Thursday, April 26, 2007

Please Show Us Favor

It’s finally over. After two weeks of unceasing political campaigning for 1 of 24 city council seats against 31 other candidates, a welcome silence has settled over our fishing town once more. Instead of inundating the public with phone calls and television commercials, candidates drive around town in pre-approved vehicles set-up with a speaker system to loudly solicit votes, with the occasional parking at a street corner to wave and smile at passer-bys.

In general, these slow-moving vans and pleas for consideration have generated nothing but eye-rolling and headaches from us unedumicated non-voters. What little we do understand boils down to the phrases “Thank you very much!” and “Please show us favor!”, with a heavy dose of the candidate’s name thrown in.

But what do the local people think? Ever vigilant for conversation topics, I threw this question out to my friends one day. It turns out our understanding comprised about 95% of what information was actually being imparted, and my husband’s dry commentary on the whole Japanese campaigning system was highly accurate. There’s no chance of getting deep into issues or giving insightful speeches when you’re constantly on the move, something the residents look upon with dissatisfaction. If anything, it appears like you’re heavily banking on the belief that your name will stick in people’s minds if you say it enough, eventually leading to a vote based on familiarity. Nor does it seem to matter how genuine a city council hopeful might be, the rules of the game are firmly established. Kind of a shame really, especially considering there are people who actually want to listen to speeches and understand each candidate’s position more in depth.

Plus it’s noisy as all get out.

Fortunately, good can come out of such things. It turns out that the lone candidate we have an acquaintanceship with ended up winning a place on the council. Here’s hoping he can make a difference by serving the city in a way he’s been yearning to for years.


HS said...

Very good post. I think many local people don't even think much about annoyance because it's been going on for decades and they are just way too apathetic to even care. This is the part that I see Edo society is still alive and well in Japan. 300 years of Edo period has defined Japanese culture: Politics is something "Okami" (=elite, upper class) is doing and not something "we" can influence. Let's not complain about anything and just live with it because the cost of social punishment for making waves is too great. That kind of mentality is prevalent in this society, and that's why election noise polution is here to stay. (sigh)

kareen said...

sigh. good that the elections over there are now over there. ours is next week so we're expecting the final campaign salvos this week. sigh. i can think of much better ways they could have spent all that campaign money on.

Star said...

hs- That explains so much... Not that the U.S. political scene is much better, but at least I can choose to let the answering machine take calls and not turn the television on.

Kareen- I couldn't agree more.