Celebs, Manga Artists in Japan Protest Abe Power Grab

Celebs, Manga Artists in Japan Protest Abe Power Grab

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Kyari Pamyu Pamyu and Abe Shinzo
Breaking taboo, a horde of Japanese celebrities - from Kyary Pamyu Pamyu to popular manga artists - are challenging a controversial change to Japanese law.

If there’s been one truism about the entertainment industry in Japan, it’s that celebrities don’t get involved in politics. Indeed, just last year, Japanese model Rola found herself the subject of intense attacks and vitriol when she took a stand against the move of the US military base in Okinawa.

However, a new move by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and the Liberal Democratic Party (自民党; jimintou) to change a seemingly obscure rule in the way Japan’s public prosecutor’s office is run has many claiming that Abe and the LDP are attempting to erode the separation of powers in the Japanese government. The move has proven so unpopular that hordes of manga artists, celebrities, idols and, singers – including notable names such as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and actor Asada Tadanobu – are joining in on the protest.

Gaming the Public Prosecutor’s Office

The issue at hand is the age of Tokyo High Public Prosecutor Kurokawa Hiromu, who’s currently 63. Kurokawa, according to law, would need to retire this year.

However, Kurokawa is also known to be close with PM Abe. And many claim that Abe’s been shielded from prosecution for the many scandals that have taken place during his tenure – such as the Moritomo Gakuen (森友学園) and Kake Gakuen ((加計学園) scandals, and the Cherry Blossom Viewing Party scandal (桜を見る会; sakura o miru kai) – precisely because Kurokawa is Tokyo’s head prosecutor.

The proposed revision to the Japanese National Civil Service Law would raise the public prosecutor’s resignation age by default to 65. However, it also would allow the ruling Cabinet to extend someone’s retirement date further according to its judgment. Many observers believe Abe and the LDP are making this move in order to elevate Kurokawa to the position of Attorney General – which would afford Abe even more protection.

After announcing its intention to change the Civil Service Law, the LDP started proceedings in the most lopsided way possible. The party’s head of the Lower House Cabinet Committee, Matsumoto Fumiaki, ignored calls for a joint committee investigation and started proceedings immediately. The LDP also ignored opposition calls to produce Legal Minister Mori Masako so that her opinion could be registered.

野党「森隠し」と反発 検察庁法改正案、与党が審議強行:朝日新聞デジタル

検察官の定年を65歳に引き上げ、内閣の判断で検察幹部の「役職定年」を延長できるようにする検察庁法改正案の委員会審議が8日、与党が強行する形で始まった。立憲民主党などの野党統一会派や共産党は森雅子法相が出席する形式を求めたが、与党は拒否。多くの野党議員が欠席する中で開かれた。 …

(JP) Link: Opposition Charges LDP is “Hiding Mori”; LDP Pushes Ahead with Deliberations on Revising the Public Prosecutor Law

The opposition immediately protested the move to ram through this change. Japanese Communist Party (共産党; kyousantou) member Shiokawa Tetsuya called Abe a “disaster opportunist” (火事場泥棒; kajibadorobou; literally, a thief who robs the scene of a fire), given that the move comes smack in the middle of Japan’s extended state of emergency.


The Hashtag Heard Throughout Japan: Kyary Pamyu-Pamyu, Others Speak Up

To protest the move, activists in Japan created the hashtag 検察庁法改正案に抗議します (“I Oppose Revising the Public Prosecutor’s Law”). Some even translated the issue into English to explain to those outside of Japan why, exactly, they felt so passionately about opposing this move.

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検察庁法改正法案に抗議します  This hashtag is people trying to raise their voices against the government forcefully passing the law to change the Public Prosecutor’s Office Law. (検察庁法)Hopefully these images make it a bit more easier to understand what’s happening! pic.twitter.com/w58F0QD7G8

The hashtag took off like wildfire. As of May 10th PM in Japan, according to Nikkan Sports, the number of tweets sporting the hashtag had crossed 3.8 million. And the show of support that seemed to erode Japanese show business’ tacit understanding that celebs don’t talk politics.

Perhaps the most notable is J-Pop powerhouse Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, who sports over 5 million worldwide followers on Twitter. Her simple tweet of the bare-bones hashtag, along with an explanatory graphic about the issue, has been enough to get her name in Japanese (#きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ) trending on JP Twitter overnight. The graphic, which uses heart symbols to show the cozy relationship between Abe and Public Prosecutor Kurokawa, is as funny as it is informative.

Kyary Pamyu-Pamyu original tweet

(Note: Sometime before publication, Kyary Pamyu-Pamyu deleted the referenced tweet and replaced it with this one. She explains she took the original tweet down because she “hates it when my fans fight.”)

But Kyary Pamyu-Pamyu wasn’t the only one speaking out. Popular Japanese actor Asano Tadanobu – known to US audiences for his roles in the Thor movies – also added his voice by posting the hashtag to his account.

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Many manga authors of works that are popular both inside and outside of Japan have also spoken up, along with a number of other celebrities. A few of the notable hashtag signatories include:

Many, many others have also signed on, as reported by Nikkan Sports.

Will This (Finally) Tilt Abe’s Frozen Polls?

Such an outpouring of collective anger is almost unprecedented in Japanese politics, especially from celebrities. I’m reminded of when former PM Mori Yoshiro was forced to resign after he played golf throughout the aftermath of the sinking of the Ehime Maru. PM Mori’s poll numbers tanked down to the low teens in the wake of that scandal.

But it’s not certain what the next step is. As of this time, it’s unclear if the Abe government plans to back down in the face of this massive public outcry. It’s also not clear if the scandal will be enough to have a significant effect on Abe’s polling numbers. Even a string of recent gaffes, including Abe’s much-mocked plan to distribute two cloth masks to every Japanese household, didn’t seem to make a dent in the most recent polling. Abe has been lucky that his tight control of the press, plus the lack of a popular opposition party, have served to keep him in power.

The question is: Has Abe’s luck just run out?

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Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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