Photo/IllutrationLandfill work began March 25 on a 33-hectare segment for construction of a U.S. military base off the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture. (Eiji Hori)

“Kane ni itome wa tsukenai,” an idiomatic phrase that translates literally as “not attaching any tethers to money,” means “money is no object” or “no expenses spared.”

This is one phrase I’d love to utter someday, and mean it, too. How cool would that be?

The expression is said to have derived from the ancient sport of kite-flying. A kite without tethers or lines would be out of control and simply fly away.

With the government continuing to pour dirt and sand into the offshore reclamation site in Henoko, Okinawa Prefecture, I can imagine the government saying, “We’ll spare no expenses when spending tax money.”

This project to build a U.S. military base is being funded with Japanese taxpayers’ money, but the government has not even disclosed the project’s total cost.

Because of the complex nature of the work involved, it appears the government doesn’t really know how much the total bill will come to.

One section of the planned reclamation site was found “as soft as mayonnaise,” requiring 70,000 piles to be driven deep into the seabed. This sort of procedure is believed to be unprecedented in Japan.

But the project will go on, with no prospect of knowing how much tax money it will eventually cost. And here’s the shocker: Incredible as it is in its sheer wastefulness, this is not the only project of its kind.

A case in point is the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju. After eating up more than 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) and without having ever been in operation, the Monju had to be scrapped. This failed project has served as a lesson of sorts, but at too exorbitant a price.

But much worse than wasteful spending is the government’s continued disregard of the wishes of the people of Okinawa.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told a recent news conference, “Okinawa has its own kind of democracy, and Japan has its own kind of democracy.”

This was tantamount to saying that whatever the Okinawans decide in their gubernatorial election or a prefecture-wide referendum, none of that is Tokyo’s business. I was actually shocked that a Cabinet minister could be so “honest” as to say this.

Opposition parties are lethargic, and nobody within the ruling coalition is willing to stand up to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who should be likened to an out-of-control kite flying in the Okinawan sky.

The Abe administration sorely needs tethers.

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 27

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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.