I weep for the future

Most readers will remember Taizo Sugimura, the Koizumi “Orphan” accidentally elected to the lower house as a LDP diet member in the 2005 snap election. After a string of disgraceful incidents in which the party quietly told Sugimura to stay out of the public sphere, he was silently booted from the 2009 LDP ticket after his bull-in-China-shop attempt to run for a seat in Hokkaido’s 1st district against a local favorite.

Sugimura is about to relaunch his political career, this time running for an Upper House proportional representative seat for Hokkaido on the ticket of the “Tachiagare Nippon” (the so-called “Sunrise Party”), the stoggy conservative splinter group that broke away from the LDP. The party’s goal in the selection of Sugimura is apparently to appeal to non-partisan voters through Sugimura’s appearances in media and his name recognition. You can read the Japanese article here.

Meanwhile, I was equally surprised to see that DPJ party leader Ichiro Ozawa has pulled in Ryoko “Yawara” Tani, the female Olympic judo wrestler. In a press conference earlier today she announced that “I want a gold medal in the election too” — in addition to seeking to join the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Then there’s also Mari Okabe, a former model and TV talent, who has been nominated to stand for election on the DPJ ticket as well. Here again, the media clearly outlines the party’s motive in picking these candidates — seeking to bring in votes by picking popular people with a wide name recognition.

How do Japan’s political parties get away with this type of popcorn populism? I find it disheartening that people with no merit whatsoever seeking to run for public office are picked for the blatant purpose of nothing more than appealing to the lowest common denominator of voter. Sadly, my informal surveys leads me to believe that lots of Japanese people feel the same way about this state of affairs, but accept it with bland fatalism and disinterest in the state of Japan’s political affairs.

Japan’s Upper House Election is scheduled for July 11th.

55 thoughts on “I weep for the future”

  1. Damn, well there goes the “Tachiagare’s average age is over 70” argument. No doubt he’ll be the same disaster he ever was

  2. When was the decision made to hold the elections on July 11 and who made the announcement?

  3. In addition to the name recognition and potential electoral benefits, I also suspect that Ozawa et al suspect that their lack of experience but likeability will mean they will be pliable and easier to manage post-election.

    (Sugimura aside) They may well develop into capable people however which I guess some Japanese, while being aware exactly how blatant this appears, probably find somewhat acceptable. But yes certainly they have not demonstrated that they posses any merit that should make them electable.

  4. I guess the same can be said about Politics everywhere else. *Cough*governator*cough*,
    Estrada. Even though people know they may have little to no skill in running office, people will supposedly will vote for whom they have at least heard off rather then someone who is a total stranger to the public eye.

  5. What dreaming Artemis said, and don’t forget to add Jesse Ventura, Sonny Bono, Will Rogers, Clint Eastwood, Al Franken, Ronald Reagan, Randy Bass, and probably a whole lot of other people I can’t remember. And that is just in the US. We can add Glenda Jackson for the UK, Ilona Staller (Cicciolina) from Italy, a whole pile of Indian pols, Filipinos, Poles, Germans, Canadians… there is nothing new under the sun here.

    My wife did say this morning that Yawara-chan shouldn’t be a Diet member and simultaneously an athlete. If she wanted to be a pol she should study up – to which I responded “But first Hatoyama needs to study – a lot.”

    As for the question of “merit” – if having some was a prerequisite of standing for office, no-one would ever be able to stand for office in the first place! Folks aren’t born with political credentials, you know.

  6. Being a DPJ supporter,I must say that I’m delighted to see we got better talento than others.
    Taizo for Tazhigare?Hiranuma better find a way to make a man out of Taizo before kicking him into the diet again,like send him into Ohsho boot camp or something.

  7. Aceface, DPJ better than Tachiagare probably isn’t the standard you want to be proud of. Need I also remind you of the DPJ’s softcore porn celebrity in the national Diet:

    Guys, if you think a state where the primary industry is movie entertainment electing an actor as governor every few decades has anything to compare to the situation in Japan, which is the US equivalent of Michael Phelps and Sherri Shepherd running for office. (I don’t even know what to compare Taizo to… thoughts?)

