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Net noodle-slinging heats up before election

August 26, 2009

“Be nice to kids too,” shouts a kid with his hand raised.

“OK, OK. Here, I’ll give you 26,000 yen worth of toppings,” responds the ramen chef who looks suspiciously like Japan’s opposition Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama, as he sprinkles more toppings on a bowl of noodles.

With Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party at risk of losing power for only the second time in more than a half-century in an election on Sunday, the party is stepping up its campaign against the opposition with a new series of Internet attack ads – a rarity in a country that has leaned towards the polite and boring in election tactics.

Dripping with puns, one cartoon commercial viewable on YouTube zeroes in on what the LDP insists are impossible promises by the rival Democrats in their campaign platform, or manifesto, as the opposition prefers to call it.

JAPAN-ELECTION/The bowl of ramen is called the “boastful manifesto noodles” and the toppings – added one after the other as customers complain about the taste – represent pledges made by the Democrats, such as a 26,000 yen monthly child allowance.

By the time the chef is finished, a worried-looking woman notes the noodle dish is completely different from what she anticipated.

But a nonchalant chef assures her it’s been like this from the start – prompting a shocked gasp.

In another LDP ad, four shadow figures easily recognizable as Democratic Party leaders flip-flop on some of the opposition party’s key policies including a refueling mission in support of U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and free trade with the United States – a jibe at some recent changes in tone as the Democrats get closer to taking power.

The conservative LDP’s use of the Internet might be thought to violate Japan’s election law, which has been interpreted as banning most cyber campaigning – prompting critics to call for its reform. But an internal affairs government official said the ads were probably OK since they didn’t make specific appeals for votes

The Democrats, for their part, appear to be taking the high road in their own Internet ads, avoiding harsh negative attacks and sticking to their main slogan – Japan needs a change.

“We don’t want to play that game,” Asahi quoted a Democratic Party official as saying about the LDP ads.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Toru Hanai

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