Tuesday, 11 December 2012

STRANGE FRUIT Japan Election 2012 Diary: Day 25

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

Ode to (a post-Fukushima) Autumn

Season of misinformation and mellow fruitlessness!
Close bosom-friend of the radioactive sum;
Conspiring with TEPCO's record to play on our fears
With Geiger counters round the thatch eaves run;
To bend with incompetence and doubt,
And fill all statements with suspicion to the core;
To swell the profit margin and plump the regulators
With sweet payoffs, to set budding more plants,
And still more, later poison for the generations
Until they think radioactive ash will never cease
For Fukushima fear has o'er-brimmed our clammy selves.

Putting up the outdoor Christmas lights was a wrench this year. It's not that I have so many, although every year we would buy one more string of lights so that come December the garden was a little brighter than the year before.

That was until 2011. With Fukushima so fresh in our memories it was an easy decision to make. How could we justify the wanton burning up of electricity on such frivolity when the nation had only just got through summer by rationing electricity to factories and encouraging all to avoid the instinctive urge to flip the switch on the air conditioner at the first beads of summer sweat? Sure, it was a silly argument practically speaking -- just as the starving of Ethiopia couldn't derive any benefit from my children finishing everything on their plate, how could the victims of the tsunami and Fukushima meltdown have their suffering eased by me not clambering around the persimmon tree with a stepladder? They couldn't, but there was a principle at stake: How could we flaunt it, while so many survivors had nothing? We couldn't, so the lights stayed in their cardboard box behind the sliding doors of the dusty top compartment of the futon cupboard.

That was until today.

"Are you putting the Christmas lights out this year or what?"
"I don't know if we should."
"Well, if you don't hurry up, Christmas will be over, so you should do it today."
"Yeah, but Fukushima and all..." I let my voice trail off, as if I knew of a wisdom better left unsaid.
"Well, the kids would like it."

Practically speaking, the bunker's Christmas lights can't burn up more Siberian liquid gas than the iPhones we recharge a couple of times a day, so where's the harm? OK, two wrongs don't make a right but why was I letting it bother me so? Ultimately, Our Woman was right. The joy the kids would get from the pretty lights outweighed any moral butterflies I was giving myself. Besides, I told myself, we'd limit the number of hours the lights were on and hey, ultimately the only moral thing to do was to do nothing at all, and what's the point in that? I don't know how valid these arguments are, but they were enough to short-circuit my spinning moral compass.

So, I found myself wrapping the bare persimmon branches this morning with multicoloured lights. And it was easy this year. We'd lopped off half the limbs after last year's bumper harvest went straight into the recycling bag. No matter how safe and marginal the level of elevated radioactivity of Abiko's persimmons last year, the prospect of them in our stomachs was not appetising to us or our neighbours, and why take the minuscule chance of radiation poisoning when it was completely avoidable?

The feeling was mutual from our tree. This year it bore us no fruit.


Martin Fackler wrote a good profile of Shintaro Ishihara, the 80-years-young firebrand, in The New York Times today. And the (London) Daily Telegraph, had a piece about how the right was propelling Abe to a landslide victory.

All true up to a point. But I take issue with the idea that Japan is simply swinging to the right. It may well do after December 16th through the policies imposed on it from above, but what we have here is a practical failure from the left more than a moral sea change. The Democratic Party of Japan promised to tackle Japan's problems with a head-on confrontation with the bureaucrats on behalf of We The People. Not only did they fail to win that battle, they didn't even die trying. They just gave up. And they shall die for this betrayal.

Nobody likes Abe or the Liberal Democratic Party much. Most sane folk know they represent a step backwards. Most sane folk think Ishihara is entertaining and a refreshing dose of forthrightness in an otherwise staid field, but not too many think much of his policies. Except he has a proven track record of sticking two fingers up at the bureaucrats and somehow getting things done. Crazy, stupid counterproductive things, but all the same. Given the options, what's a moral person to do?


"My mother's seriously thinking now of voting for Ishihara."
"I told her that could mean war with China."
"Does she know that in Abiko that means she'll have to vote for a pro-bowler?"
"Yes, but she said she couldn't face seeing Abe on TV again. And said it was Ishihara's last chance."
"Last chance for what?"
"Last chance for anything."

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 26

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