Thursday, November 17, 2005

First Frost in Abiko and W in Kyoto

There's frost on the ground here in Abiko today, and even at 7:30 a.m. Narita Airport is reporting 2C as the temperature. The tree leaves this year are not very pretty, thanks to a sullen but not crisp October. Mikan and the many varieties of mushrooms are in season; I had a Chinese dish for lunch yesterday with maitake, which was a bit surprising. Fall is in full swing.

President Bush is Kyoto, visiting with Prime Minister Koizumi. Laura tried her hand at Japanese calligraphy, and the photo in the paper this morning looks like she caught on quickly.

There was a column in yesterday's Daily Yomiuri by a guy from the Heritage Foundation, who called the state of U.S.-Japan ties the best they've been in fifty years. That's pure spin, but it is true that they're pretty good right now. Bush and Koizumi seem to honestly like each other; their personalities are both swaggering cowboy. Except for beef, trade friction is low. Both are worried about the rise of China, both economically and militarily (environmentally should be a concern, too). Condi and Aso are in Pusan, working on North Korea. We're finishing up a reworking of the security deal. But, most important, Bush and Koizumi need each other. Japan is one of the biggest coalition partners in Iraq. Japan needs U.S. support for the permanent U.N. Security Council seat it so desparately wants.

It's not all smooth; Okinawa has an ambivalent relationship with the U.S. military, and the presence there is getting shuffled. The Okinawa governor took exception to Koizumi's remark that Japan must pay a "certain cost" to enjoy the security brought by the alliance. He correctly interprets that cost as Okinawa continuing to put up with our military.

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