Raw Japan

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Seven election words to watch for

August 29, 2009

Here is a quick tutorial on seven words you might find helpful to follow the Japanese election on Sunday.

どぶ板選挙 (Dobuita Senkyo) means a grassroots election campaign.  The term became popular to illustrate how veteran lawmakers from the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), struggling in the campaign and worried about losing their previously safe seats, have been running around in their constituency to meet as many voters in person as possible. ”Dobuita” means wooden boards laid across a ditch to cover and “senkyo” means election. So the term suggests that candidates visit voters door-to-door, walking on the “dobuita” to enter homes. But the Japanese election law forbids candidates to visit individual houses during the official campaign period.

ねじれ国会 (Nejire Kokkai) means twisted parliament. The term has become a buzzword since the opposition Democrats and their allies won the control of the less powerful upper house of parliament in 2007, allowing them to delay bills and jamming up the government’s policy plans.


だるま (Daruma). Japanese use daruma dolls, which are usually bright red and shaped like a human head, to seek luck for everything from passing exams, finding love, to winning elections.  The tradition is for election candidates to paint in one eye and then if they win, paint in the other.  Sales of daruma dolls have risen as candidates seek a little help ahead of the election.

小沢チルドレ ン (Ozawa children): This expression comes from “Koizumi children”, a term for candidates picked by charismatic former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi four years ago to run against his party rivals who opposed his postal reforms.  Former Democrats leader Ichiro Ozawa, who in charge of the party’s election campaign strategy, has created his own “Ozawa children” (or Ozawa girls) by sending young, often female, candidates to run against veteran, LDP lawmakers.

政権選択 (Seiken Sentaku): Many Japanese media outlets have called this election an election of “seiken sentaku”, which literally means choosing a government. If you think about it, every election is about choosing a new government but the term reflects how hard it has been to even think about an opposition victory in past elections in Japan.


世襲 (Seshu) means hereditary. It has become a topical term as criticism grows of the practice of influential political families handing over power in their local district to the next generation.

惨敗 (Zanpai) means a huge loss.  Polls suggest the opposition Democrats might win two-thirds of the seat in the parliament’s lower house in Sunday’s election, although analysts say the victory may be less overwhelming than forecast.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Kim Kyung Hoon


Indeed a nice article! Thanks for this tutorial.


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