Welcome to the second article of the series Inhae reads the news (in Japanese)!
I still don’t know what format this series will take. What I did this month was to:
- pick topics that interest me
- give some context to understand the issue
- pick one or two articles relative to these topics and study some passages of these articles
- For each studied passage:
- I give some vocabulary (only the words that I thought were the most difficult – it is hard to judge though…)
- I (have tried to) translate in English the passages (staying as close as possible to the Japanese version). This is part of my Japanese study, so I may have made mistakes.
- The underlined parts are the things that I found hard to understand or translate.
In the future, I will maybe focus more on context, guidelines and vocabulary and less on translation. For now, I have only picked articles on the news portal that I read, Mainichi, but I would love to make comparisons between different journals in the future. Instead of studying passages, I will maybe link to articles and just give reading guidelines and vocabulary in my post.
This article ended up being very long, but you can jump to the topic that interests you:
- Understanding the problem of the Cherry Blossom Party
- Political turmoil: resignations, scandals, inappropriate statements… are people getting used to it?
- Ministry of Education: why the introduction of a private English test to the University exam has been postponed?
- Customers Harassment: what concrete measures against it?
Cherry blossom party
The Cherry blossom Party is an event held by the Prime Minister and organised on public funds. It is held once a year since 1952. It aims at honouring people (I am not sure, but I think mainly from the public sector) for their achievements:「各界において功績、功労のあった方々を招き日頃の労苦を慰労するため」. The persons invited don’t have to pay. (Wikipedia)
In 2019, the opposition accused Abe of using the Cherry Blossom Party to entertain his supporters. The opposition said that most of the participants were members of the LDP and supporters of Abe.
Mainichi published a lot of articles on this topic, and it was hard to keep up with this affair… Our first article deals with the Cherry Blossom Party of this year (2019) and we will see why some people found it problematic. Our second article shows that invitations were circulating among the supporters of Abe.
Article 1: 桜を見る会、参加者は「共に政権を奪還した皆さん」? 首相あいさつに疑問の声
This article recalls why this year’s Cherry Blossom Party has been problematic:
- 凝縮する・ぎょうしゅく: condense
- 奪還する・だっかん: recapture, recover, win back, regain
- 騒動・そうどう: disturbance, agitation, stir
- 渦中・かちゅう: a maelstrom, a whirlpool
- 恒例の・こうれい: regular, customary, traditional, usual
“Isn’t everything condensed in this sentence? ‘This is the seventh Cherry Blossom Party since I regained the political power together with you all.’ In the midst of the turmoil of the Cherry Blossom Party customary held every year, these were the words of greeting from Shinzo Abe this year.” This party, which is held with our taxes, was actually a gathering of the people who campaigned for the return of Abe in power?”
I am not sure about the underlined part. I translated with “turmoil”, I don’t see why the journalist would have used this word. My guess in that the cherry blossom party arouses criticism every year (for instance, I know that the number of participants has kept increasing since 2012)? Or maybe this only means that organising such an event causes a lot of hustle and bustle?
This greeting by Abe is problematic because it gives the impression that the party is held for those who helped him regain political power in 2012:
- 功績・こうせき: a great achievement
- 功労・こうろう: distinguished services
- 省庁・しょうちょう: government offices
- 踏まえる・ふまえる: be based on
- 幅広い・はばひろい: wide, broad
- 慰労・いろう: recognition of sb’s services
- 趣旨・しゅし: the point, the aim
- 後援・こうえん: support, backing
“The Prime Minister ‘widely invites to the Cherry Blossom Party the persons who made great achievements and services in every field, based on the recommendations of government offices’. The aim [of the event] is to honour them. While it should not be related to beliefs, thoughts or supported party, just by hearing the greeting [speech made by Abe], it looks like it is exactly a gathering of LDP members and supporters of Abe.”
Article 2: 桜見る会、下関市議枠 安倍事務所から申込書 招待人数、上限なし
We now know that the Cherry Blossom Party was supposed to honour people who made great achievements. But this article shows that LDP members could easily invite their own supporters by copying the invitation.
- 市議・しぎ: abbreviation for 市会議員・しかいぎいん: a member of the municipal assembly
- 優遇・ゆうぐう: preferential treatment
“According to members of the municipal assembly, it was possible to make several copies of the invitation [because] the Prime Minister’s office did not mention any upper limit. [The Cherry Blossom Party] is an official event where are invited people of all fields who rendered great services, but several non-LDP members were not handed the invitation form, and we find ourselves in a situation where [the Cherry Blossom Party] is used politically to solidify the support to the LDP with this tendency to favour supporters among local assemblies.”
