"Yakubusoku" is a Japanese expression that is used when a person is overqualified for a role or responsibility he/she is assigned.
However, people nowadays often misuse this expression to mean the opposite: that the person is underqualified for the given role or responsibility.
I can think of a number of Cabinet ministers, past and sitting, who fit this description.
Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa is one. Ichikawa sat out a state banquet at the Imperial Palace for the visiting king and queen of Bhutan, and attended a fund-raiser for a fellow legislator instead.
He reportedly said in his speech, "This (fund-raiser) is more important (than the state banquet)."
I wasn't surprised. When Ichikawa was appointed defense minister, he raised quite a few eyebrows by noting in his acceptance speech, "I am a layman where national security is concerned, which means I am putting it under civilian control in the truest sense of the term."
On the thorny issue of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Ichikawa told Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, "Having been born and raised in Ishikawa Prefecture where the Komatsu Base of the Air Self-Defense Force is located, I fully understand the pain (of the people of Okinawa)."
But anyone with a little knowledge of Okinawa's history would never have equated an ASDF base to a U.S. military base.
The bases in Okinawa sit on land that was taken from their owners following the bloody Battle of Okinawa, sometimes at gunpoint and by bulldozers.
U.S. service personnel could commit crimes and go unpunished if they fled back to their bases. At the root of Okinawa's base problems lie a "thick wall" of the U.S. military and a disregard for the dignity of the people of Okinawa. It was all too natural that Nakaima was offended by Ichikawa's remarks.
Some kindhearted people may say that anyone can "grow into" a position of authority. But the world does not wait while the person is doing his or her "growing."
Even as we speak, tensions are rising across the Pacific between the United States and China. And here in Japan, there are issues that can't wait: national defense, Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, post-disaster reconstruction, and so on.
I can only hope that some of the people I'm thinking of won't drag our country down by remaining underqualified in their jobs.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 20
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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