Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Farewell to photogenic Aso



Japan’s voters may have overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Taro Aso at the polls last week, but he and my camera got along just fine.

The 68-year-old makes vigorous gestures with his hands and strong facial expressions. His crooked smirk and his eyes that sometimes seem to be  popping out of his head always gave me a lot of interesting photo choices.

Now the photogenic Aso must pack his bags and hand over the prime ministerial house keys to Yukio  Hatoyama , the leader of the new ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

Hatoyama, once nicknamed “the alien” for his prominent eyes,  is — visually at least — less interesting except for his unruly locks that sometimes blow about in the wind.

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.

Elections, obstructions and duct tape



When you pack scores of journalists into a room and they’re all trying to listen to, photograph, and film one person – like the head of a political party – it’s easy to get blocked by the people and things in front of you.

For a photographer, this is the kiss of death. It means not getting a picture. Next, your phone rings with an angry editor on the other end - a brief conversation is followed by a lengthy period of woe and despair. For this and other reasons, photographers go to great lengths to get a good photo position.

Punching puppets offer election action


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.

finger-puppet-7The 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.

Japan vote decision a bit of a tough one


JAPAN-ELECTION/If the woman who works in my dentist’s office is anything to go by, some Japanese voters are having a devil of a time deciding how to vote in an election just over a week away.

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.

Aso flags LDP conservativism


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.

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.

Clinton rescue casts spotlight on Japan families’ plight



The tearful homecoming of two U.S. journalists released from a North Korean jail during a lightning visit by former U.S. President Bill Clinton this week left relatives of Japanese abducted by Pyongyang’s agents dissatisfied with their own government’s efforts.

“Why is it that Japan has been taking so long to bring them back, while the United States negotiated a release that quick?” Kyodo news agency quoted Kayoko Arimoto, the mother of a missing abductee as saying this week.

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.