- 会派・かいは: a parliamentary faction, group.
- 取りまとめる・とりまとめる: collect, gather all together
“According to one member of the municipal assembly, it was possible to get the invitation form through [a member] of the municipal assembly who belonged to a faction close to Abe, and then it was possible to make several copies. He said that no upper limit was given and that ‘we just had to fill in the form and bring it to the [Prime Minister’s] office’. This year included, this has been going on for several years. Another member of the municipal assembly who belongs to the LDP revealed that they had, indeed, invited several times their own supporters. It is not clear how Abe’s office collected the invitation forms, but this member said ‘we’ve never been refused'”.
I think that this is the heart of the problem. The event is held on public funds, but the number of participants kept increasing since Abe regain his position as Prime Minister in 2012. According to Mainichi’s investigation, LDP members were tacitly allowed to hand the invitation from to their own supporters.
Are people getting used to political scandals?
There has been some turmoil in Abe’s cabinet towards the end of October. First, Trade Minister Isshu Sugawara 菅原一秀 has been accused of offering money and gifts to constituents, thus violating Japan election law. He resigned on the 25th because he didn’t want to affect the administration of the Diet (by slowing down or paralysing the deliberations), but he didn’t acknowledge these accusations.
Just some days later, Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda 萩生田光一 had to apologise for making a statement that seemed to acknowledge and accept discrimination. From 2020 on, a private English test will be added to the university entrance exam. These tests can be expensive and hard to take in rural areas. Asked about this, minister Hagiuda said that students should “compete within their means/status”.
Finally, on the 31st, Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai 河井克行 resigned, following allegations that his wife violated election laws when she campaigned for her seat at the House of Counselors.
Article 1: 慣れっこになる怖さ＝与良正男
In this article, journalist Masao YORA deplores that people tend to get used to political scandals.
- 有権者・ゆうけんしゃ: elector, voter, constituent.
- 疑惑・ぎわく: suspicion
- 審議・しんぎ: deliberation, consideration
- 停滞・ていたい: stagnation, congestion, paralysis.
“Sugawara didn’t acknowledge the suspicion that he distributed money and valuable goods to constituents. The reason he gave for his resignation is [that he wanted to avoid] the stagnation of the administration and the deliberations of the Diet. This too is the usual pattern.”
- 失態・しつたい: a fault, a blunder
“What is worrying, is the fact that citizens might become used to it, thinking ‘again?’ and don’t even get cross at such big blunders from the government.”
We are not translating it here, but Masao YORA also adds that a survey made by Mainichi after the resignation of Sugawara shows that the support rate of Abe didn’t drop. People are so “used to” political scandals, that it does not affect their support to the government.
- 民間・みんかん: private, nongovernmental
- 懸念・けねん: fear, anxiety, concern
- 萩生田光一文: Koichi HAGIUDA (Education Minister)
- 身の丈・みのたけ: means, status
“Concerning the introduction of a private English test to the standard university entrance exam, there have been concerns that inequalities might appear relative to the family’s incomes and the place where one lives. Responding to this concern, Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda said ‘Everyone should compete in accordance with their status’.”
I am translating the part “もらえれば” by “they should”, but it might be too strong… I understand the もらえれば like this: “if students would (make the favour to) compete within their means (for the sake of the system?), there would be no problem”… But maybe I am over-interpreting.
- 撤回する・てっかい: withdraw, retract
- 格差・かくさ: gap, disparity
- 容認・ようにん: admission, approval, acceptance, toleration
- 思慮・しりょ: thought, consideration
“After receiving criticism, he retracted [this statement], but I guess that I am not the only one who feels that the acceptance of disparities was [the minister]’s real intention. This kind of statements that are lacking consideration are an everyday occurrence.”
- 警告・けいこく: warning
“Of course, we, newspapers and televisions, are the ones who, more than anyone, must not get used to it. (ただし), the surveys conducted at those times are without a doubt giving a warning to the government. If the support rate of the cabinet were to decrease by only 5 points, the Prime Minister would lose his composure and would certainly reconsider things a little.”
This paragraph was difficult to translate, and I am not sure whether I understood it correctly or not. I don’t understand, for instance, how the ただし is supposed to make sense here. To me, it looks like the journalist is praying people to show their discontentment in the surveys in order to bring changes in the government. People tend to maintain the same support rate to Abe, in spite of the multiples scandals, because they say that there is no other politician that would be a better choice (than Abe) at the moment. My interpretation of this article is that the journalist deplores that attitude because it gives the ruling party the impression that scandals can go on and that it does not matter. If only people would express their dissatisfaction during the surveys, the ruling party would at least, perhaps, change its attitude a little.
