Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 3rd, 2009
Hi Blog. A little post for the holidays:
I was cycling on my way to work on May 1 and going through Odori Park, where the 80th Annual Hokkaido May Day labor union rallies were taking place. They’re fun affairs (you get the pretentious lefties spouting off about protecting human rights, but then with no sense of irony whatsoever refuse to give me a flyer as I’m walking past…), and it’s always interesting to see who’s speaking.
I had just missed Hokkaido Governor Takahashi Harumi’s speech (but I saw her in the speaker gallery — she’s a tiny little person!), but Sapporo Mayor Ueda Fumio gave a short and well-tailored speech designed for the workers: about how Hokkaido’s in the job market toilet and we have to keep it from getting worse; and we’d better make sure that no more companies go bankrupt (I raised an eyebrow at that; that doesn’t sound all that populist anymore).
But then came the rabbit out of the hat. DPJ leader Ozawa Ichiro (yes, THAT Ozawa) gave a ten-minuter about how the LDP was about to lose power and how the DPJ and associated allies were going to kick butt in the next unavoidable election. I snickered a bit, about how the worm had turned (given Ozawa’s history as a LDP kingpin dealing within the smoke-filled rooms of Kanemaru and PM Takeshita), and renewed my distrust of him. He’ll say anything to get into power, which might indeed be the job description of any politician, but I still felt after he left the podium that he lacked any personal convictions except getting his own back on the LDP.
But he was soon overshadowed two speakers later. After the vice-prez of Shamintou gave the proper address about unemployed workers, the Japanese Constitution, and various other leftie issues that I agreed with to the core but noticed how smoothly they were served up, out came the person that should be banished from any public event with crucifixes: Suzuki Muneo. Yes, another former LDP kingpin, now twice-convicted for corruption (and in office only because his case is on appeal in the Supreme Court, and because Hokkaido people can be pretty stupid), up at the podium protesting his innocence yet again. Yes, no kidding, in between the pat statements that Hokkaido is underrepresented and kept poor by the mainland (I agree, but I wouldn’t want Muneo to be the representer), he talked about how the police are going after people like Ozawa and himself unfairly because the latter are challenging the ruling class. And how he looked forward to being part of the new ruling DPJ even if his one-person party has only elected him (played that one for laughs; it worked). The shikai who came on after that noted how suddenly May Day had taken on a different tone. No wonder. The politicians had hijacked it for their own purposes, not for the promotion of worker rights.
Anyway, back to Muneo. He had clearly hitched his wagon to the left. At about 150 decibels, he was the most attention-getting speaker of the day (I admit he’s an incredible speaker; even if you don’t trust him, you’ll be boxed about the ears by his high-volume convictions). He walked off with more applause than anyone (Ozawa got some desultory claps; he’s a by-the-numbers speaker because he believes in very little fervently; Muneo, a performance artist like Iggy Pop, would cut his chest on stage if he got your support — he certainly shredded his vocal cords) and probably garnered a few more votes from desperate Dosanko. Sigh.
I resumed my trek to work after that. As always, I’m fascinated by Japanese politics, because I like to see what appeals. Very little of it is as well-thought-out or as inspiring as a single Obama speech. That’s one reason that Obama’s speeches are best-sellers in Japan. The Japanese electorate is thirsting for someone to show some impressive leadership. All the left got today in Sapporo, however, were Ichiro and Muneo. And they are hardly leftists.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo