Lost, Without a Trace

The 13-year-old girl was on her way home from badminton practice when she disappeared. Every night for five years, her mother kept the porch light on, hoping against hope for Megumi Yokota's return. That was almost 30 years ago. Then in 1996, Sakie Yokota and her husband learned that the North Koreans had snatched their daughter as part of a bizarre abduction program that had kidnapped scores of Japanese, perhaps as many as a hundred, in the 1970s and '80s.Ever since, Megumi Yokota's story has...

Born To Run

The prime minister calls a snap election, he wins by a landslide and his party returns to Parliament with a huge majority. What happens next? Certainly not a public struggle over who's going to succeed the leader, right?Wrong. Japan's political elite is already reading the tea leaves, trying to figure out who's going to become the next prime minister in September 2006, when Junichiro Koizumi, the man who guided his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to a momentous victory at the polls three months...

Heizo Takenaka

Heizo Takenaka has long been Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's point man for economic reform in Japan. After Koizumi was overwhelmingly re-elected in September, he appointed Takenaka minister for Internal Affairs and Communications. In the new position, Takenaka will shift the reform battle from banks and the privatization of Japan Post (which is now assured) to other fronts, like the consolidation of eight state-run banks into a single institution. Last week NEWSWEEK's Fareed Zakaria,...

Periscope

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's announcement last week that he had decided to shake up his cabinet caught Japan's political class off guard--and set the country on a potentially risky foreign-policy course. Shinzo Abe, a Liberal Democratic Party stalwart who has made a name for himself as a harsh conservative critic of North Korea, was named the government's chief policy spokesman--marking him as the leading contender to succeed Koizumi next fall. Despite Abe's stature as an LDP grandee (he...

The Good Life

It's the kind of first-class pampering that execs have come to expect from their favorite airlines. A chauffeur collects them from the office and delivers them--just 10 minutes before departure--to the terminal, where the business-only lounge offers all the amenities of a well-stocked boardroom. Once they're onboard there's a power socket for every passenger, breakfast is served at the seat and segregation keeps out those noisy leisure travelers. Nothing to do but sit back and wait for...

Drilling To The Core

In Jules Verne's classic 19th-century novel "Journey to the Center of the Earth," Professor Lidenbrock travels to a mysterious subterranean world. Now a Japanese ship is aiming to replicate his adventure, striking out on its own quest to explore the earth's depths. In August, the massive 57,000-metric-ton Chikyu ("Earth"), a cutting-edge deep-sea drilling vessel, left Nagasaki on a test run. Though the Japanese venture may not reveal the prehistoric monsters or hidden oceans that Lidenbrock's...

WAR WITHOUT MERCY

James Bowell, signalman third class, was standing on the bridge of his ship when the kamikazes came. "The sky was full of airplanes," he recalls, flown by pilots bent on killing as many Americans as possible at the sacrifice of their own lives. It was April 6, 1945, and Bowell's ship, the minesweeper Defense, was part of a picket line protecting the American invasion fleet off Okinawa. A kamikaze plane came right at the Defense, but at the last instant it tilted its wings and flew right behind...

TIME TO DEAL

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korea's deputy foreign minister, Kim Gye Gwan, had a private dinner meeting in Beijing on July 9. Three hours later, North Korea's state television network interrupted its 10:45 p.m. weather forecast to make a special announcement. A broadcaster in a dark blue suit declared that Pyongyang was returning to the six-nation talks on its nuclear-weapons program, which the North has boycotted for the last 13 months. "The U.S. officially...

Corporate Culture: The J Factor

Not long ago, Toyota Motors president Fujio Cho welcomed 1,700 new employees at a traditional Japanese "joining-the-firm ceremony." Last year was stellar for Toyota, but Cho skipped through the rosy stats, including record overseas production for the 13th straight year, to dwell on an almost apocalyptic vision of rising competition, particularly from South Korea and China. "Toyota's lead is growing smaller," he warned. "If we stop and relax, we could soon find ourselves facing a threat to our...

SONY IS NOT JAPAN

When Sony last week announced that it was naming Welsh-born American Howard Stringer as its new CEO, the faltering share price jumped. With a stroke, Sony joined the tiny club of Japanese companies with foreign bosses. Market watchers compared Stringer hopefully to Carlos Ghosn, the Brazilian-out-of-France who turned around Nissan Motors. Only look closer: all Stringer and Ghosn have in common is little or no grip on the Japanese language. Ghosn is a brash engineer, imposed on Nissan when...

SURVIVAL MODE?

