Once again he reportedly passed up manga for more serious reading.
This time it appears that he’s thinking hard about Japan’s international role. He purchased Mindset for a strong Japan, a discussion between former Tokyo Foundation chairman Kusaka Kimindo, and conservative writers Takemura Kenichi and Watanabe Shoichi. Mr. Watanabe is notable for having a view of history akin to Tamogami Toshio’s. According to his Wikipedia (JA) entry — caveat emptor — he believes in the conspiracy theory that the Chinese Communist Party was behind the Marco Polo Bridge incident, he denies that the massacre at Nanjing occurred, he believes the February 26th conspirators were communists, and he believes that Japan has no reason to apologize to the comfort women. Not surprisingly, he is a regular in publications like Will.
He also purchased a book on contemporary Japanese foreign policy told as a narrative of “great men” (i.e., prime ministers from Konoe onward) and — unless Asahi is mistaken — yet another copy of How good a country is Japan?, which he purchased last month. Interestingly, he also purchased John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Great Crash of 1929, in which Galbraith attributed the Great Depression to a “speculative splurge.”
With the same warning that I am commenting on Mr. Aso’s choices without having read the books in questions, I am perplexed by what Mr. Aso is reading — and why his picks are being publicized. Is the prime minister trying to reverse the image that he is intellectually unserious (and incapable of reading kanji)? Meanwhile, why does he keep buying books that undoubtedly do nothing to confirm his ideas about Japanese foreign policy? What will Mr. Aso learn from reading either Mindset or the book on Japanese foreign policy that he doesn’t already know or think? He certainly isn’t looking to be challenged by books. Having read Mr. Aso’s book about his grandfather, he clearly is comfortable viewing Japanese foreign policy as a story of great leaders. Is his faith in his own greatness wavering light of events? In the case of Mindset, what can Mr. Aso learn from yet another polemic about the need to recover Japan’s national essence?
I would be more impressed if Mr. Aso were reading books challenging the conservative interpretation of history or dispassionately analyzing Japanese foreign policy without resorting to hysterical rhetoric about China.
Naturally none of this will matter at all to the Japanese public, who care less about reclaiming Japan’s spirit than, for example, about reversing the dramatic decline of Japanese industry.