Article 2: 「責任は私に」49回 なぜ安倍首相の「任命」は失敗続きなのか
In this article, journalist Yoshii interviews politician Seiichiro MURAKAMI 村上誠一郎 (LDP). This is what Seiichiro MURAKAMI says about the current cabinet:
- 見識・けんしき: good judgement, discernment, wisdom, insight
- 官僚・かんりょう: a government official
“Anyway, as things stand, we cannot say that the government officials are selected according to their abilities and discernment. Even without speaking of the resignations, what about the recent statements made by government officials?”
The verb 至る・いたる means “lead to”, so in this phrase, it could mean “without leading to a resignation”. The sentence could then be interpreted as “even if they didn’t lead to resignations, what about the recent statements made by government officials?” I don’t know why, but I have the feeling that – 至らずとも can mean “without speaking of (without going as far as to mention…)”, maybe I saw it somewhere during my preparation for the JLPT N1? I hope it is correct.
And the journalist continues:
- 波紋・はもん: a ripple, a stir, a sensation
- 萩生田: HAGIUDA: Education Minister Koichi HAGIUDA
- 温室効果ガス・おんしつこうかガス: greenhouse gas
- 排出・はいしゅつ: emission
- 小泉: KOIZUMI: Minister of the Environment Shinjiro KOIZUMI
- 適材適所・てきざいてきしょ: the right person in the right place
- 首をひねる・くびをひねる: be dubious, sceptical about.
“When seeing Education Minister Haguida whose [statement] ‘within their means’ still has repercussions until now, or Minister of the Environment Koizumi who could not respond when asked by foreign media what were his measures to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gas, there must be indeed a lot of people who are sceptical about whether we got the right person in the right place.”
Apropos of Shinjiro KOIZUMI, he has been selected by the TIME to join the new list TIME 100 Next “that spotlights 100 rising stars who are shaping the future of business, entertainment, sports, politics, science, health and more.”
English test and political turmoil
Japan’s Education Ministry has been preparing a plan to reform the standardised University entrance exam by adding an English test from the private sector. The plan was due to be effective from April 2020 but the Ministry announced on November 1st that it has been postponed.
This plan attracted much criticism. First, several English tests were to be accepted, but they all allot scores on different criteria, and it would have been difficult for universities to fairly judge the students. There were also concerns about regional and economic disparities between the test takers. Taking those English tests and getting good preparation for them is expensive, and students living in rural areas would have to make an expensive journey to take the test.
As a result, many organisations in the education sector have asked for a postponement of the plan. In spite of the many demands, the Ministry seemed resolute to carry out things as planned and concrete measures were already being taken. Then, suddenly, on November 1st, they announced the postponement of the plan… why? This is the question Mainichi is asking in several articles.
Article 1: 英語民間試験の延期 遅すぎた判断の罪は重い
While Mainichi’s position is critical of the new plan, they don’t welcome its postponement only with enthusiasm. They criticise the government for having postponed it at the last minute, at a time where organisations and students were taking concrete steps to face the upcoming test.
They also say that the Ministry didn’t postpone the plan out of concern for the students, but because they feared political turmoil:
- 逆風・ぎゃくふう: an adverse wind, an unfavourable wind
“Rather than saying that this adjournment is a measure taken out of consideration for test-takers or [in order to maintain] equality in education opportunities, let’s say that [it was decided because] they wanted to avoid criticism of the government or opposition from general opinion.”
I don’t know how to translate the かわす here. My first thought was that it was the verb “交わす” which means “exchange”, but it didn’t make sense. I would have understood if the verb were “to change toward”, meaning that they anticipated the deterioration of the public opinion, but “exchange” made no sense. After looking up in the dictionary, I realised that it could be the verb 躱す which means “avoid”, “evade”, “dodge”. But then, I didn’t understand how it made sense with 思惑・おもわく because I only knew it for its meaning “expectation”, “anticipation”. Apparently, it can also mean “purpose”, “motive”, which would make sense here… I hope I am not mistaken!
- 露呈する・ろてい: expose, disclose, reveal
“There are doubts concerning the aptitude of HAGIUDA for his current office (Minister of Education), as he revealed his nonunderstanding of equal opportunities in education with his statement ‘within your means’.”
Article 2: 英語民間試験見直し 「萩生田氏守るため」官邸が主導
Our second article is an in-depth analyse of the Ministry’s choice. It shows the steps that led to the postponement of the plan.
