Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Let them eat cake: 2012 JAPAN ELECTION DIARY: DAY 5

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

Beware labels. Just because you've read the label, doesn't mean you know what's inside. And Our Man is not just talking fruitcakes.

Picture a student with a red rash. You needn't picture how he got the rash, just know that it was a rash. And it was red. The student went to the doctor, showed him the rash. The doctor poked it and prodded it, and stroked his chin. Finally he said: "You are suffering from ruber temerarium, come back in a day or two if it gets worse." The student was crestfallen. If it gets worse? He had no idea what was ailing him. And this was in the olden days before the internet. He went to the university library, searched through the card catalogues on the ground floor and found a card for a dictionary of Latin terms. He went to the reference floor on the second floor, found the right shelf and pulled the dusty tome from the shelf, and sat at an empty desk to leaf through the pages until finally he found the right entry. Ruber temerarium... Latin for "red rash."

Labels are reassuring things when you don't have a clue what's inside. Google articles about Japanese politics and you'll find terms like "right-wing" LDP, "left-leaning" DPJ (Our Man's guilty of using that one) as if knowing the label means you know how the fruitcake will taste.

Speaking of fruitcakes, it strikes Our Man that he hasn't introduced the dramatis personae of this morality play he's trying to piece together from the Japan election with bits of string and knotted hankies. He had been hoping, like the good novelist he aspires to be, to let the characters tell their own stories through their actions, and just fill in the gaps. But the candidates don't seem to be doing much of anything, at least as far as Our Man can tell as seen through the ink-stained Influencing Machine of this morning's copy of the Japan Times. Although they did helpfully provide a vox pop about ex-Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara quitting the day job to pursue a career on the national stage, so Our Man will take this as a starting point to do some fact checking by way of introducing OUR POTENTIAL FUTURE PRIME MINISTER.

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unpublished afterword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.
He did shirk his responsibility as governor of Tokyo but he has big ideas on how to improve the national government and Japan. If he waited until the end of his term as governor he would be too old, so I think he decided to quit at the right time. I would vote for him and his party at a general election.

TRUE: He's 80 years old. Eighty. Eight-Ohhh. He has some big ideas all right. Like the one that 
Washington took an interest in back in 1989 when a collection of his speeches "The Japan Who Can Say No" included an idea that Japan should tip the balance of power by selling Japanese computer chips to the USSR for their nuke missiles.

I think that he is the main troublemaker behind the ongoing (trouble with China and) Senkaku Island problem, so whilst maybe he did a good job and was a good leader for Tokyo, he is not the person to take the country forward.

FALSE: He did nothing for Tokyo, other than losing the bid for the Olympics, which saved us all a lot of time and money. Remember the manga museum? No? Exactly.

I wouldn't (vote for him). I think he's popular with many Japanese as he shoots pretty much straight from the hip — not so popular with non-Japanese due to past comments about foreigners. A lot of people I know find the thought of him having his own party and possibly becoming PM scary.

FALSE: I find the thought of him having his own party and possibly becoming PM absolutely hilarious. In a scary kind of way, possibly.

I think Japan's government needs a powerful politician who has strong views about the future, so I approve of his decision to resign his governorship. However, I don't agree with his opinions on restarting the nuclear reactors, so I won't vote for him.

FALSE: Ishihara is a feeble-minded politician with strong views about the past. The Rape of Nanking? Didn't happen according to Ishihara, or rather, a lot of bad happened on both sides, so you can't really attribute blame. You know, they threw rocks at us, we raped women and killed children. Sticks and stones. You know, Israel and Gaza Strip, right?

He made a big decision when he quit the governorship, but I like him because he is very strong mentally and he is like Japanese men from years gone by. His actions are strong, and I would support him in a general election.

TRUE: Verrrrry strong mentally. Verrrrry. Let's face it, he wrote a musical based on Treasure Island, that's no mean feat. Not to mention his first novel in 1955, Season of the Sun, aka Shintaro Does Tokyo, that won the Akutagawa Prize -- Japan's Booker Prize -- about a bunch of rich kids gambling, brawling and shagging around, famously through a paper screen. He is not like Japanese men from years gone by, he is a Japanese man from years gone by.

I wanted Ishihara to continue as governor as we need a person with charisma and leadership abilities, but it is no surprise he set up a new political party, and I think this caused (the DPJ) to call the election. Whatever happens to the new party, as long as Ishihara is in there, I'm going to support them.

TRUE: It is no surprise a former failed candidate for the leadership of the LDP would set up his own party -- nobody else would have him. And charisma. Oh, yes. He became an idol to teens who wore their hair long and clipped on sides known as a "Shintaro" cut. Back in the '50s. His debut into international politics by attempting to buy the disputed Senkaku Islands off the coast of China for Tokyo set off a series of missteps that culminated in Beijing and Taiwan rattling sabres, Chinese consumers smashing Toyotas and Japan slipping into recession for the first time since the earthquake. That's leadership.

Do not make the mistake of labelling this fruitcake.

Go to DAY 6

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