Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Shaking hands with the prime minister, sort of
On the last day of Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso’s campaign for last week’s lower house election, I went to cover Aso’s speech in Kamakura to get pictures out as early as possible.
A large crowd of people waited for him to speak, but only a handful of cameraman were at the scene, perhaps reflecting the view that the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was on its way to defeat.
During the election, it was common for politicians to go into crowds of voters to shake hands and as soon as Aso began finishing up his speech, I rushed towards the front row of the crowd with my wide 16mm lens.
Within moments, voters were reaching out their hands and I was practically nose to nose with Aso while angry bodyguards tried to shove me away. I don’t give up easily if there is a chance of a good picture, though.
The next thing I knew, Aso himself suddenly grasped my hands and camera and told me: “You shouldn’t be shooting here. You’ve got to obey the rules. Do you understand?”
It was quite a shock to have Japan’s Prime Minister talking to me like this in front of a large number of people.
But while I was surprised the Prime Minister would speak directly to me, I tried to shoot more to get a nice picture. The bodyguards saw this, though, and in the next moment covered my lens to prevent me from taking more pictures.
The next evening, when Aso took his seat at a news conference at LDP headquarters to see the ballot results come in, he looked gloomy, totally different from the day before.
What was even more noticeable was the fact that the seats usually occupied by photographers covering the Prime Minister were vacant. I was sure that I wasn’t alone in thinking that those photographers were already taking pictures of soon-to-be Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
Photo credits: REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao