Friday, 16 November 2012

JAPAN ELECTION 2012 DIARY DAY 1: Fifty Suits of Grey

Today, Yoshihiko Noda has thrown in the towel and called a snap election for a month from now. As far as Our Man can tell, the Prime Minister knows full well his left-leaning party, the Democratic Party of Japan, is heading for dismal failure, but for whatever reason he feels compelled to put us all through it.

Know the feeling. In a similar spirit, Our Man has decided to throw caution to the wind, unscrew his inner red and follow the progress of the election in his adopted homeland of Japan every single day for a month, and keep a diary of the goings on in his life and whatever else he is able to make out of greater import outside his bunker. Our Man doesn't claim to be an expert on Japan or its politics, but he is pretty sure that expectations for this election are pretty low. So low in fact that the idea of doing a daily diary about a change of leadership in a country that will have seen seven Prime Ministers in seven years (isn't that a musical? -- ed.) is frankly preposterous.

But Our Man will see your frankly preposterous and raise it to completely insane:

He is going to turn this diary into a book and publish it on Monday, December 17th, the day after the election.

But in order to do that he is going to need about 30,000 words or so for a 100-page book, which according to the boffins back at HQ, means he has to produce 1,000 publishable words a day. Not to mention all the editing, proofing and formatting that needs to be done to turn these first drafts of history into something you wouldn't mind having lying around in your home.

And that's only 291 words.

However, he is aided and abetted in this insanity by You The People. That is, as Hillary Clinton wisely noted in It Takes a Village Idiot (this joke better not make it into the book -- ed.), you need more than one loon to change the world. Our Man thinks. He doesn't have time to read it now.

But he does have Twitter and a virtual army of agents provocateur whose wisdom and insanity he reserves the right to freely make use of. He has already been given the blessing of his co-conspirator at the Abiko Free Press, Dan Ryan, to make a go of this book. And @Durf of Twitter infamy has provided him with the first working title of the book for an election unlikely to prove very exciting: Fifty Suits of Grey, an improvement on Our Man's first thought, Thirty Days of Indifference.

Earlier today, NHK did a vox pop with three people concluded that Japan was on the edge of its collective heated train seats with the news of the coming election. A fifty-year-old man said he couldn't get enough of election news on TV, another chap said he was disappointed in the performance of the current government after being so hopeful of change, and an 85-year-old woman who said she didn't know who to vote for was going to vote for someone anyway "for the good of the young." This report raised a major concern for Our Man: Does an interview with three people qualify as a vox pop? At the Japan Times they frequently have double the number of uninformed folk in train stations and drunken mates of the reporter to measure the beating pulse of the nation. By the way, a word of advice from an old pro at doing vox pops: finding folk who actually agree to having their mugshot taken and answering questions about pressing issues of the day (such as who would make the best prime minister, what's the best breed of dog or what's their favourite colour) can be time-consuming. The best bet is to find some homeless folk in the station. They'll say anything you want for the price of a packet of smokes and usually don't mind being photographed. Just crop the picture tight and no-one's any the wiser. Win-win, baby. Anyway, with this level of electoral excitement, just imagine the prospects for future entries in this diary.

To be fair though, there was some real electoral news today. Ishihara, who had just formed the Sunrise Party after jacking in his job as Tokyo governor, remember, agreed to merge his party with Hashimoto's Japan Restoration Party. They differ on key matters such as whether in the wake of the Fukushima Japan should have nuclear power, whether to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and who was the best James Bond. Ishihara is definitely a Connery man, Hashimoto is leaning more toward Timothy Dalton.

These two are hoping to become a third force in Japanese politics, which sounds lovely, but there are barely two forces at the moment: a corrupt old-school political machine LDP in opposition and largely incompetent DPJ in power now. Then the news gets a bit harder to follow. Various obscure parties are negotiating with other obscure parties to make pacts. They've got great names like Your Party, the People's Life First party, New Party Daichi-True Democrats, and the Kizuna ("bonds") Party. Hashimoto and Ishihara are expected to announce a policy compromise tomorrow (perhaps a Daniel Craig? George Lazenby is also under consideration), but Our Man is in danger of losing sight of the wood for all the trees, and he's nearing his minimum word-count for the day, so he'll take his leave of the minor parties for now.  

What you can expect of the rest of the diary, Our Man can't say for sure. But he has an idea that future diary entries will include a rundown of the questions that face the country, the candidates and parties that have all the answers, and possibly an interview or two with folk such as Our Woman and Our Mother in Law in Abiko. If Our Man finds a third interviewee, he'll call it a vox pop.

Until tomorrow, that's all folks.

Go to DAY 2

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 Our Man in Abiko and a proper foreword by Michael Cucek. Buy it here


Sigma1 said...

Excellent. Someone else to take up the slack :-) Looking forward to it.

Our Man in Abiko said...

Thank you. And I may well need a little of your expertise to make sense of what's to come. What's your take on the meaning of this general election?

D said...

I believe that you have gone, or will soon go, insane.

sigma1 said...

Meaning? Tough question first up! I think the key issue is whether the LDP and Komeito gain a majority. Because of the electoral math (a blog I'll do after I see a couple more polls), it is more likely than the media is letting on and unless the DPJ and the various "third pole" parties get their act together then we might very well be back to 2006. If no particular grouping gets an outright majority then there is a chance of either some creative destruction taking place, or, perhaps rather unlikely, all of the sides will have to think about how to collaborate together on policies and all of that seemingly alien stuff. Also, whoever is left standing in the DPJ may well have implications for centre-left politics in Japan for the next few years.

Our Man in Abiko said...


Commeth insane times, commeth the insane Our Man.


Thank you. Next question, is there any conceivable way that Ishihara could become PM or wield enough power to be a player?

Carry on all.

sigma1 said...

Never say never, but PM seems unlikely. May be a cabinet minister but even then lots of things would have to happen for that to take place. I suspect that either which way it will be an LDP-Komeito government/cabinet but they key issue is whether it will be a minority or majority government.