators should instill a respect for Japan's tradition and culture in their students. Accordingly, the official guidelines for middle school teaching, for instance, say, "It is important to stimulate students' interest" in such classic performing arts as noh, kyogen, kabuki and rakugo comic storytelling.

Increasing opportunities for children to appreciate traditional performing arts will deepen their understanding of Japanese culture.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 29, 2010)
(2010年4月29日01時16分 読売新聞)

小沢氏起訴相当 「公判で真相」求めた審査会

2010-04-29 08:34:07 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 29, 2010)
Panel wants truth about Ozawa uncovered
小沢氏起訴相当 「公判で真相」求めた審査会(4月28日付・読売社説)

An independent judicial panel of citizens threw down the gauntlet in challenging prosecutors who had decided not to indict Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa. We can only call this an exercise of the "good sense of citizens."

In a closely watched decision, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, which comprised 11 citizens, agreed that Ozawa merits indictment over his fund management body's alleged false reporting of political funds, a step beyond a decision that would merely deem nonindictment as inappropriate.

The panel's decision reflects a clear commonsense judgment that calls for the clarification of the facts and determining where the responsibility lies as long as there are suspicions concerning Ozawa's involvement.

As an initial step, prosecutors must reinvestigate the case thoroughly. If they decide not to indict Ozawa again, a judicial panel could decide for the second time that he merits indictment. Court-appointed lawyers could then indict him in place of prosecutors.

Attention is now focused on whether prosecutors will reverse course and indict Ozawa, taking into account the panel's decision.

"I'm surprised by the unexpected result. I believe the prosecutors will make an appropriate judgment in the end," Ozawa said in response to the panel's decision. He should fulfill his accountability by answering the questions the panel raised.


Key to decision

The key to the panel's decision was its interpretations of a statement by House of Representatives member Tomohiro Ishikawa, who was in charge of clerical work at Ozawa's fund management organization, Rikuzan-kai, and others involved. Ishikawa has been indicted on charges of violating the Political Funds Control Law.

Ishikawa told investigators of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office he had informed Ozawa of his plan not to list 400 million yen in the management organization's political funds report, and obtained Ozawa's approval. Rikuzan-kai used most of the money to purchase a plot of land in Tokyo.

However, Ozawa denied conspiring with Ishikawa, saying: "I don't know. I approved [the report], believing that the person in charge had recorded the facts."

The prosecutors eventually decided not to indict Ozawa, concluding that Ishikawa's statement lacked substance. However, the judicial panel disagreed, calling Ozawa's statement "unreasonable and unnatural" and "hard to believe," based on Ishikawa's statement and other evidence.

The panel even went on to say Ozawa had "persistently covered up" the fact that he had provided the 400 million yen so as "not to have the media kick up a fuss about it."

The panel, therefore, sought Ozawa's indictment from a different angle than the prosecutors, who put top priority on proving a suspect's guilt.


'Good sense' shown

The inquest panel's citizens' "good sense" was clearly shown in the following statement:

"Is it right not to question the responsibility of politicians whenever they insist they left the matter in question to their secretaries?
"As public distrust in politics and money is growing, the case cannot be ignored from the viewpoint of citizens."

We believe such views are shared by many people.

During the investigation of the Rikuzan-kai case, prosecutors were criticized for leaking information to the media.

Prosecutors must not be carried away by the feelings of citizens when conducting an investigation. But they should give explanations that satisfy the public.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 28, 2010)
(2010年4月28日01時19分 読売新聞)

不起訴相当議決 首相は審査会の指摘に応えよ

2010-04-28 08:24:53 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 28, 2010)
Hatoyama must answer inquest panel's questions
不起訴相当議決 首相は審査会の指摘に応えよ(4月27日付・読売社説)

An inquest panel recently decided it was appropriate for prosecutors not to indict Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama over false records of political donations compiled by his fund-management organization. However, Hatoyama should not mistakenly think this has allowed him to completely escape the scandal over falsified political donations. We would like to ask the prime minister to carefully read the report compiled by the Tokyo No. 4 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution.

Hatoyama continually said he knew nothing about the falsification of the political fund reports and the huge amount of money provided by his mother. However, the panel questioned this, saying the natural feeling of ordinary citizens was that such a situation was unthinkable. Most of the public will probably have the same doubts.

