Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Name tags on their chairs so their “teachers” can take attendance; instructions on how to greet their elders politely; orders to turn up on time.
Rookie lawmakers in Japan’s ruling Democratic Party are, critics say, being treated like first-grade students instead of a talent pool the government can draw on to tackle tough policy problems from a bulging debt to strained ties with Washington.
Political mastermind Ichiro Ozawa’s strict control of the 141 new lawmakers swept into office by the Democratic Party of Japan’s (DPJ) huge August election victory that ousted their long-dominant rival has cast a spotlight on the paradoxical power of the man many credit with engineering the historic win.
Fears that Ozawa, who bolted the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 1993 and spent the following years plotting its overthrow, would pull the strings in Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government have simmered since he took over as the Democrats’ No. 2 after their stunning win at the polls.
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.
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.
What’s in a name? A lot, according to one Japanese lawmaker, who’s appalled by his country’s schizophrenia over how to pronounce the two ideographs rendered in English as “Japan”.
“What is the formal name of this country? Overseas, it is called ‘Japan’, but Japanese people say both ‘Nihon’ and ‘Nippon’,” opposition parliament member Tetsundo Iwakuni told me.