Tuesday, 27 November 2012

ELECTION FEVER -- 2012 Japanese election diary: Day 12

Click here to go to Day 1 of the 2012 Japan Election Diary.


"I have some bad news for you," Dr Kondo said to me.
Our Woman had been prepared for this moment. She'd come along to the consultation armed with her Japanese to English dictionary. Although she hardly needed it. Over breakfast coffee she'd already memorised the Japanese and English for all the malignant forms of cancer in the book, knew what our medical insurance would pay for and what it wouldn't and had a better idea of where my spleen was than I did.
I was prepared too. I took out a crisp ¥10,000 note from my wallet and handed it under the table to the doctor before he could announce his diagnosis.
"Doc, I don't care what it is, just don't tell me to give up the alcohol, OK?"
I could see the nurse's eyes crease above her surgical mask and busied herself straightening the curtains.
Dr Kondo removed his half-glasses and used them to wave away my money. He spoke rapidly and incomprehensibly.
Our Woman sat attentively, nodding, in serious-face mode until he stopped talking, and then she looked around, lost.
"Well, what did he say?"
"He said you're a bit fat and have bad eyesight."
I wiped my glasses on my T-shirt, tort over my belly.
"Next he'll be telling me I'm middle-aged and a foreigner. I know."
The doctor laughed. He could speak English too, I diagnosed.
Our Woman was still incredulous. "Are you sure doctor? There's nothing else wrong with him? Are you quite certain?"
To some extent, I shared her disappointment about such a mundane diagnosis after so much effort. It wasn't just my memory that was still raw from the thorough ningen dock examination the doctor and his staff had put me through a week earlier. As well as the innocuous blood pressure and height and weight tests, they even gave me an ultrasound. Not to mention the pint of barium shake I had to consume, the vial of spit I had to provide, the two test tubes of piss and a cotton bud of shit. And it takes all the accumulated knowledge of 4,000 years of civilisation to be able to make polite small talk with a man who has stuck his finger up your backside, let me assure you.
"Quite certain. He has 'A's in all other categories. Lung capacity, EKG, blood pressure, stomach, intestines..."
"What about alcohol? He drinks too much alcohol, right?"
"Yeah, what about that doc?" I patted my wallet and gave him a wink.
"He shouldn't drink too much, but there's no need to abstain from all alcohol."
"So there's nothing wrong with him?" Our Woman was deflated.
"Well, he could do with losing five kilos. In Japan he is considered at risk of metabolic syndrome, but in America he is still within average weight."
I didn't tell him I was British.

***

You have to respect doctors, particularly in this country. They retain their honorific titles sensei (teacher). Our Mother in Law went to him when she had lost her voice six months ago. As Kondo-sensei examined her, there was a great wailing and screaming from outside the surgery window. The doctor, nurse and Our Mother in Law all stopped to listen.
"I can't tell if that's a cat or a baby in distress, " he said. All agreed and the wailing continued.
"I do believe that's a baby," he said.
"No that's a cat," my mother in law whispered. The nurse walked over the window and pulled back the curtain and looked out the window.
"Ah, not to worry doctor, it's a cat."
"Nurse, what are you doing!"
"Well, you said that it might be a baby..."
"We don't have time to be conjecturing about whether something is a cat or a baby, we are a medical establishment, get away from the window and remember you are a professional!"
"Yes, sensei. Sorry sensei."

***

The term ningen dock "Human dock" was popularised by the Yomiuri Shimbun in 1954 as an annual check-up for salarymen like a ship coming into port to have the barnacles scraped off, ready to return to voyage safely around the world. 1954 was also the year that the crew of a Japanese fishing boat was  irradiated in US atomic tests that led to the newspaper working with the CIA throughout the 1950s to promote the use of nuclear power to damp down Japan's understandable anti-Atomic instincts that were flaring up again.
Fast forward to post-Fukushima Japan and nothing has changed. A nuclear accident irradiated innocent victims, the Yomiuri Shimbun is campaigning to keep nuclear power, calling all other options utopian, and their preferred party, the pro-nuke Liberal Democratic Party is leading the polls, with the tepidly anti-nuke DPJ all at sea and cruising straight for an electoral iceberg. Are there any good men left to steady the anti-nuclear ship of state?
No, but now there is a woman. Shiga Prefecture governor Yukiko Kada (an academic doctor) announced today that her party Nippon Mirai no To was going to campaign for a nuke-free future, more benefits for women and improving the work-life balance, according to the Japan Times. I don't know what that means, but if it means I don't have to work, I'm all for it. And so is Ichiro Ozawa of the People's Life First Party who promptly disbanded his party to join hers, which makes the campaign poster of his pictured here that I spotted yesterday in Abiko a collector's item.
Only two rocks on the horizon that I can see: her party has no official candidates and polling day is in three weeks.
Still, she could be just what the doctor ordered.

This blog series
 is now a great
 book. Honest.
Cleaned up and
 all presentable,
Guts Pose: Diary of a
 Japanese election
 gone bad
features a previously
unpublished afterword
 by me and foreword
by Michael Cucek.
You can buy it here.

Go to DAY 13

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