My essay in last month’s issue of Apple Town, this magazine, included the subtitle, “A constitutional reform motion should be submitted before the House of Councillors election.” Underneath it, I wrote:
First, the Diet session (which normally ends on June 26) should be drastically extended to July 28, right before House of Councillors members are up for re-election. This would allow us to put off the election until August 25. Then, a reform motion should be submitted in the National Diet, while two thirds of members in both houses are in favor of constitutional change. The House of Representatives should be dissolved in late July and a double election held on August 25, with official notice given on August 13.
Just like Junichiro Koizumi’s postal reform election, Diet members should be asked if they support the LDP’s constitutional reform proposal or not before the election. Those who do not should be denied official recognition right then – no matter who they are – and opposing candidates should be nominated. And even if LDP members in favor of change do not hold two thirds of the seats after the election and motion, proposals that were previously submitted are still valid. After the double election, the consumption tax increase is planned for October. Some are saying the increase should be put off, but three tax-increase postponements will erode public confidence in the Shinzo Abe administration. Therefore, the increase should be carried out on schedule, no matter how many subsidies must be provided to prevent an economic slump. These could include giving cash payments of 100,000 yen to people with annual income of five million yen or less, which equates to 2% of their income (the consumption tax will be increased by 2%).
A major national movement should be launched to gain consent from a majority of citizens and amend the constitution before the national referendum on constitutional change, which will likely take place in late January (within six months from the motion in late July). If we do not revise the constitution at this time, we will never have another opportunity to do so.
There is a basis to what I wrote. The current discussion about constitutional change is mainly focused on adding a clear stipulation about the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). The Morning Edition of The Tokyo Shimbun newspaper on January 1, 2019 ran an article entitled, “Japan in 2019.” It read:
Every three years, half of the House of Councillors members are re-elected. Among these, 89 support constitutional change and 77 do not. To maintain two thirds, 87 of the 124 members to be re-elected in the upcoming election must be in favor. In the election three years ago, only 77 members supported constitutional reform, which was less than two thirds of the re-elected members.
In other words, only 77 seats (62%) were won by members in favor of change who were re-elected in the last upper house election. Two thirds of the seats cannot be ensured in the upcoming election unless powers in favor win 87 seats (71%). Most of the media outlets are currently using a tactic of hindering constitutional change by declining to report anything on this topic. Diet members who want to revise the constitution must hold two thirds of the seats if reform is to be achieved based on the current requirements, so a proposal must be submitted before the next election.
Just adding a clear specification about the JSDF to the constitution is not enough to make Japan into a genuinely independent nation. We must amend Article 9, but only two years and several months remain in Abe’s term. To accomplish two amendments, this means the LDP regulations must be revised to extend the presidential limit to four terms. That is another reason why the LDP must win a complete victory in a double election for both houses of the Diet on the same day, as I described in last month’s essay.
President Donald J. Trump and his wife will come to Japan on May 25 as the first state guests in the Reiwa Period. Many people online are saying they hope he will visit Yasukuni Shrine, which I agree with. This would further strengthen the Japanese-American alliance and probably leave China and South Korea, which have criticized Yasukuni, with nothing to say.
Japan’s neighbors of Russia, China, and North Korea are all nuclear powers with ballistic weapons, and military tension in East Asia is only growing. Russia and China are augmenting their military strength and North Korea is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) equipped with nuclear warheads. Japan has believed in the American nuclear umbrella underneath the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, but things are different now that North Korea has ICMBs capable of striking the American mainland. If Japan were the victim of a nuclear attack, it is unthinkable that the U.S. would retaliate with nuclear weapons and open itself up to the risk of a nuclear attack on the mainland. Japan must promptly revise its constitution so we can develop and possess cutting-edge chemical weapons – offensive weapons that provide deterrence – and reinforce our own military power. At the same time, there should be a Diet resolution banishing the Three Non-Nuclear Principles (which are themselves a Diet resolution), and conclude a nuclear sharing agreement with the U.S. so Japan has the right to use American nuclear weapons in an emergency, which will function as nuclear deterrence.
Homare Endo, professor emeritus at the University of Tsukuba, penned an article on May 5 entailed, “Why Terry Gou Wants to be The Next President of Taiwan.” It was posted on Yahoo News and other websites. This article discusses Gou, the chairman of Foxconn Technology Group who announced he would seek nomination in the 2020 presidential election:
[Significance of the flags on this hat] Foxconn (also referred to as “Hon Hai Precision Industry”) in Taiwan is one of the world’s largest contract high-tech manufacturing companies. Gou, its chairman, met with Trump on May 1. When Gou entered the White House, he wore a baseball hat with the flags of the U.S. and ROC against a blue background. Gou declared on April 17 that he would seek nomination from the Chinese Nationalist Party in next year’s presidential election. However, China (the People’s Republic of China; PRC) does not recognize the ROC as a sovereign state. On July 9, 1971 during the Richard Nixon administration, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger made a secret trip to China and agreed to the “One-China” policy. Since then, China has made the U.S. recognize the PRC as the only representative of China, and it joined the United Nations on October 25 of that year. That day, ROC President Chiang Kai-shek, furious at this American betrayal, withdrew from the UN. Thus, the PRC (Beijing) gained supremacy.
With the authorization of the U.S., China immediately opened diplomatic relations with many nations based on the conditions of the “One-China” policy and absolutely not recognizing the ROC as a sovereign nation. Gou, who is close with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, is not very popular in Taiwan because he is seen as being too pro-Chinese. Accordingly, I interpret his hat with the prohibited ROC flag (called “Blue Sky, White Sun, and a Wholly Red Earth”) next to the American flag as a way to show that he is pro-American, rather than pro-Chinese, and that he will deal in a friendly way with the U.S. This was a means to promote his stance to the Taiwanese people and the U.S. as well.
