Going Nowhere Fast

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi vaulted to power on a reformist message, vowing to refashion the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and change Japan. He won unprecedented support and fawning adoration from a public hungry for a new way of doing things. Everyone from economists to housewives seemed to agree that the country needed a good dose of shock therapy. Why then, does reform in Japan seem dead?

Consider Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, an independent Diet member elected in 2000 on a reformist platform. Instead of blasting his name from a noisy sound truck, he had shown a populist touch by...

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