You have to give credit to Kim Jong Il for one thing--he knows the score. The North Korean leader's subjects may be largely ignorant of the bleak situation in their country, owing to the country's all-encompassing propaganda machine, but Kim himself clearly has no illusions. Shortly after the revolutions that toppled half-a-dozen communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe back in 1989, according to Japanese journalist and North Korea watcher Ryo Hagiwara, Kim informed members of his ruling...

THERE IS NO TURNING BACK

Junichiro Koizumi spoke with NEWSWEEK's Christian Caryl and Hideko Takayama in a special reception room in the Kantei, the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo. Excerpts: On George W. Bush as a leader:President Bush has been showing leadership in fighting a new kind of war. I have great respect for him for doing that. The decision to embark on a war must be a most agonizing one. It is about sending young men and women to a faraway battlefield with the possibility that they will have to...

SNAP JUDGEMENT: BOOKS

The Lone Samurai By William Scott Wilson Asked to name the best swordsman ever, most Japanese would pick Miyamoto Musashi, the famous 17th-century samurai turned artist who is the subject of more than 50 movies and dozens of books. But most of those focus on his superb warrior skills. This fascinating new biography by Wilson, an American translator of samurai literature, goes much deeper, seeking to explain what ultimately drove Musashi from sword-fighting to Zen teachings, ink paintings and...

FUEL TO THE FIRE

JAPAN FUEL TO THE FIRE RISING TENSIONS WITH CHINA MAY ADD IMPETUS TO JAPAN'S GRADUAL SHIFT TO A MORE ASSERTIVE MILITARY.BY CHRISTIAN CARYL WITH HIDEKO TAKAYAMA AND KAY ITOI IN TOKYOFew world leaders can pass up the temptation of a nice photo op with the men and women in uniform, and Junichiro Koizumi is no exception. So there was the Japanese prime minister last week, looking his dashing best in bright fall sunshine, as he prepared to commemorate the 50th birthday of his...

A $3 TRILLION GAMBLE

When 83-year-old Tsuma Miyagawa wants to get her pension money or deposit cash in a savings account, there's only one place for her to go--the local post office. Most people in her hometown of Otaki, a remote village high up in the mountains northwest of Tokyo, do the same thing. For millions of elderly Japanese like Miyagawa, having access to one of Japan Post's 24,700 branch offices isn't just about sending the odd piece of mail; it's their only gateway to the country's financial system. "If...

JAPAN'S UNKNOWN SOLDIERS

Etajima, The Officer Candidate School of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), is a demanding military academy. Awakened by a bugle call at 6 a.m., midshipmen throw on uniforms and race outside to form up and be corrected by "discipline officers." Midshipmen, in fact, run everywhere. "We steal their time," says an assistant discipline officer. The midshipmen study not only social science and English, but navigation, ship-handling and even infantry tactics. Before they are...

The Man In Charge

Japanese have a saying about angling for mudfish. "You may catch one under a willow tree," it holds, "but not a second at the same spot." Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi characteristically ignored that folk wisdom last week--and hauled in a second catch every bit as tasty as the first. On Saturday he repeated the risky one-day trip to Pyongyang staged in 2002 to free five Japanese citizens abducted in the 1970s, returning this time with five of their children in a deal that could improve ties...

Made In Japan

The story unfolding in Tsuruoka seems to defy an iron law of the postindustrial age: that factories and jobs will flow from rich nations to poorer ones. In 2002 Kenwood built a portable mini-disc (MD) production line in Malaysia to take advantage of low wages, but last year moved production back to this small city 460 kilometers north of Tokyo. Kenwood realized that it could run the line with four workers in Tsuruoka, versus 22 in Malaysia. It could deliver orders to stores in two days, rather...

TIP SHEET

TRAVELLIVING LA VIDA LATINABy Malcolm BeithSo you wanna salsa? Join the club. Salsa--the music and dance, not the condiment--derived from the traditional Cuban son in the 1950s. It later underwent various stylistic changes in New York, Miami, Puerto Rico and Colombia, among other places. In recent years salsa has undergone a second revolution, becoming the hottest hobby to take up from Seoul to Seville. (There's now even a blossoming salsa scene in Beijing.) Aspiring salseros around the world...