  8. Hey,Tanaka Mieko is EXACTLY the reason that I feel proud of the party.Not only she had cameo role in the cult Japanese film director based on cult Japanese writer of all times,she was the member of my favourite political satirist group.

    Tokyoreporter should be ashamed of quoting the mag like Shukan Shincho instead of now-gone Uwasa no Shinso.

  9. Curzon, the point is it is not just California. It is Minnesota, and Colorado, and Oklahoma, and Iowa, and Georgia and if you want to count Ronnie’s becoming President, twice the whole darn US of A. And you can find plenty of cases from other countries, as was mentioned, which has nothing to do with Hollyweird nor movies.

    And in those places the people were elected directly, unlike Yawara-chan who, if she gets a seat at all, will get in under Proportional Representation. As would Taizo and I believe Mari Okabe. No-one is going to vote “for” them, they can only vote for the DPJ – if anything this is yet another good argument for the abolition of PR seats.

    But if you want to jump up and down saying that Mari Okabe and Yawara-chan aren’t “qualified” somehow just because they are athletes or TV personalities, well… what qualifications did Hatoyama bring to the table when he was first elected? Or Ozawa? Obama? Abe Lincoln? Anyone who has ever held elected office?

  10. The commenters on Tokudane this morning were quick to point out that Tani would have to juggle her two young children and her Olympic career.

  11. @Bashcraft – saw that. That was basically Ogura’s polite and safe-for-morning-TV way of saying “YGBSM”.

  12. If Tani can juggle too, she has my vote.

    There is a possibility the election might get put off a little because of the legislative schedule. Kamei will crap his pants if the postal reform bill doesn’t pass in time.

    Taizo would be like scooping up any random McDonalds worker and making him a Congressman.

  13. “There is a possibility the election might get put off a little because of the legislative schedule.”

    Is that even a possibility? They have to hold it before the 25th, don’t they? Or does ‘a little’ mean ‘two weeks.’

  14. “My wife did say this morning that Yawara-chan shouldn’t be a Diet member and simultaneously an athlete.”

    She shouldn’t be a Diet member and simultaneously the daughter of a mobster is more like it. Then again, I can’t believe it would be the first time that someone with direct relation to the yakuza was elected to public office…

  15. Nice to see some still like to judge people on who their parents (allegedly) are. Shall we ban any descendants of Buraku while we’re at it? Their ancestors were “unclean” after all… Ban naturalized Japanese as they owe filial allegiance to their foreign ancestors, and aren’t really Japanese anyway?

    You a member of Tachiagare Nippon there, Pete?

  16. LB,

    1. Please don’t call me Pete。

    2. If you think it’s an allegation, you need to read up on her a little more. This has been fact for quite a while…

    3. Don’t try and compare the “buraku” to a criminal organization. It’s in bad taste, and doesn’t even make sense.

  17. Peter sorry.

    It makes perfect sense to mention the Buraku in this situation, as this is exactly what you are doing: saying someone is unqualified to serve in the government due to nothing more than who or what their parents or ancestors are. Saying Tani Ryoko is unfit to be elected to office simply because her father is “yakuza” is no different from saying she is unfit because her father is buraku, or Ainu, or Korean. No different at all. Now if she herself was a mobster, you might have a point. But she is not, therefore you don’t.

  18. John Gotti Jr. has claimed to be away from organized crime for decades and that he’s never been a mob boss. If he or his kids ever ran for office, don’t you think the mob connections would be a relevant issue? Especially in Japan where the PM was almost forced to resign over a relatively minor political funding paperwork infraction, the question of potential criminal investigations is highly relevant, I think.

  19. John Gotti Jr.’s mob connections would be an issue, as he himself was a mobster, has been convicted of crimes and served time. I am pretty sure a felony conviction automatically disqualifies one from holding elected office in a lot of places, as it should.

