Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on the telephone with Olympic gold medallist Han'yu Yuzuru on 15 February 2014. Image courtesy The Prime Minister's Residence.
The great snowstorm of this past weekend is becoming, albeit weakly so far, a Katrina moment for the Abe Administration. The damage is stunning, particularly to homes and Japan's winter food production infrastructure. An astonishing number of communities remain cut off five days after the snow began falling in earnest. The entire prefecture of Yamanashi entered Monday without a single surface transportation link to connect it with the outside world, this despite decades of loving attention from the Liberal Democratic Party's Road and Construction Tribes.
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s whereabouts and actions during the storm and its aftermath have become a matter of controversy and criticism both in Diet sessions and on the Web. (Link)
For the record, here is my annotated translation of the prime minister's schedule as it appeared in my morning newspaper, detailing where the prime minister was and what he was doing the day the storm arrived and the two days afterward:
Friday, February 14
7:58 leaves Prime Minister's Residential Quarters for Prime Minister's Residence
8:02 Arrives Prime Minister's Residence.. Chairs meeting of the Headquarters for the Promotion of Social Security Reform (Link)
8:22 Cabinet meeting
8:36 meets with Minister of State for Gender Equality Mori Masako
10:46 meets with Paddy Burke, Chairperson of the Senate of the Republic of Ireland (Link)
12:01 meets with Minister in charge of Trans Pacific Partnership Amari Akira
12:58 arrives Diet Building
13:02 arrives at plenary session of the House of Representatives
13:03 meets with Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Ishiba Shigeru
13:22 arrives Prime Minister's Residence
14:02 meets Saiki Akitaka, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs
14:13 meets Kozuki Toyohisa, Director-General of the Division of European Affairs, MOFA
15:41 meets Thomas Enders, CEO of The Airbus Group
16:01 meets Kitamura Shigeru, Director of Cabinet Intelligence
16:31 meets Minister of Defense Onodera Itsunori and Administrative Vice Minister for Defense Nishi Masanori
17:12 chairs meeting of the Council for Science and Technology Policy (Link)
18:20 summit meeting with Christopher Loeak, president of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (Link)
18:49 joint press announcement with President Loeak
19:01 Arrives at Prime Minister's Residential Quarters. Formal dinner with President Loeak
20:24 Bid farewell to President Loeak. Returns to Prime Minister’s Residential Quarters.
Saturday, February 15
Receives no visitors, stays at the Prime Minister’s Residential Quarters
14:25 interview by members of the domestic broadcast media
14:31 telephone call with Han'yu Yuzuru, gold medallist, men's singles figure skating, Sochi Olympic Games (Link)
14:54 Arrives at personal residence in Tomigaya, Shibuya City, Tokyo
Sunday, February 16
Receives no visitors, stays at his personal residence in Tomigaya
17:49 Dinner with supporters (unnamed) at Akasaka tempura restaurant Rakutei.
20:05 Returns to personal residence in Tomigaya
If the Democratic Party of Japan had half a gram of political sense it would have its members hogging every microphone, preening before every camera and tying up Diet proceedings, demanding that the Prime Minister explain his and his administration’s dilatory response to the weather catastrophe -- no matter how petty, superficial, crass, exploitative and petulant it makes the DPJ look from afar.
Because as we know from what happened after 3/11 that is exactly what the LDP would be doing, if it were still the main opposition party.