Saturday, 17 November 2012

Ghost in the machine: JAPAN ELECTIONS 2012 DIARY: DAY 2

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

My father-in-law's television woke me up at 7am today, as it has done every day since he died last month.

I've grown accustomed to this new morning routine, and have ceased to worry about the paranormal aspects. The new normal is the paranormal you might say. It's not so surprising as in Japanese Buddhist thought, the spirit lingers in the family home for 49 days after death before getting on with more pressing matters elsewhere. Seems perfectly reasonable to me that my father-in-law's spirit might want to catch up on the latest Tokyo traffic news and weather reports while he's still here. Or you might say it was less paranormal than laziness on my part. He'd no doubt set some kind of timer and I for the life of me couldn't figure out where the blinking BluRay Plasma Screen remote control timer "off" button was.

Besides, it was kind of nice to hear a polite young woman's voice every morning nattering inconsequentially into my half-conscious head, but today I was rudely awakened by the cawing of hundreds of middle-aged men in grey suits raising clenched fists, chanting obedience to their leader. As a rule, proto-fascist greetings are not the best way to be woken. But Our Man has long realised that how things appear often has little to do with what they really are. To the uninitiated, this was Triumph of the Will breakfast TV, when in fact it was no more threatening than the obligatory hokey cokey at kiddie parties or half-hearted hip hip hoorays at a company retirement do for the sour old accountant who took a personal delight in nixing your almost legitimate business expense chitties for "entertaining clients."

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unpublished afterword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.
But this was not a retirement, or a kiddie's party. This was the LDP geeing up their parliamentary
candidates to take Japan by storm. And then a procession of soundbites from other parties with fewer suits of grey and even two women. Our Man learnt a new party name too -- the New Renaissance Party, no doubt much improved on the Old Renaissance Party. He also learnt that Our Woman in Abiko doesn't care for morning TV. She wondered what the devil Our Man was up to watching dozens of incomprehensible (not only to him) talking heads when there was breakfast to be made and vacuuming to be done before work.
"What are you doing?"
"Do you have to do it so noisily?"
"Yes, I'm writing a book."
"Another one? How was that Mickey Mouse thing -- the essay? I should read it."
"You should finish reading my novel first. But yeah, I sold another one last night."
"To family?"
"No. I don't have 11 members of my family, do I?"
"Extended family?"
"Do you want some coffee?"

But my research didn't stop with staring uncomprehendingly at the TV. It continued in earnest throughout the work day, as I was fully aware that only true professional pundits can pull a 1,000 words of waffle out of thin air, the rest of us need material and I didn't have any for the night's writing. This being only Day 2 and all. So I asked everyone I came into contact with through work about the election. Call it a DIY vox pop. My question, that I scientifically devised to ascertain the level of excitement, engagement and knowledge about the coming election among potential Japanese voters was worded thus: "So, you excited about the big news or what?"

This invariably got the same response. A tilt of the head and furrowing of brows.

"Big news?"
"The Election?

"Yes, you see I'm writing a book and I wondered if you were excited about the elections, you know, so soon after Obama and all. You know? Excitement about elections?"
"Americans get excited about elections. I have a friend who lives in New York. I went for a drink with him. He said Americans are more mature about politics than Japanese."
"Well, I don't know about that. Is your friend American, that sounds kind of arrogant..."
"No, he's Japanese."

"You have to understand that nothing will change. Nothing ever changes."
"But the DPJ won last time and a different party got in and..."
"Different parties, different people, it doesn't make any difference. This country is run by the bureaucrats, the politicians don't make any difference."
"There is nothing to get excited about."

"I don't care about the elections. Who are these people? They live in their own world. They have nothing to say or do about my world. They will raise taxes and they will live their own life doing their own thing and fighting their own battles."
"But what if..."
"Can we talk about something else, please?"

So, away from the known world, in the fantasyland of electoral politics: Ishihara and Hashimoto merged their parties as expected but didn't exactly explain how they were going to reconcile leadership or the fact that Ishihara wants to keep nuclear power but is against free trade, while Hashimoto is against nuclear power but for free trade.


It made me think of the other story today that had caught my eye doing the rounds on Twitter: In the 1980s Ikea had knowingly used East German political prisoners' forced labour to make their cheap, shitty furniture just that little bit cheaper and shittier, morally speaking, and it made Our Man think something he was happy to realise: the uniformed are actually often right. The experts get their policies in order or not, say the right things or not, meanwhile 325,000 people are still living in temporary accommodation close to two years after the earthquake.

Are the politicians thinking about them when they form their nifty new parties and make policy castles in the air?

Find out tomorrow, Our Man is off to bed.

Go to DAY 3


Craig Scanlan said...

Guess I'm one of those 11... ;-p

Our Man in Abiko said...

Thanks cousin Craig :)

@Crank_Dub said...

It might seem blindingly obvious but have you tried to unplug the TV? Then if it still comes on, your F.I.L is definitely still hanging around or one of those awfully wet goth girls will come dribbling out of the screen and mess up your floor.

Our Man in Abiko said...

Yes, that's the only way to shut the voices off. But some cheeky monkey keeps plugging it back in.

@Crank_Dub said...

I'd say it's your father-in-law.

Be afraid... be very afraid...!!!