Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Net noodle-slinging heats up before election


“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.

Little heat in election debate


JAPAN-ELECTION/It might have been a historic moment, but Japan’s first-ever election face-off between the leaders of its two biggest political parties left many cold.

There were no knock-out punches, little soaring rhetoric and the 90 minute debate between Prime Minister Taro Aso (pictured left) and opposition Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama (right) ended awkwardly when Hatoyama approached his rival for a final farewell, only to see Aso turn his back and leave the stage.

PM ponders “graceful defeat”


Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, his long-ruling party at risk of losing power in this month’s election,  appears to be pondering the problem of how to lose gracefully.

JAPAN-ELECTION/Speaking on the campaign trail near Tokyo this week, Aso quoted a piece of advice given to his grandfather,  Shigeru Yoshida,  by Japan’s last wartime prime minister.

Scrum at ruling party HQ says it all?


“Why can’t the LDP do this better?”

That’s what many reporters were saying when Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party announced its campaign platform on Friday.

They weren’t talking about the party’s campaign pledges for the Aug. 30 election,  which the LDP could well lose to the rival Democratic Party, ending more than half a century of almost unbroken reign by the LDP.

Ruling party takes off gloves, irking opposition


Japan’s conservative ruling party,  torn  by internal feuds and facing a possible loss in an Aug. 30 poll, is making attacks on the opposition Democratic Party of a sort rare in a country where many have had an allergy to Western-style negative campaigns.

The strategy — portraying the novice Democrats as weak on security and profligate on spending –  prompted a harsh reply from the opposition,  who polls show have their best-ever chance of defeating unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the election,  ending its more than half a century of nearly unbroken rule.

Japan’s long, hot political summer


A campaign that began with apologies and tears by the prime minister may end the same way if, as surveys suggest, Japan’s conservative ruling party suffers a historic defeat in 40 days.

Prime Minister Taro Aso dissolved parliament’s powerful lower house Tuesday for an Aug. 30 election that could well see his Liberal Democratic Party ousted for only the second time since its founding more than half a century ago.  

Name That Dissolution – A game everyone can play


Finally, we have a date for Japan’s general election. After months of speculation, unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso said on Monday he plans to call a national election on Aug. 30 after dissolving parliament next week.

All we need now – in Japan, at least - is a cool name for the dissolution.

Japan’s election allergy on the Internet


Tech-savvy Japan is home to many high-tech companies and more than 70 percent of its people use the Internet. But politics on the Web falls far behind.

Both politicians and voters can be found online. Lawmakers have their own blogs and channels on sites such as niconico and youtube, and political parties such as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and main opposition Democratic Party of Japan have websites.  A couple of politicians are even tweeting on ”Twitter“.

Comedian for Japan PM?


It may seem like a bad joke, but some say Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party just might be desperate enough to take up an offer from a  ex-comedian to take over as leader.

JAPANUnpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso’s LDP party is sagging in the polls with an election just months away. The party’s fear of defeat after more than half a century of almost unbroken rule is  prompting lawmakers to plot miraculous rescue scenarios, many beginning with dumping the PM.

North Korea’s test of wills


Japan, perhaps the most nervous neighbor of unpredictable North Korea, is also the least able to overtly make its fears felt, after this week’s nuclear test.

Analysts point out the combination of Tokyo’s history of antagonism with the North and the fact that Pyongyang boasts missiles that could hit almost anywhere in Japan pose particular risks for the world’s second largest economy.