Thursday, 22 November 2012

Father's Day -- 2012 ELECTION DIARY: DAY 7

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

"I'm thinking of voting for the Liberal Democratic Party," Our Mother-in-Law announced from the back seat on the way to the cemetery this morning.
"I mean, we tried the Democratic Party of Japan for three years, and they didn't do anything."
We'd passed dozens of election signs on the road from Abiko to Inzai, most for the 38-year-old New Komeito candidate whose teeth were so white he could have a second career advertising toothpaste. Or Photoshop.
The only other signs Our Man noticed were for the LDP candidate, a man of a similar age, though strangely not emblazoned on his campaign poster. This young man's mother had made her fortune as the head of a private kindergarten chain. He had definitely been photoshopped. Behind his face was a heavernly-pure blue sky with cotton-candy wisps of clouds. Pretty sure he was wearing lip gloss too.
"They didn't do anything because the LDP stopped them at every turn."
Our Woman gave Our Man a hard stare, but translated for the benefit of her mother.
"What do you think of Ishihara?"
Our Mother-in-Law emitted a sound reserved for the thorniest of problems, like how to remove a soy sauce stain from the crotch of a beige pair of trousers.
Ishihara had been all over the news yesterday for his comments that he thought Japan should possess "simulated nuclear weapons" to deter China from doing whatever he imaged China would do if Japan didn't start simulating nuclear weapons sharpish. Unsure how you go about simulating a nuclear weapon. Images of Marcel Marceau entered Our Man's head, using his body to mimic the plume of a mushroom cloud.
"Well, he's 80. He's too old. And I don't think we should have a war with China. It's not a good idea. Also, he doesn't stick around to solve problems. He'll be off as soon as he gets bored or in trouble. So that leaves Abe-san..."



***

Shinzo Abe. A whipper-snapper at 58, who had resigned abruptly as prime minister of Japan citing a poorly tummy after year in power in 2006, was the grandson of a Tojo cabinet member, had retaken top spot in the party by defeating one of Ishihara's sons and now was favourite to be the next prime minister of Japan. Although "favourite" is perhaps a misleading term implying popularity. "Favourite on a technicality" may be closer to the mark. He is a man devoid of charisma. Our Man wasn't in Japan when Abe was first Prime Minister, so has no recollection of him. In fact, apart from the 7am wake-up call from Our Father-in-Law's television the other day, he had never heard him speak. According to a neighbour, that is no bad thing. His Japanese is hard for even Japanese to follow.
"Why?"
"He sounds funny. His words don't sound right."
"He has a lisp?"
"What's a lisp?"
"When he talkth itth really hard to underthtand."
"Yes, like that." 
It would be cruel to suggest Abe's speech impediment was due to being born with a silver-spoon in his mouth. But it's probably true.


***

"Abe, huh?"
Our Mother-in-Law's frown filled the rear-view mirror.
At the cemetery office, the priest turned off the game of solitaire on the screen and bid us to sit down on some fold-out metal chairs next to a paraffin heater. The table had a thick transparent plastic veneer that I'd last seen at a real estate office when we'd bought our home in Abiko, must be five prime ministers ago.
A stocky man appeared, bowed to us and promptly disappeared back into the back office. He came back with three cups of coffee. He was the stonemason.
The priest chatted with us. He was an adherent to the Tendai-shu sect of Chinese Buddhism. He gave an impassioned but hard to follow impromptu talk on Buddhism, Catholicism and Islam. He asked if Our Man was Protestant. Our Woman said he wasn't much of anything.
He smiled.
"That's OK, this is an inclusive, comprehensive sect."
Kind of like a spiritual Liberal Democratic Party. The priest's father had been a banker and official with the Ministry of Health before contracting something incurable and becoming a priest.
"So you've always been a priest?"
"No, no, I used to be a clothes designer."


***

We went out to the tombstone. It reads in kanji and English: "Love and truth are eternal." It's probably the only bilingual tombstone in Inzai.
The priest opened one of three tatty prayer books and chanted, clicked his fingers and dinged a little brass bowl. And chanted some more. And clicked his fingers and dinged his little brass bowl. Time passed. Unsure how much time.
Our Mother-in-Law unwrapped a tray covered with her best tea towel. Beneath it were two 500 millilitre cans of Sapporo beer, a couple of mikan tangerines, manju junk food and a packet of Mild Seven cigarettes.
Our Man recalled a discussion he'd had with Our Woman about what to put in the coffin.
"Well obviously his best suit and walking stick. And he'll need his bifocals."
"Of course," I'd said, "but..."
"What?"
"Well, would he really need his stick and his glasses?"
"Of course he would. He can't see very well and he has a limp."


***

In the end, he left this world in the way he had lived it. What more could anyone ask for?

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 8

6 comments:

Jan Moren said...

You weren't here during Abe? Thought you'd been here a lot longer than I.

You didn't miss anything.

Anonymous said...

That's the funniest installment yet. Keep it up!

Our Man in Abiko said...

Jan,

I was in Japan from 97 to 00 but went back to UK before Obuchi died. Came back in 07 just as Fukuda's leadership expired.

Anonymous,

Damn. This post was supposed to be profound. I'll never get the hang of this writin' business.

Anonymous said...

Hi, it's Anonymous again, otherwise known as Yourmaninkamakura. My wife is impressed with your drawing.

(I don't really feel the need to be anonymous, I just don't feel like letting Google control my entire life.)

Our Man in Abiko said...

Our Man in Kamakura,

Thank your wife for me. You might be interested to know I can't actually draw. I snapped his pic with my phone, emailed it to my desktop then blew up to size of A4 paper, traced the outline with daughter's pencil and scanned it back in. Took 10 minutes while I was microwaving some potatoes. But happy with results. Nice with olive oil and salt.

And yes, agree with you about Google.

Ben said...

As you suggested, Day 7 is the funniest and most engaging, but then, I suppose, I'm relatively biased.