Politics, Media and International Relations

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Talking Politics in Japan Today


Author Text to Follow

This book focuses on the rhetoric used by members of the political elite and the news media in Japan as the core of political dynamics in this country. Based on the notion that political society is formed by language, and that in a broad sense the essence of politics is talk, Talking Politics in Japan Today examines the multifarious aspect

Discussion focuses on political discourse involving Diet members and political leaders – including the prime minister, the chief cabinet secretary, and leaders of political parties and party factions – as well as the discourse of the news media as it evolves and revolves around the Diet, the prime minister’s official residence, headquarters of the major political parties, and Diet members’ offices. The activities that take place in Nagatacho [government] and how they are expressed and reflected in communication- related processes – including interaction between Diet members and media representatives, the language used by politicians, and the functions that rhetoric performs in the Japanese polity – are examined. The author also investigates how political rhetoric varies according to the circumstances and intended visibility of events; the structure and focus of political news; the language and methods information sources used to disseminate information and put their desired spin on events; and the nuances and tone of language used by Diet members and officials to shape the country’s political culture. The work addresses explicit and implicit meanings of slogans and gaffes; political cartoons in daily newspapers (examples included); the nature of political interviews on Japanese television; and the ways non-Japanese perceive Japan’s views of world events.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-037-8
Hardback Price: £47.50 / $65.00
Release Date: September 2004
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-109-2
Paperback Price: £19.95 / $32.50
Release Date: May 2005
Page Extent / Format: 224 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


List of Tables, Figures, and Appendices
Preface and Acknowledgments for the Paperback Edition
Note on Citations and Diacritical Marks

Introduction: Discourse and the Conventional Wisdom of Japanese Politics

1 The Nagatachô Beat: Writing with Wolves
2 Beat Reporting and the Search for Information
3 Two Sides of the Political Coin: Façade and Substance in Public Talk
4 "Yes, But . . . Well . . . Maybe . . . They Say So . . .": Analysis of Replies during Televised Political Interviews
5 Metaphorically Speaking I: Political Processes on the Front and Back of the Stage
6 Metaphorically Speaking II: Political Roles on the Front and Back of the Stage
7 Lampooned Prime Ministers: The Implicit Meaning of Editorial Cartoons in Japanese Dailies
8 Continuing the Conversation: Slogans, Names, and Moods


Feldman’s astute analysis of the link between Japanese politics and political discourse reflects Japan’s current transitional climate under Junichiro Koizumi. This has affected not only the structure and function of political institutions but also the way Japanese politicians and government officials communicate about political matters – Feldman contends that political communicators significantly affect public attitudes and that their words are powerful tools for rousing citizens’ emotions. Interestingly, coalition politics, introduced to Japan in 1993 with the fall of the LDP, have brought a greater pluralism of views on policy issues and the national political agenda. This change has reduced the authority of a few elite leaders and folded more political groups and individuals into the political process, redirecting reporters’ attention to new, more diverse sources. The weakening of the LDP factions through political reform also has affected Japan’s political journalism, as has the January 2001 reorganization of the central government’s ministries and agencies. Even the prime minister himself has had a hand in changing the information flow in Japan by encouraging more public dialogue, giving daily press briefings, and being generally more accessible than any of his predecessors. Recommended.

It is in the two chapters entitled ‘metaphorically speaking’ that Feldman’s work as a researcher really shines. In these sections, the student of Japanese learns a whole new set of words, slogans, phrases, parables and allegories that are used by those in Nagata-cho, and what they really mean. These chapters alone make the book an indispensable learning tool… Feldman remains a top-notch researcher and analyst of facts… Talking Politics in Japan Today is a useful book for those who are already very familiar with Japanese media and politics, and provides lots of interesting historical data and a few original observations… it will be of great interest to those seeking to further understand how, if not why, Japanese press and politicians speak at, rather than to, the public.
Eric Johnston, The Japan Times

“Japanese politics has historically been neglected by Western politics students as a serious subject of study for several reasons: First, the language is difficult to learn. Second, politicians too often use non-verbal forms of communication. Third, journalists monopolize access to politicians and thus tend to collude with them. Fourth, there are too many editorials that have an inability to fall decisively on either side of the political fence. Fifth, politicians appearing on TV are uncomfortable with question-and-answer sessions, so real political debate is often obscured. And sixth, political cartoons appearing in the newspapers appear incomprehensible to the casual observer. Ofer Feldman has written an insightful book on Japanese politics, undertaking a systematic empirical analysis of Japanese politicians, their discourse, and their behavior, using both recent and hitherto neglected but revealing data to substantiate his claims. This book is essential reading for all students of Japanese and comparative politics, mass media and politics, non-verbal communication, and persuasive communication.” Takashi Inoguchi, Ph.D. Professor of Political Science, University of Tokyo Executive Editor, Japanese Journal of Political Science (Cambridge University Press)

“Ofer Feldman has added a must read book to our list. Talking Politics has taken us one step forward in understanding both spoken and non-spoken forms of political communication. Follow up studies on other forms of political communication are needed. A specific work on women politicians communicative style is also needed. Talking Politics could easily be the first in a much-needed series.” H-Net

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