Friday, 23 November 2012

It's the stupid economy -- 2012 JAPAN ELECTION DIARY: DAY 8

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


You could tell it wasn't going to go well by her half-hearted bow.

The junior high school student tried to turn the knob at the back of the chair to lower the seat, but it wouldn't budge and she perched herself on the edge, hunching over the Steinway grand piano, head tucked between her shoulders like she was trying to hide from the onlookers. But her expression was betraying a guilty conscience. I thought of those particularly insensitive teachers who say stupid things like "just enjoy it" before an exam. The enjoyment is all theoretical, academic. Not real. Not enjoyable.

As far as this poor girl was concerned, she was heading to a public execution. But she started strongly, getting through the first few bars with no difficulty, but then her fingers faltered and she had to backtrack to find her place again. The audience held its breath. She found her place again, but then a few flat notes billowed through the hall and before long she was just picking out the odd riff with her right hand and clawing blindly with her left.

She stopped, and I wondered if tears would flow instead of the music, but she turned a page and continued, haltingly. The old folks in my field of view had fixed expressions, not so much from the suffering of listening to her massacring a show tune, but out of sympathy of how much she must be suffering. It seemed cruel and unusual punishment to make one so young go through with so public a humiliation. In this corner of the world, a mistake or two due to inexperience or lack of skill can be overlooked, but failing to practice for such a public spectacle is unforgivable.

I looked away. I searched twitter on my phone. I actually started to read a business story in the Japan Times about Abe. Not out of disrespect for the perfomer, but out of embarrassment for her. I wanted to be as far away from here as she did, I couldn't bear to add to her misery.

So I read the first thing that came to hand. The biz briefs. Stocks in Sony and Panasonic were downgraded to junk status by Fitch. I don't know who Fitch is, but this is apparently significant. Our Man and Woman had his and hers Panasonic mountain bikes as a wedding present back 15 years ago. My eldest has a Sony mp3 Walkman. This may or may not be significant.

Finally, her fingers came to rest, the halting music expired. It was over. The audience gave her a measured round of applause, 50 percent politeness, 50 percent relief. Her choice of song was My Favorite Things.

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.
So it was that I found myself back in Inzai for the second day in a row, this time for the annual piano show that my girls' piano teacher holds in the Inzai Civic Hall, a great public hall with seating for a thousand. Today, it was host to 30 kids and their families in the morning and again in the afternoon. That's a maximum of 200 people using the hall over six hours. A hall with a Steinway. A hall with a parking lot, staff and heating, lighting, not to mention its own traffic lights.

You could take this as a sign of the affluence of a nation that could afford to throw such resources at the fostering of kids' piano lessons. Or you could take this as a sign that the nation that was going to take over the world in Rising Sun back in the 80s has blown its fortune on concrete multi-purpose halls (the "no purpose halls" of Alex Kerr's Dogs and Demons) that scar the landscape in a similar way to the giant box retail stores in the US.

Whatever. Somebody has to pay for it.

But not me. Or anyone today, because November 23rd is a national holiday to celebrate labour and productivity. At least it has been since the end of the war. Before that it was Niiname-sai the imperial harvest festival. But times have changed since then.

I forced myself to read about the "right wing" LDP's economic policies under Abe (so you don't have to, dear reader). It appears that he is against the Trans Pacific Free Trade blah blah blah and that he is in favour of quantative easing and fixing interest rates. I'm not sure what this all means, but I take it that he doesn't want folk to buy cheap groceries from the Americas and Australia, that he does want to print money and if the governor of the bank of Japan doesn't like it, he's out of a job. Doesn't sound very right wing to me, but what would I know? Economics is not one of my favourite things. Cheap Chilean and Australian wine is though, and a strong yen, as that's the currency I'm paid in. But apparently that's stupid, according to the business pages. Well, according to me, I think they're stupid. Howdya like them comparing apples to oranges, huh?

I did read something else via Twitter today that could be construed as business-related and to do with the Japan election, so it deserves its place in this entry. According to Phil Brasor, writer for hire and the bunker's favourite columnist at the Japan Times, Ishihara's sudden resignation as governor will cost Tokyo taxpayers $50 million to foot the bill for an election to find his replacement. Which will be Naoki Inose, his former hand-picked vice mayor, who has been endorsed by the LDP and of course his former boss Ishihara.

Hmmm. A crass disregard for other folk's money. An inability to keep his stupid mouth shut. Got it. Ishihara is the Donald Trump of Japan politics.

I'm going to quantitively ease my backside into bed now, in preparation for another day.

Go to DAY 9

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