Obama won the Nobel because Bush was just that bad

Obama won the Nobel Peace Price completely out of the blue and really without much in the way of results. I think the whole world must be scratching its collective head now.

So to try and help make sense of things, I just wanted to echo the sentiment in this post from Talking Points Memo:

It’s not the accustomed stance of a writer or blogger. But this one does have me at something of a loss for words. I notice the condemnation of the Taliban, the edged snark of the superciliati. But I also see Ana Marie Cox’s first-off Twitter: “Apparently Nobel prizes now being awarded to anyone who is not George Bush.” And while less than generous, I think she’s on to the root of the matter. But perhaps not precisely in the way she thinks.

This is an odd award. You’d expect it to come later in Obama’s presidency and tied to some particular event or accomplishment. But the unmistakable message of the award is one of the consequences of a period in which the most powerful country in the world, the ‘hyper-power’ as the French have it, became the focus of destabilization and in real if limited ways lawlessness. A harsh judgment, yes. But a dark period. And Obama has begun, if fitfully and very imperfectly to many of his supporters, to steer the ship of state in a different direction. If that seems like a meager accomplishment to many of the usual Washington types it’s a profound reflection of their own enablement of the Bush era and how compromised they are by it, how much they perpetuated the belief that it was ‘normal history’ rather than dark aberration.

New DPJ cabinet is almost totally awesome

First, the bad news. Shizuka Kamei has been appointed minister of postal issues and financial services. The man is a fierce, fierce fighter who likes to dredge up personal scandals using his ties as a former police official. That’s probably how he got the job. Now he’s going to make sure Japan Post remains the world’s biggest and possibly worst-managed bank and he’s going to crush regional banks by allowing all the people they lended money to stop paying for three years. Great.

As I just commented over at Observing Japan’s assessment of the new lineup, I hope Kamei simply collapses under his own weight. He may well overreach in a position that gives him barely any authority at all. If any place should be safe from unwise political meddling, it’s the FSA which has SEC-like regulatory and law enforcement authority over all financial services institutions.

Otherwise, not a bad lineup. Though Time Magazine posits Ozawa as a “shadow shogun” (reflecting the “Ozawa is the real one in charge” theme trotted out by both Nikkei and Yomiuri, who are wary of a DPJ administration) the cabinet reflects a wide sampling from the party including people not so close to Ozawa, like finance minister Hirohisa Fujii who was an early voice calling for Ozawa to step down over the Nishimatsu political funds scandal.

Asahi had an interesting section listing some of the human side of each new minister. I reproduce some of it here:

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada has a giant frog collection. I have heard it from an eyewitness that it’s really huge. Not sure if any of them are mutant.

The above-mentioned Kamei Shizuka is a sixth-degree black belt in aikido and has held exhibitions of his oil paintings.

Naoto Kan, head of the National Strategy Bureau, was DPJ president in 2004 when he was going after LDP politicians for failing to pay into the national pension system (a duty for all residents in Japan, including yours truly). When it was found that Kan himself failed to make his payments, he was forced to resign in shame. To get over the shock of the whole series of events, he decided to shave his head and make the traditional pilgrimage to 88 Buddhist temples in Shikoku.

Justice minister Keiko “Sonny” Chiba (not really her nickname) is a former Socialist Party member who’s against the death penalty, for dual citizenship, and pro letting women choose whether to take their husband’s names when they get married. The trifecta of policies I’ve been waiting for! There is no news that the DPJ plans to abolish the death penalty, but for the time being this election appears to have saved the life of Shoko Asahara, Tokyo subway sarin attack mastermind and Japan’s most famous blind cult leader/death row inmate (and my neighbor at nearby Tokyo Detention Center).

Social Democratic Party leader and consumer affairs, birthrate, and gender equality minister Mizuho Fukushima is not only a lawyer and former TV commentator, she is a huge Miyazaki fan and serves as a judge to select the Nikkan Sports film prizes, the top honors of which in 2007 went to “Even So, I Still Didn’t Do It” about a man wrongly accused of train groping.

Hirotaka Akamatsu, agricultural minister, was once a flight attendant in the 70s. One flight was hijacked by the PLO and he had to help negotiate with the terrorists in English.

Administrative reform minister Yoshito Sengoku had his stomach removed in 2002 due to cancer.

These two didn’t make it into the cabinet (this time), but I think it’s safe to say DPJ upper house member Ren Ho (who Ikeda Nobuo thinks would make a good press secretary) and “cosplay erotica writer” turned newly elected DPJ lower house member Mieko Tanaka are the two best-looking women in the Diet right now:

Ren Ho Tanaka 850745001

Handle with care, indeed.

Japan Lower House election – Meet the candidates Part 5: Proportional representation candidates

Now that I’ve covered my local race, now it’s time to take a brief look at some of the more notable candidates for Tokyo’s 17 proportional representation seats. I am limiting myself to candidates who are only running for PR seats, not those who have doubled up with a simultaneous candidacy in a single member district (With two exceptions: The DPJ’s Tairo Hirayama and LDP’s Ichiro Kamoshita are both running as PR candidates in the first spot in addition to Tokyo’s 13th). This means we are scraping the bottom of the barrel – candidates included just in case the party does well. We can’t be sure any party really believes in these people, but they are trustworthy enough to gain party backing.

