Japan Loves You, Brother
By Devin T. Stewart | October 28, 2009
Even before Yukio Hatoyama became Japan's prime minister in August, people in the country and abroad have tried to grasp his personal philosophy of yuai, an idea that translates loosely into "fraternal love" and has been ridiculed by the press and politicians alike. The conservative Sankei Shimbun newspaper worried about the concept's origins, tracing it back to the liberté, egalité, and fraternité of the French Revolution and comparing Yukio Hatoyama to a modern-day Robespierre, albeit sans guillotine. The moderate newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun doubted something so lofty could be understood, much less applied on a global level. And despite Hatoyama's assertion that his brand of fraternity is "combative," rooted as it is in revolution, his political opponents have derided it as impractical and "as mushy as ice cream."
Yet yuai is more than just a tempting target. This week, in Hatoyama's first parliamentary address since taking office, he began spelling out how this fuzzy-sounding notion would be applied to policy. On both a domestic and international level, it would stress the importance of coexistence with others and a respect for differences. Guided by a spirit of fraternity, he said, Japan would seek to temper the turbulence of globalization by promoting the free market, while also boosting domestic social safety nets. Japan would take a moral leadership role on the world stage by aiding poor countries in their fight against climate change. And it would agree to cut CO2 emission by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 if other rich countries reciprocate. In essence, he suggested, the philosophy would elevate Japan more than ever before into the community of nations that are now tackling transnational issues such as climate change, the financial and economic crisis, nuclear proliferation, and terrorism.
As first appeared in the October 28, 2009 issue of Newsweek.
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