It is the prime minister's duty to answer that question as well as to explain the use of his political funds. This should be considered separately from whether he is criminally liable.


Hatoyama's claim doubted

In its report, the panel explained what caused Hatoyama's former first state-funded secretary to begin falsifying the political fund reports.

Hatoyama's organization became totally dependent on the prime minster's personal funds after donations from companies and labor unions to political fund management organizations were prohibited by law in 2000.

"Don't always rely on my money," Hatoyama was quoted as telling the former secretary. "I want you to raise funds on your own."

Hatoyama's complaint prompted the former secretary to start falsifying records of political donations by padding contributions from individuals and revenues from fund-raising parties, the report said.

Hatoyama told the former secretary to raise funds by himself, but the prime minister must have understood how difficult that would be.

Meanwhile, Hatoyama's provision of money to the fund organization has decreased drastically every year since his organization began receiving political funds of 15 million yen a month--180 million yen annually--from his own mother. Given these circumstances, Hatoyama's claim to have known nothing is hardly convincing, the panel said. This logic is strongly persuasive.

Also, some members of the public suspected the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office of giving special consideration to the government when it did not directly question Hatoyama and instead let him submit a written report about the issue.

Quite a few members of the inquest panel reportedly questioned the contents of Hatoyama's written report. In other words, they may have said prosecutors' investigations were insufficient.


Panel seeks tougher law

It is also noteworthy that the panel proposed revisions of the current Political Funds Control Law, saying its provisions are very advantageous for politicians.

Representatives of political fund organizations are held accountable for violations of the law if they do not pay proper attention to the appointment and supervision of the people responsible for the organizations' accounting. However, there must be neglect of not only one, but both appointment and supervision to constitute a violation.

This is why the prime minister, who was found not to be at fault regarding the former secretary's appointment, was not charged with criminal liability.

New Komeito has already submitted to the current Diet session a bill to revise the law so that people who neglect either appointment or supervision can be held criminally responsible. However, discussions on the bill have not proceeded very far because members of some parties feel it is too strict or that prosecutors would misuse the revised law.

It is common sense among ordinary people for superiors at private companies to take responsibility for supervising their subordinates, according to the panel.

We would like the panel's opinion to be applied to discussions about revising the law based on the will of the public.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 27, 2010)
(2010年4月27日01時13分 読売新聞)

医療の人手不足 外国人の就労制限撤廃は当然

2010-04-27 09:08:24 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 27, 2010)
Foreign nurses deserve helping hand
医療の人手不足 外国人の就労制限撤廃は当然(4月26日付・読売社説)

Given the serious shortage of medical and nursing care workers and nurses, lifting certain restrictions so qualified foreigners in these fields can apply their skills in this country is an obvious solution.

In its fourth basic immigration control policy plan compiled late last month, the Justice Ministry stated it would reexamine the mandatory limit on the length of time foreign nurses and dentists can work in Japan when they hold residential status.

Even if non-Japanese qualify to work as a nurse or dentist after passing state exams, they are not permitted to work here for more than seven years and six years, respectively. A four-year limit is imposed on public health nurses and midwives.

Many foreigners with such qualifications desire to continue working in Japan beyond the set limits. Their aspirations are rightful in view of the fact that they have passed national exams and conquered the Japanese language barrier.

The limits on working years for non-Japanese were mostly probably introduced out of concern that Japanese might be deprived of working opportunities. The restrictions have been criticized as excessive for years. The time limit for foreign doctors was dropped four years ago.


Speed up ordinances' review

The ministry plans to revise relevant ordinances to abolish time restrictions on all remaining medical professions, including nurses. This is a necessary corrective step. We want the ministry to accelerate its work on revising these ordinances.

The ministry's fourth basic immigration control plan incorporates a policy to study accepting foreigners in the nursing care field on condition they graduate from universities in Japan and pass state exams.

The population of elderly people requiring nursing care is growing at an ever-quickening pace. The nation has about 1.24 million nursing care workers today; estimates suggest the nation will need almost double that number in 2025.

Meanwhile, many Japanese who have earned qualifications as care workers then opt to work in another field. The physical and emotional demands of a career in nursing care, combined with the low pay, often are too much to bear.