TREASURE ISLAND

HOW A FORGOTTEN ISLE BECAME A MAJOR PORT OF CALL IN THE UNOFFICIAL TRADE BETWEEN THE TWO CHINAS

TIP SHEET

BUSINESS TRAVELRitzy Rooms For LessBusiness travelers used to be the cash cows of the hotel business. Armed with corporate credit cards and expense accounts, they'd happily lay down hundreds of dollars per night for the privilege of a Godiva chocolate on their pillow and a sunken whirlpool tub in their bathroom. But just as prolonged corporate belt-tightening has forced road warriors to use budget airlines, more and more of them are now eschewing five-star lodging in favor of cheaper...

THE LIFE OF THE PARTY

The red flag flew briefly over an idyllic patch of Shizuoka prefecture last week. At a hot-spring resort nestled amid tangerine orchards, the Japanese Communist Party staged a congress aimed at reversing its declining performance in national elections--a gathering it billed as a "historic" break from the past. In a 12-page platform, the 82-year-old party ceased to describe itself as a "mass vanguard," dropped overt criticisms of Japan's imperial system and Self-Defense Force (two institutions...

Koizumi's Children

The political stars have come out for Hideo Tanaka, a 59-year-old newcomer to the national stage who is stumping to win Kyoto's fourth district in critical Diet elections Nov. 9. Until a few weeks ago, the lower-house seat he covets belonged to Liberal Democratic Party stalwart Hiromu Nonaka, a curmudgeonly old warrior who, after reformist Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi maneuvered him into retirement in September, vowed to "throw out" his nemesis for betraying the party's ideals. Yet barely a...

Entering The Sumo Ring

Of all the fresh faces in Japan's new cabinet, Sadakazu Tanigaki's is the most likely to sport a black eye or two sometime soon. As head of the powerful Ministry of Finance, he's fighting to shore up Japan's shrinking tax base, fund a massive pension scheme saddled with a staggering $4 trillion shortfall, support corporate restructuring and rationalize social-welfare spending--all from within a bureaucracy that built Japan's failed economic system and traditionally has opposed radical reforms....

Jumping Into The Fray

Ritual was meant to command the day. Japan's newly appointed Land, Infrastructure and Transport minister, 46-year-old Nobuteru Ishihara, stood in his office last Thursday afternoon as some 60 public-corporation chiefs entered, one after another, to intone the formal salutation, Yoroshiku-onegaishimasu. The script called for mutual bowing and a quick exit; in and out in 30 seconds for each gray-suited man in line. Yet with Haruho Fujii, president of the quasi-governmental Japan Highway Public...

Koizumi's Big Step

Hiromu Nonaka, the 77-year-old liberal democratic Party stalwart, was arguably the most powerful man in Japan. As a leader of the ruling party's largest faction, which controls 100 seats in Parliament, Nonaka was a political kingmaker. He pulled strings to sway government policies, banged heads to maintain internal order within the LDP, exploited allies who owed him favors in order to bring down political foes. He used all of his clout to stymie the reform efforts of his party rival, Prime...

BREAKING OUT OF JAPAN

Few Japanese novelists--and fewer of those women--have been widely read in English. Natsuo Kirino looks set to change that with "OUT," her controversial six-year-old best seller, just released in the United States (368 pages. Kodansha International. Translated by Stephen Snyder). The novel tackles disturbing themes: the subjugation of women, domestic abuse and a woman's murder of her husband. Yet Kirino, 51, one of Japan's most popular crime and mystery writers, says she wrote "OUT" to create a...

How To Deal With Kim

In 1997, Hwang Jang Yop, former secretary of North Korea's Workers' Party, startled the world by becoming the highest-ranking official ever to defect from the Hermit Kingdom. The architect of North Korea's ideology of juche, or self-reliance, Hwang was once a close aide to the late Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il. Six years since his defection to the South, he may visit the United States for the first time this fall to testify before Congress. His counsel may be especially valuable now....

Heirs To The Kingdom

For the experts who ponder North Korea's future, reading tea leaves is part of the job description. But soap bubbles? Suds were among the clues contained in a cryptic, 16-page internal military document leaked from North Korea and published in February in the South. In it, a beatific woman described only as Omonim--or "Respected Mother"--displays boundless compassion for Pyongyang's massive Army. She acknowledges her country's "difficult" situation and asks soldiers if their soap ration is...

Mother Knows Best

Even by Pyongyang's bizarre standards, the military directive is a strange one. Instead of laying down new orders or repeating old ones, the 16-page internal document, circulated by the People's Army, sings the praises of a woman identified only as Omonim ("Respected Mother"), "the most faithful of the faithful, who devotes herself to our beloved supreme commander." Respected Mother is quoted as acknowledging the North's "difficult" situation and asking the country's 1 million troops if their...

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