● “I wore the ROC flag hat during my whole meeting with Trump to emphasize the existence and dignity of the ROC.”
● “If was elected, I would likely meet with Trump at the White House as the ROC president. If no meetings took place, it would mean I lacked skills. The U.S. would probably not oppose my visit to the U.S., at least. Beijing would be against it, but Beijing should give me [Taiwan] this much space to act.”
● “If Beijing does not allow Taiwan to take part in any international organizations, I think all Taiwanese leaders would become increasingly estranged from Beijing.”
● “I did not only wear this hat during my entire meeting with Trump, but I also gave him a similar hat as a gift.”
● “In response, Trump signed a nearby coaster and gifted it to me, together with the pen he used to autograph it.”
● “Did I safeguard the dignity of the ROC by wearing its flag on a hat to the White House? [Yes, I believe so!] Are there any leaders in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who are capable of doing this? If any DPP bureaucrats know how to be welcomed into the Oval Office with utmost courtesy like I was, I ask that they tell me how. [=In other words, no one else in Taiwan could do this!]”
● “Images of my hat were printed in Taiwan, but the [continental] Chinese media pixelated these images to censor them. Is that really necessary? I am truly dissatisfied with [the way China does things]. [Beijing] should give the ROC sufficient room to act and confront the fact that the ROC does exist.”
● “Regarding my candidacy in the ROC election, Trump said, ‘Becoming president is a difficult thing.’ The U.S. likely has no intention of intervening in other countries’ elections, and I do not require Trump’s advice.”
After, Endo points out that Gou – who is close to China, has promised large-scale investment in the U.S., and is also friendly with Trump – is supporting the economic targets of both the U.S. and China while considering how Taiwan can profit. Taiwan’s future directions will be affected by who wins the election, which will significantly impact Japan as well. Fortunately, Gou (of the Chinese Nationalist Party) has a low approval rating for the next president. Still, we must be vigilant of China, which is trying to tempt Taiwan according to “One country, two systems” principle like it did Hong Kong.
Hotels are my main business, and the number of foreign tourists patronizing APA Hotels is growing every year. In 2012, the annual number of overseas visitors to Japan was 8.36 million, which soared to 28.69 million in 2017 and 31.19 million in 2018. I agree with the Japan Tourism Agency, which attributes this growth to the Abe administration’s bold reforms, including strategic visa relaxation, an expanded tax-free shopping system, better immigration control, and expanded aviation network. The future targets are 40 million foreign visitors in 2020 and 60 million in 2030, with predicted consumption by these tourists of eight trillion yen in 2020 and 15 trillion yen in 2030 (more than four times the amount in 2015). The actual number of foreign tourists keeps increasing favorably, and it seems likely these targets will be met.
APA Hotel’s ratio of foreign guests was 20% to 25% in the past, but it has already grown to 50% in Tokyo and I expect it to reach 70% in the future. The nationwide percentage should be from 30% to 40% at that time. APA Hotel’s ratio of guests by country has also been transformed. Right now, the biggest group in Tokyo is American travelers, followed by guests from Europe, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore. I think we can expect the Japanese tourism industry to keep growing as more overseas travelers are arriving on our shores.
During the 10-day Golden Week holiday, I stayed at COAST coal harbour vancouver hotel by APA, one of my hotels in Canada. The local mayor attended the lively grand opening ceremony for COAST prince george hotel by APA and COAST chilliwack hotel by APA, and I enjoyed sightseeing in Canada as well.
When I came home, I was surprised to see that emigration and immigration procedures have been automated at Narita Airport. You scan your passport with a machine instead of giving it to a clerk, so you do not have to line up when leaving or entering Japan and can complete the procedures smoothly. Various innovations are underway over the next year before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
A large number of foreign tourists will likely come to Japan for the games, but in contrast the number of tourists will definitely decrease in the year after that. However, foreign tourists started returning around two years after the Olympics in previous host cities. Japan is a safe country with good public order, history, ample and punctual public transportation, delicious food, and seasonal beauty, and I am sure it will draw even more foreign travelers after the upcoming games.
Most of APA Hotel’s guests from Taiwan, South Korea, and other Asian neighbors only stay for one night, but North American and European travelers often stay three to four nights. Longer stays are also more efficient for the actual hotels. A survey said that Americans are highly interested in traveling to Japan, and I am certain these increasing North American and European tourists will be an important target for us going forward.
APA Hotel Pride National Diet Building, one of the highest-grade hotels in the APA Hotel chain, was opened on March 9. A fairly large percentage of its guests are from North America and Europe, including the U.S., France, and Germany, who spend more money and stay for many consecutive nights. I am considering building more top-class Pride brand hotels in the future.
In our consolidated results from last November, APA Group recorded increased income and profit with sales of 133.9 billion yen, operating profit of 36.2 billion yen, and a profit ratio of almost 30%, the highest level in the hotel industry. We are installing automated check-in machines, mainly in Tokyo, so customers can check in without a staff member’s assistance to maintain high profitability and deal with human resource shortages. Also, when the guest places their key in the check-out box, it automatically contacts a hotel cleaner’s smartphone via the Internet, so the room can be cleaned promptly and rented out for day use. This means we can rent the same room twice in one day, and many of our hotels have occupancy rates of 100% or higher. Among APA Hotels in Tokyo, the highest occupancy rate is 117%. We will actively target foreign travelers in the future. While proactively carrying out business activities to make economic contributions to Japan, I hope to also contribute by expressing my views and focusing on sharing what I believe, such as promoting constitutional revision.
April 19 (Friday), 6:00 p.m.