Potential Prime Minister Tarō Asō banned from politics due to links to illegal drugs? This strange political development comes at the heels of the Japan Sumo Association banning Russian wrestlers for their alleged marijuana usage. The whole country seems to be suffering from some sort of reefer madness.
The following article is either from Reuters or AP or Bloomberg, I forget. I added in the Japanese characters to better illustrate the issues at hand. (Link missing):
For the last week, Tarō Asō [麻生太郎] — Secretary General of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party — looked to be the most likely successor to replace current Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. But now, leaders of his own party have permanently banned Asō from all political activity for what they say are concrete links to illegal drugs, namely marijuana.
Although Asō is not known to have abused marijuana, critics point to the fact that the name Asō contains the Chinese character asa [麻], which is one of the two key components in the Japanese word for “cannabis” taima [大麻]. Linguistic tests have concluded that up to a quarter of Asō’s name can be linked to the banned substance. The generic word for “drug” mayaku [麻薬] also contains the Asō nomenclature compound in question.
The LDP’s Daisuke Suzuki said, “Think of the message we would send to our children to have ‘Prime Minister Hemp-Field’ rule this great nation. Compared to other less orderly countries, Japan does not have a problem with illegal drugs, and we do not want to start now. Marijuana has been banned in Japan since time immemorial.” When asked about the exact length of “time immemorial,” Suzuki stated that this was an alternate way of saying “since the American Occupation.”
Asō’s lawyers, however, have fought back, claiming that the “asa” in Asō’s name is not the illegal cannabis, but “indian hemp” — a material commonly used in textiles. Even if Asō became Prime Minister, they argue, the large number of youth inevitably inspired to smoke or otherwise ingest indian hemp would not be able to “get high.” LDP officials have not been impressed with such arguments so far, although they asked Asō’s legal council to keep scientific and medical evidence out of the debate.
LDP’s General Legal Manager and Assistant Party Whip Ryunosuke Hoshikage released a statement yesterday calming the public and restating the LDP’s hardline stance on marijuana. “We hope to further rid Japan of the demon drug marijuana, which offers users a relatively problem-free and natural method of intoxication,” writes the panel. “We recommend that our nation’s children reject drugs and return to socially positive activities such as collegiate and corporate binge drinking parties. They should also keep supporting the national government’s stock portfolio by smoking three-to-four packs of cigarettes a day. Marijuana inhibits the judgment of its users, taking them off the path to legal and taxable forms of vice. Yes, alcohol and tobacco may lead to serious and proven health problems in comparison with marijuana, but we are a country of the samurai spirit, where death is beautiful and honorable. No single human being has ever overdosed on cannabis in the history of our world. I find this to be weak and despicable [卑怯] and not aligned with bushidō ethics.”
Political analysts on both sides of the Pacific believe that this drug issue may have been a convenient excuse to push Asō from power, but LDP’s Suzuki laughs off such ideas. “Ha ha. Now, listen, I am telling you this outside of the press club, so you can’t print it. But there is no truth to those rumors. But just to make sure you have all the facts, meet me in the entry hall of my mansion tonight at 11 pm, and we can talk more.”
As it stands now, Asō’s political future looks bleak, and he may soon rejoin the private sector. Sources close to Asō say he is thinking about returning to his socially responsible past career in West African diamond mining. In a brief statement to the press, Asō reiterated that no matter what path his future holds, he is still committed to his lifelong dream of making Japan a place where “rich Jews” would like to live.