- 足らざる・たらざる: This is the old negative form ざる of the old form 足る of the verb 足りる…?? It sounds like a smart way to say “足りない”. Maybe you need to have high standards when you work at the Ministry of Education… 🤔 (read more)
“On the 29th [of October], HAGIUDA said in a press conference: ‘I absolutely want to proceed as planned, while making up for insufficient points’.”
- 河井克行: Katsuyuki KAWAI, former Minister of Justice.
- 安里: Anri KAWAI, wife of Katsuyuki KAWAI
- 菅原一秀: Isshu SUGAWARA, former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry
“But on the 31st the situation changed. On the early morning of this day, former Justice Minister Katsuyuki KAWAI presented his resignation in relation to the ‘suspicions of illegal elections for public office’ of his wife Anri, member of the House of Councillors. Just after former Trade Minister Isshu SUGAWARA, we fell in the critical situation where two government officials had resigned in one week. If the flames were to reach HAGIUDA, it could mean a stalemate for the government.”
- 官邸・かんてい: the Official Residence of the Prime Minister
- 幹部・かんぶ: a senior member, a key officer
- 突破・とっぱ: with 強行: force one’s way through
- 響く・ひびく: affect, have an effect on
- 謙虚な・けんきょ: modest, humble
“Someone close to the Prime Minister said, ‘what will we do if a third [official] resigns?’ (senior officer). Inside the ruling party too, opinions [in favour of] a revision [of the plan] are spreading: ‘pushing through with the private English tests will affect the support rate of the government. We must humbly switch policies.'”
The article goes on saying that Hagiuda is a close ally of Abe and that the decision concerning the English test was taken to protect him.
カスハラ: Harassment by customers
カスハラ is a shortcut for カスタマーハラスメント, Customer Harassment.
Harassment by customers is a social problem in Japan. According to The Japan Times, a labour union survey conducted at the end of 2018 showed that “73.8 per cent of Japan workers in the service sector have faced harassment from customers”.
Article1: 増える「カスハラ」 現場任せにしていないか
- 精神障害の労災認定: Recognition of work-related mental disorder
- 精神障害・せいしんしょうがい: mental disability, mental disorder
- 労災・ろうさい: abbreviation for 労働災害・ろうどうさいがい: a work-related accident
- 認定・にんてい: recognition
“According to the data of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the number of people who suffered from work-related mental disorders while responding to claims issued by customers or clients is up to 78 persons in the past 10 years. Among them, 24 persons committed suicide. We cannot overlook this situation.”
I couldn’t find a good way to translate “people who received the recognition of work-related mental disorder”, so I simplified. If you are interested in this topic, I found some thorough documentation on the website of the Ministry of Health, Labour of Welfare. I wanted to read more about it myself, but I must admit that this document seems long and difficult…
- 恐喝罪・きょうかつざい: a charge of extortion (or blackmail).
“In the interviews of companies conducted by the Ministry, examples of customer harassment were given, such as violent acts or extortion of goods and money, tenacious reprimands or [harassing] behaviour that would continue even after the end of the business hours. In the past, there has been a case of conviction for extortion crime against someone who had forced the director of a convenience store to get down on their knees.”
I’m not sure I see the relation between extortion and forcing someone down on their knees… Maybe I misunderstood something, or maybe the article does not mention everything…
The article goes on saying that companies should not let employees deal with these situations on their own but create organisations to protect them. The journalist concludes:
- 指針・ししん: a guiding principle, a guideline for…
- 策定する・さくてい: decide on a plan, settle on a policy
- 素案・そあん: a draft, a rough plan
“The Ministry too has established guidelines for companies in order to prevent power harassment. But when it comes to the measures against customer harassment, the draft only indicates that [companies] should keep a consultation system. [The Ministry] must not leave the companies deal [with the problem of customers harassment] on their own, and it must indicate how to respond to concrete cases of customer harassment in the form of guidelines.”
The underlined part is hard to translate. This is how I understand it: “the draft should indicate (示す) through guidelines (指針で) the criteria for judging 判断基準 [the correct and] concrete (具体的な) answer (対応)”. In other words, the draft should indicate concrete criteria in order to evaluate how one should respond to concrete cases of customer harassment?
I have written this article throughout the month of November, and I really enjoyed doing it. I am glad that I renewed with the “Japanese news” category of my blog (it started in 2018 but only lasted a few months). I more or less managed to read the news regularly in November thanks to this post. However, I wonder if studying passages is the best way to do it. As I said in the introduction, I will certainly change the format of this series in the upcoming months. After the JLPT on December 1st, I will have plenty of time to think about it!