KASHIWA, Japan — Vexed by labor shortages in their rapidly aging country, lawmakers relaxed Japan’s longstanding insularity early Saturday by authorizing a sharp increase in the number of foreign workers.
Under a bill approved by Parliament’s upper house in the early-morning hours, more than a quarter-million visas of five-year duration will be granted to unskilled guest laborers for the first time, starting in 2019.
Japanese Emperor Akihito, 82, wants to abdicate, which could set off a constitutional crisis. Japan is rearming, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a member of a cult that worships the emperor as a god.
The emperor is now a nondivine figurehead, but until the head of World War II he was hereditary dictator and a god and that worked well for everyone didn’t it.
Marie Yamamoto and Jake Adelstein, The Daily Beast:
TOKYO — When the Emperor speaks, Japan listens and so does the world. Monday at 3:00 p.m. local time a speech by Emperor Akihito was televised on a date that commemorated no anniversary or major tragedy, as most of his addresses do. Instead it pertained to the very Imperial System itself.
The Emperor, who is 82, discussed his health, his position as a symbol of the state under Japan’s modern constitution, the hardship of his duties, his love for the people of Japan—and made clear his desire to abdicate the throne in his lifetime in a way that would cause the least amount of turmoil.
He used the word, “the people” (kokumin) frequently, speaking to the nation in a fatherly, thoughtful tone and asking for understanding.
The Emperor’s speech, in its quiet way, was the opening salvo in a battle for the future of modern Japan, a nation he sees as “based on peace and democracy as important values to be upheld.”