The government of Japan is a constitutional monarchy, with a democratic parliament in two houses, the Upper House, the Lower House. At this time sovereignty is no longer in the hands of an Emperor, but rather in the hands of the Japanese people. Japan sponsors adult suffrage and a secret ballot. A Japanese Supreme Court is the only option to change the interpretation of the laws.
The people of Japan are religious during time of funerals, and disasters, according to one expert, Brian Bocking at Cork College in Ireland. He maintains that the average Japanese Person doesn’t turn to Buddhism until there is a funeral. The people of Japan are not all of a single tradition; they don’t ordinarily study religious texts. But, Bocking says, during funerals, and times of stress and crisis, Japanese religious engagement becomes far more intense. Another expert, John Nelson at the University of San Francisco agrees and goes further. The Japanese people he explains will move between two or more religious traditions; but in time of tragedy or suffering, it’s Buddhism. There are many schools of Buddhism, many schools of belief in suffering and the afterlife.
Bocking at Cork College feels that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are concerned about the causes of disaster. Why does the Creator allow an earthquake? Is it the sign of an Apocalypse? But the experts agree that the Buddhists, the Japanese in this instance, are taught to be concerned about maintaining a positive attitude as a response to disaster; the people of Japan in agreement with their religious beliefs, may turn to seeking a calm, peaceful and harmonious outlook, as they work with their neighbors to clean-up and rebuild.
Although there is a blending of religious traditions, even extending to Western traditions, burial in Japan is most often done according to Buddhist custom; cremation, then internment with family members in a family plot. Many Japanese keep altars in their homes to revere and pay tribute to passed ancestors.
On Monday, March 14, the Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara made a statement that the earthquake and resultant tsunami which killed as many as 15,000 persons and injured many thousands more was “divine punishment for egoism, and populism.” On Tuesday, the following day, he apologized for the remark. His early words translated to English were, “I think the disaster is divine punishment, although I feel sorry for the disaster victims.” The word for divine punishment in the Japanese language is “tembatsu.” Governor Ishihara told Kyodo News in his opinion the politics of Japan are tainted with egoism, and populism. He said the people should use the tsunami to eliminate egoism, which has “rusted onto the mentality of the Japanese over a long period of time.”
Populism simply stated is a political philosophy that sees the will of the people opposed to the will of “the elite.” It favors the political ideals and needs of ordinary people, regardless of class distinctions and political partisanship.
Those interested in the Japanese Populism may refer to a publication from Japan called “Practical Populism.” The current content of that publication tells its readers that, regarding the disasters, mainstream news sources downplayed the danger. The article goes on to urge North Americans on the West Coast to consider relocating, at least temporarily. “Radioactive winds are expected to hit North America tonight.”