Nice interview with Karel Van Wolferen in the 朝日新聞 today:

“Japan has been on autopilot. It has been drifting without a good steering mechanism,” van Wolferen said in a telephone interview. “Sunday will be an opportunity for the electorate to give their country a steering wheel.”

This is obviously the big fear:

Skeptics, past prime ministers among them, have criticized the sharp rhetoric of certain core DPJ members who have gone so far as to vow to “destroy the bureaucracy.”

Van Wolferen said he “understands such concerns.”

One key to the DPJ’s success as a governing party will lie in its “ability to work with bureaucrats in a productive way,” he said. That would involve creating allies within the bureaucracy to convince those in key posts to cooperate with the party’s policies, or at times subtly utilizing rivalries within the bureaucratic structure to push forward policies in the public interest.

“Whether they (DPJ) succeed is a big question,” van Wolferen said, cautioning that the party’s inexperience in dealing with bureaucrats could lead to foot-dragging or sabotage by the latter.

Although, i suspect that if the bureaucracy sees that the times have indeed changed, it will be more open and accommodating. The easiest way to get them to see that is to get an unquestionably convincing win tomorrow, and follow it up with a majority in the upeer house election in 2010.

“Japan should not represent the United States in this region. It should represent itself,” he said, adding that Tokyo should work more closely with its East Asian neighbors, particularly within the so-called ASEAN Plus Three framework, formed by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, South Korea and Japan.

People seems to think that there is no chance that DPJ will do anything in the diplomatic sphere for at least a year – they’ll be tied up at home. However, i suspect there is probably more support for normalising relations with the U.S., rewriting the SOFA, etc. than the press is willing to report. Or maybe i’m projecting…