    However, his problems are not his kids problems. If one could show that his kids are involved in the mob, or knew of mob-related crimes and were covering that up (in other words, were involved in criminal conduct themselves) then that is different. What Peter is saying is that the kids are guilty for the sins of the parents, which is defamatory, discriminatory and just plain flat-out BS.

  20. I never said she was unfit to serve because of her connection to the mob. I said that she *shouldn’t* serve because of connection to the mob. The reasons are precisely what Adamu has mentioned.

    Connections to organized crime is not a question of what or who your father was, but rather what he is currently doing, and what side of the law those activities are on. That is why the comparison to the Buraku is a bit far-fetched.

  21. “I am sorry, but you shouldn’t serve in government because your dad is a crook, which means you might be investigated, and that would be a problem”

    “I am sorry, but you shouldn’t work in a major company because your dad is a crook, which means you might be investigated, and that would be a problem”

    “I am sorry, but you shouldn’t marry that person because your dad is a crook, which means you might be investigated, and that would be a problem”

    All the same argument, and all illogical. As is (sorry Adamu) the argument that a child of a crook might themselves be investigated “especially” in Japan where a PM was “almost forces to resign” for doing something illegal – and minor infraction or not, he was in violation of the laws regarding funding and reporting income. There is a whole world of difference between those two situations. Show me that Yawara-chan endorses, or is concealing knowledge of her father’s alleged illegal activities from authorities, or worse yet is a willing participant in those activities and I will agree with you. But she stands or falls on her own merits (or lack thereof), not her father’s. Unless you can show she is complicit in any crimes committed by her father, and therefore is a criminal herself, bringing him into a discussion as to why she “is unfit to be” or “should not be” a Diet member (and those two sound like the exact same thing to me) is nothing more than character assassination.

    “All are equal before the law” – that is a pretty fundamental concept in a free democracy, too bad at least two people here don’t seem to get it.

  22. One chooses to become involved with yakuza or bouryokudan.

    One does not choose to become a buraku, Ainu, or other minority.

    That, my friend, is the key difference, and it is why anyone with links to organized crime requires additional scrutiny. To argue otherwise is to ignore hundreds of years of politics, both in Japan and elsewhere.

  23. Having said that, I disagree with Peter that anyone with familial links to organized crime should be disqualified outright. If they have committed a crime, charge them, try them, and if found guilty, remove/disqualify them from office; otherwise, they have the rights as any other citizen.

    But we should still keep a close eye on them, as we should all politicians, due to the sensitive role they have in society.

  24. I’m amazed. Tani has become one of the most admired athletes in Japan, has lived an exemplary life, even gets to meet the Emperor face-to-face, but she’s not supposed to run for office because of her father? Are you people for real? I’m with LB all the way on this one.

  25. I am not saying she shouldn’t run, just that her father is a valid issue in assessing whether to vote for her (or rather, her party since she will be a PR candidate). I actually don’t know anything about those connections except for what Peter said, but I want to know more. If the DPJ is so star-struck by her they can’t bother to vet their candidates, that’s a mark against the party’s collective judgment.

  26. No, she should be assessed based on her own character and politics, which is presumably what the DPJ did as well. No one should be judged by their parents.

  27. LB, (& Wataru)

    It’s not clear to me that you’ve picked up on this, but my statements are entirely normative, based on what I perceive to be the potential downside to both her and the DPJ if it should turn out that there is a connection between her activities and criminal activities. Your statements are positive ones, waiting for facts in which we can accurately measure her as a politician. So the discussion has evolved into a semantic bicker. Maybe I should redact my original statement and word it in the subjunctive mood: “If I were running the DPJ, I would do some hard core vetting of her as candidate, given her father’s involvement with a crime syndicate.” I chose to word it the way I did to piggy-back the earlier comment. [yawn…]

    While I admire your respect of a free democracy, I think you’re taking yourself a tad too seriously here.

  28. Rabuho, I think we are in agreement. 😉

    Indeed chooses to be a mobster, and one does not choose to be Buraku or Ainu.

