Interestingly, the Horse in the Japanese Zodiac represents openness and decisiveness-characteristics that have been attributed to Abe in his leadership and the resulting debates and discussions from reforms promised through Abenomics.
Japan’s history of frequently changing Prime Ministers was humorously referenced in speeches given by Ambassador Hayashi and William Hague at the Emperor’s Birthday reception. As forecasted, the year ended with Abe being voted back into power giving Japan more political stability and the subtle implication that Japan Inc. will now instinctively support Abe’s reforms for the economy.
Whether you agree with his politics or not, Abe has certainly displayed a decisiveness seen as unusual compared to previous leaders and his policies have certainly opened up debates and opinions whether that is on women, defence or energy. This year also saw Abe embark upon an impressive global meet and greet with world leaders-he even met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, hopefully signalling the opening of a diplomatic relationship, that has been strained to say the least.
Womenomics has also received more attention in Japan and in the world’s media this year. With one of the fastest ageing and decreasing populations in the world, encouraging women to work-not just in managerial positions in which they are woefully under-represented-but to find work that is supportive of their lifestyles, is now a fundamental, economic necessity. Even incidents such as the sexist taunting in Parliament one woman received and the unfortunate rise of “mata hara” (maternity harassment) are pre-empting a realisation that Japan still has very culturally ingrained cultural attitudes to women and work and are thus bringing it more into the open arena of discussion.
Next year is the year of the Sheep, representing “peace” and “security”. On this note, I wish the people of Japan and everyone I have worked with this year a Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.