To alleviate the manpower shortage in nursing care, the first step is to improve the working environment for Japanese. However, there is a limit to just how quickly the ranks of Japanese nursing care workers can be increased. Because of this, opening the door to foreign nursing care givers is the right decision.

Remove language barrier

More help also should be extended to the people from Indonesia and the Philippines whom Japan has been accepting as candidates to work as certified nurses and care workers based on economic partnership agreements with the two countries.

National exams for nurses and nursing care workers are dotted with difficult kanji. Last month, 254 foreigners took the exam for nurses, but only three passed.

Indonesian and Philippine examinees have acquired licenses and expertise as nurses and nursing care workers in their home countries. Considering that the pass rate for Japanese examinees stands at nearly 90 percent, the extremely low success rate for foreign examinees can be most probably be attributed to the kanji barrier.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is reexamining the content of national tests. The revisions include replacing difficult terms with easier ones, such as "jokuso" with "tokozure" to mean bedsores.

We welcome this move. But the ministry should go a step further and print kana readings alongside kanji and allow examinees to use dictionaries in their exams.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun,April 26, 2010)
(2010年4月26日01時23分 読売新聞)

仕分け第2弾 中長期の戦略的視点が重要だ

2010-04-26 08:01:25 | 英字新聞
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 26, 2010)
Govt must avoid haste when trimming waste
仕分け第2弾 中長期の戦略的視点が重要だ(4月25日付・読売社説)

It is crucial to thoroughly cut the wasteful use of taxpayer money by independent administrative institutions. However, medium- and long-term strategic perspectives are most important and should never take a backseat to a short-term cost-effectiveness view.

The Government Revitalization Unit, which is tasked with cutting wasteful public spending, on Friday began its second round of discussions to screen state-funded programs.

During the four-day round, the unit will scrutinize 151 programs at 47 independent administrative institutions that are under the jurisdiction of the Cabinet Office and nine ministries, which are among the 104 such institutions overseen by the government. The panel will judge whether the programs should, for example, either be abolished, have their budgets reduced, or be transferred to private organizations or local governments.

On Friday, the first day, panel members called for budget cuts and a review of the management structure of Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, saying the institute has been spending too much on office expenses in connection with the opening of its planned graduate school and on employee salaries.

On the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which is charge of dispatching Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and providing the government's official development assistance to other countries, the reviewers concluded JICA needs to further cut employee salaries, overseas allowances and travel expenses. The panel also judged that JICA should return its unused assets to state coffers.


Cozy relationships

It is an urgent task to review the cozy relationship among government ministries, independent administrative institutions and other corporations. Currently, in a practice known as amakudari, retiring bureaucrats parachute into positions at independent administrative institutions that have relationships with their former offices, or officials of independent administrative institutions take jobs at related companies and corporations after retirement. In return, independent administrative institutions, companies and corporations receive orders for programs with favorable conditions in the form of discretionary contracts, or they receive subsidies.

In cases where similar programs are being carried out by separate independent administrative institutions or by the institutions and local governments, abolishing or integrating the institutions or transferring the programs to local governments would help implement programs more efficiently and correct redundant administrative efforts.

Meanwhile, the unit should be cautious about reform that is mere number-juggling, namely integrating or abolishing science and technology research and development corporations without thorough consideration.


Some cases need more funds

There must be instances in which more, not less, budgetary resources should be allocated, if they are judged essential from the viewpoint of increasing international competitiveness, which is indispensable for a nation that relies on science and technology.

The unit's program screening is foremost a method that has produced a degree of good results in cutting wasteful budgets in local governments.

However, it is outrageous and unreasonable for the panel to draw its conclusions by majority rule after less than an hour of discussion on the fate of state-funded programs, which are extremely costly and complicated, and have an impact on the entire country.

As in the unit's first screening last autumn, in which fiscal 2010 budgetary requests were scrutinized, the current round is fully open to the public and is being broadcast live on the Internet.

Amid the free-falling approval rating of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, the government and ruling Democratic Party of Japan apparently have the ulterior motive of using the program screening as a tool to pump up the administration's public image. However, any attempt to make the screening a political show, which only plays to the gallery, must not be tolerated.

The government plans to compile a draft for reforming independent administrative institutions next month at the earliest, based on the conclusions it reaches during the current program screening. The government should conduct calm and prudent discussions before forming its final conclusions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 25, 2010)
(2010年4月25日01時06分 読売新聞)