    But neither does one choose to be the son or daughter of a mobster – and that is where they are the same as Buraku, at least if one is going to argue that they should not run for office based on that. And like you said – if the individual in question breaks the law, throw the book at them, but until then they are the same as anyone else. And yes, all pols need to have a close eye kept on them. 😉

    Adamu – how do you know the DPJ didn’t vet her, and decide there was no problem? As I have said repeatedly, her father is not the issue. She is. Now, having said that sure, I’d like to know more, but only in the context of Yawara-chan herself. Evaluate her for who she is, what she has done, and what she says she stands for. She is the one standing to be put in the Diet, not her dad.

    I’d be more concerned about her relations with the mobster standing next to her in that pic at the top than her relations with her dad, anyway. She is choosing to associate with former, after all.

  29. By the way, did anyone here happen to watch Tani’s wedding when it was televised? It was great. Up until that point, I never knew how important I was expected to think she was.

    To your second to last statement, I’ve heard that Ozawa’s mob connections and Tamura’s father’s connections are to two opposing organizations, so Ozawa is presumably not a family friend.

  30. I’m sort of in between on this issue. I agree that family relations absolutely should not automatically disqualify one from being a politician, or any other job, but on the other hand, organized crime tends to be a family business. Even the children of mobsters who do not themselves commit crimes have benefited greatly from the crimes of the parents, and I think that they therefore should – not as a legal requirement mind you but for the sake of probity – go the extra mile in emphatically stating their lack of connection, and opening up their personal and professional finances even more than usual in order to preemptively demonstrate their lack of connection to their family’s organized crime.

    Sure, a mobster dad does not necessarily damn her, but if she maintains ties with her mobster dad, well, then she’s CHOOSING to associate with a known criminal. You can’t choose who your parents are, but you can choose to break ties with them if they are bad people.

  31. So what is her situation with regard to her father? I hadn’t even heard the rumor about her until this discussion, and still don’t know if it’s actually true.

  32. I looked around online and all I can see are comments to the effect that “people in Fukuoka know that he is a yakuza”. Northern Kyushu has a nationwide rep for being a hotbed of yakuza activities so this could be nothing more than a rumor that started with a prejudice toward the region (not saying that Peter or anyone else here shares this prejudice, it is pretty obscure from the POV of foreigners). He could just be involved in construction or something.

  33. These are only rumors on the internet, and after reading some of them, I suspect that is generated from jealousy towards celebrity. Same goes to Ozawa’s connection to Yakuza.

    Men, I even read that Ozawa is a Zainichi Korea from Cheju Island….

    LB is right, all those accusations and doubts should begin only after someone has established her relation ship to Yakuza’s otherwise it is just another crazy rumors on the internet.

    Information of the web is crazy sometimes….

  34. Apparently, her parents have been separated since she was in middle school.

  35. Roy said, “organized crime tends to be a family business”. Yes, in the Mafia, but in Japan, maybe not so much. (A good friend of our son is the son of a Yakuza boss, and was also a national dance champion on TV. But he has no gangster ties and is a perfectly fine lad.)

  36. I did a bit of digging around on the web too, and as Aceface said all I could find were links to 2ch and similar unsavory places. If Peter or anyone else has proof, and by that I mean a public confirmation by Tani Ryoko or someone in her family or else a conviction record showing her father has been arrested, tried and convicted for mob related activities. A simple “read up on her, this has been fact for quite a while” is not acceptable. More so when the “reading” is apparently to be done on places like 2ch. I mean really, even birthers can provide better sources than that.

    @mulboyne – dear lord that was one of the worst fake falls I think I’ve ever seen. Compared to that any of Onita’s performances in the ring are Oscar caliber.

  37. For about three days back in 2005, if you searched Google Images using the terms “犯罪” and “写真”, the top result was a picture of Ryoko Tani.

  38. “More so when the “reading” is apparently to be done on places like 2ch. I mean really, even birthers can provide better sources than that.”

    (I never once said that’s where I heard it.)

    Anyhow, absent of the articles of proof you mention, I suppose my comment amounts to nothing more than hearsay of an unfounded rumor. I’ll refrain from posting any other information on it.

