Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
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.
Observers of Japanese politics who have long thought the country was ripe for a real two-party system are watching Sunday’s election with a dual sense of incredulity — surprise that it has taken so long to oust the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and surprise that it finally looks like happening.
Media surveys show the decade-old opposition Democratic Party is set to win the poll for parliament’s powerful lower house – and probably by a landslide, ushering in party leader Yukio Hatoyama at the head of a government pledged to spend more on consumers and workers than the companies that benefited most from LDP policies.
Opinion polls show the opposition Democratic Party of Japan is set for a runaway victory in Sunday’s general election, but voters are showing none of the enthusiasm that swept Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency last year.
When I talked to more than a dozen voters in a small town near Hiroshima, western Japan, they were interested in the election and had a lot to say about it. And most were looking for change — but not with a great deal of fervour.
Britain's Association of Investment Companies has UK investors who run Japanese equity funds whether they think the general election on Sunday will have a positive impact on the country, which is slowly emerging from recession.
Their answers can be found here, but the consensus was that the Democratic Party of Japan would defeat the ruling Liberal Democrat Party and that this would result in more consumer friendly policy or economic revival through higher living standards.
Japan’s far north, once home to pet projects of scions of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, looks set to become an even hotter bed of opposition Democratic Party success in this weekend’s Japanese election capped, if polls and analysts are correct, by a local son becoming the nation’s next prime minister.
But while the country decides whether opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama will become premier, voters in Hokkaido will also decide the fate of a certain disgraced former finance, trade and farms minister who is battling for his political life.
“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.
Attack advertising is in its infancy and Japanese election debates are staid affairs between men in suits who take their turns to speak and don’t get angry.
The election on Sunday is a battle between the heavyweight LDP and the up-and-coming Democrats, who have a big lead in the polls, but the only big punches you’ll see thrown are among tiny finger dolls on a puppet stage.
Pollsters are predicting that the opposition Democrats will win by a landslide, ousting the conservative party that has ruled for nearly all of the past half-century.
To some people a national flag is little more than a piece of cloth, while to others it is a sacred symbol that embodies a country’s ideals. It was the latter that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso apparently tried to score some easy points with this week in the run-up to the Aug. 30 election that voter surveys show his Liberal Democratic Party party is likely to lose.
In a televised debate, Aso accused the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan of defacing the national flag, commonly known locally as the Hinomaru or “sun circle”, at a gathering for one of its candidates in southern Japan this month.
One in five politicians in the Japanese parliament is the child or grandchild of a politician, reinforcing a longstanding practice of influential political families handing power down to the next generation.
But voter criticism has been mounting ahead of the Aug. 30 election — especially in Yokosuka, a port city southwest of Tokyo, where former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has passed his seat on to his 28-year-old second son, Shinjiro Koizumi.