A powerful mayor and a powerful media mogul are at each other’s throats. On March 18th, Toru Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka, labeled Tsuneo Watanabe, chairman of the giant Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper group, a “despot.” This remark came in response to the influential chairman’s description of Hashimoto’s mayoral term in the magazine Bungei Shunju.
According to The Mainichi Daily, Japan’s third leading daily, Watanabe stated that Hashimoto’s “political methods” reminded him of “Hitler.” Further, he expressed the opinion that Hashimoto’s election had “given him ‘a sort of carte blanche’.” The Osakan mayor is not unfamiliar with such criticism; similar jabs have been made after he demanded that his municipal staff “reveal their union and political activities in a written survey.” This demand was widely viewed as an unacceptable intrusion into privacy.
In response to Watanabe’s comments, Hashimoto posted online that Watanabe had made egregious “leaps in logic.” Further, he asserted that, thanks to modern media and Japan’s Diet (parliament), “There is no way to become a dictator (now).” He concluded the digital retort with a reminder of Hashimoto’s own far reaching power, noting his influence in the “political, financial and even baseball worlds.”
Generally, politicians lose when they go head to head against the media. But in Japan? We will just have to wait and see.
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