  39. Regardless of whether or not Tani has any yakuza in HER family, I think every other aspect of the discussion is perfectly valid for general cases, so even if we’re convinced that there’s no evidence for her case, we can still keep talking about a theoretical case.

  40. Well it isnt just a theory. Peter mentioned this rumor and I believed it was fairly credible. Clearly these things have a way of spreading regardless of the facts.

    But as for Tani herself, I just think it’s ridiculous that they run all these celebrities who probably never even thought about politics before.

  41. @Tony – well #2 isn’t DPJ, she’s Socialist Party, and while not too bad in that pic a lot of the time her jackets have collars on them that makes her look like she shops at Queen Amidala’s Hand-me-downs.

    And as for that first pic with Ren Ho, I’ve seen her dressed like that before and she really needs to buy clothes in her size. You’d think a former model would know that wearing slacks big enough to hide adult diapers in would be a no-no.

    Still, none of the above can old a candle to the sartorial splendor which is Yukio Hatoyama.

  42. “six years later, and somehow all of those headlines seem terribly dated.”

    Oh, I don’t know. Does anybody feel they know the real Okada Katsuya yet?

    Thing is, I can imagine photos where Okada looks like a complete studmuffin. How come they couldn’t manage that?

    “2 isn’t DPJ, she’s Socialist Party”

    True. Maybe it’s a “chicks in the Diet thing.” Koike is wearing the same uniform in the video Ace just posted.

    (I’m so glad this blog exists. The U.S.-Japan alliance clash is, as one of my friends put it, as dry as old dogs balls, and I’m not interested in anime or cool-techno shit.)

  43. Once the DPJ loses effective control of the Upper House (and I use the term effective very loosely), I am not certain how long they will be able to hold on to the Lower House.

  44. Flash has new “taboo-busting” coverage of Tani’s father, specifically mentioning an arrest for insurance fraud. It seems they’ve decided all bets are off now she is standing for office.

  45. This kind of news is precisely the information I was to trying to say could create downside risk for both Tani and her DPJ. But Mulboyne, again, that’s just Flash saying stuff in a similar vein to what I was commenting. I mean, it’s not acceptable unless they have a “conviction record showing” that her father was arrested.

  46. I’d like to know by what logic her father’s background is not to a topic for discussion when she is chosen to represent her country, carry the flag at the Olympics, meet the Emperor and appear on NHK but it becomes one when she talks about standing for election.

  47. Logic?

    Anyhoo, on a different note, I have believed for some time and will continue to believe that Ryoko Tani, Teruyoshi Uchimura, and Heizo Takenaka were separated at birth.

  48. My Kyushu people are all over this – apparently this was in the Shukanshi about 10 years ago – her parents were separated early on and she doesn’t remember living with her father, some low level dirty dealings of his were outed in the press and there was some question of Yawara-chan giving him money to pay debts in exchange for staying away from her and her mother. Apparently she was quoted in the press as saying that she has cut ties with her father and feels no responsibility toward/for him.

    There is a chance, however, that this was just in the local media / sports papers. As usual, the Japanese internets are useless for looking into where this kind of thing actually appeared in the print media.

  49. This is doing the rounds online:


    星の金貨が酒井 ママでも金が谷

    父親が組長なのが酒井 父親が詐欺師なのが谷

    覚せい剤で弟逮捕が酒井 覚せい剤で兄逮捕が谷

    尿検査するのが酒井 尿検査するのが谷

    出所するのが酒井 出馬するのが谷

    トヨタのCMに出てるのが酒井 トヨタの社員だったのが谷

    碧いうさぎが酒井 青い柔道着が谷

    愛は地球を救うのが酒井 地球を覆うほどの愛が谷

  50. くだらない。

    Tani has my vote only for one reason.Her dad isn’t a member of the diet.

  51. Her receiving a prize from the country has little bearing on whether or not she’d be a decent legislator, in my opinion. Anyhow, vote for yourself:


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