Slices of Japanese business, politics and 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.
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.
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.
One evening recently, about a dozen stock traders and a couple of reporters including myself met for dinner and drinks at a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza district.
It was the second this group had come together, and everyone seemed in a good mood initially, chatting away, drinking beer and sake, as well as enjoying the delicately prepared sashimi.
The season is back and so is the nation’s obsession. The map of Japan has turned pink on TV, with anchors and weather forecasters speculating when the day will be.
The stores are filling up their shelves with pink products, ranging from stickers to salt. And soon, people will start lining up for hours to get the best spots, so that they can appreciate its ephemeral beauty while gorging on bento (box meals) and booze.