Keiichiro Nakayama, political commentator (People’s New Party, never before elected)  – A former Yomiuri reporter turned independent commentator who served as a member of Yoshiro Mori’s PR team when he was prime minister (not exactly a stellar record…) He ran for the upper house in 2007 under the PNP ticket but lost. He has penned several  books, apparently getting his big break covering the short-lived Takeo Miki administration (Miki took over from Kakuei Tanaka following the Lockheed bribery scandal and overreached in his efforts to achieve political reform), and seems to have made his career as one of those political reporters who becomes a mouthpiece and fixer for the politicians he’s supposed to be covering as a journalist.

Keiichiro Nakayama K-1791

Kazuo Ishida, LDP Tokyo Prefecture staffer (LDP, age 65, never before elected) – Ishida is the 28th and final candidate on the LDP’s PR roster. In 2005, their last choice for PR candidates was Taizo Sugimura, who got in and has come to be widely considered a disaster. It’s possible they decided to go with the safest possible candidate (a lifelong party man who has no delusions of grandeur or, from the looks of it, any real ambition).

Kazuo Ishida 8365639

Junichiro Yasui, lower house member (LDP, never before elected) – Yasui is one of the Koizumi children who won his diet seat in 2005 on the wave of LDP support for Koizumi’s postal privatization plan. He’s a dropout of Waseda University but was known as the head of the Waseda retail district (one of the familiar-looking shotengai that you see around Japan). Once again he is low on the PR list and will probably not make it in this time.

Junichiro Yasui d5fda6d37bb0046cbea42da5a275f16b

Masaaki Kuniyasu, former ambassador to Venezuela, former ambassador to Portugal (LDP, age 71, never before elected) – This guy doesn’t look happy to be running for election with such slim hopes of victory. He’s also toward the bottom of the LDP’s Tokyo PR list. According to his Asahi questionnaire, he’d like to see Japan known as a “an environmentally advanced nation.” It appears that he (or someone with the same name) wrote a book in 1996 titled The Truth Behind The Philippines’ People Power Revolution.

Masaaki Kuniyasu YRYC84001034K_1

– The New Komeito are running two people named Takagi next to each other in the Tokyo PR block, but they appear to be unrelated. One, Yosuke Takagi, is a former Mainichi Shimbun reporter.

Eiko Ishige, NPO board member, author (DPJ, age 71, reelected three times) – Thanks to Jiji I know she her sign is a Leo. Her field of specialty is elderly benefits, and she has written several books on the topic, including The Elderly and Welfare (A Book to Understand the Elderly). Judging from the title of one of her books, she considers herself a citizen activist. Her name has a difficult kanji for Ei that won’t show up when you try to search for it.

Eiko Ishige 8365643

– The Happiness Realization Party has adopted a strategy of placing recognizable names in their PR spots. The bassist from the Blue Hearts, a manga artist, and shady inventor Doctor Nakamats are all there in the Tokyo block. The former two are apparently believers, but Nakamats is just looking for cheap promotion just as he was when he ran to be Tokyo governor in 2007. He charges exorbitant amounts for dubious-looking inventions such as the Love Jet 69 sex toy available for 30,000 yen plus shipping.

OK, that’s it for now! You can see me tomorrow night with the live coverage of the election results with the good people at Transpacific Radio.

Japan Lower House election – Meet the candidates Part 3: Shuji Watanabe (69) JCP

Profile: Watanabe is a former Adachi-ku assemblyman running on the JCP ticket. At 69, Watanabe is liver-spotted and somewhat frail-looking when campaigning. He is an old school communist – he never went to college but instead joined the party in 1960 after finishing technical school. Three years after graduation he began working as a sanitary inspector at a clinic for the poor, where he was an active unionist who pushed for improved benefits for workers. He entered electoral politics in 1971 and won a seat on the Adachi-ku assembly, where he has won re-election nine times (I assume consecutively). He has apparently retired from the assembly to run in this election.

Chances of winning: I don’t think he expects to win. True to the JCP’s commitment to being a vocal minority party, I think the point of him being there is to try and direct the debate in favor of the JCP’s policy platform. He doesn’t even have his own real website, so I kind of doubt the party’s commitment.

Policy: Watanabe is running on a typical JCP line of protecting employment. See my earlier post on the JCP to see why I find them unacceptable.

Something interesting: I can’t say for sure, but something tells me this guy is related to Yasunobu Watanabe, the Tokyo Prefectural Assemblyman who handed his seat to JCP candidate Yoshie Oshima in July.



Yasunobu Watanabe

Japan Lower House election – Meet the candidates Part 0.2 – Scenarios of potential results

Who is likely to win?

No one can say for sure, but so far polls consistently favor the DPJ to pick up a large number of seats. Tobias Harris at the Observing Japan blog sees DPJ advantage wherever he looks, and so do the major weekly magazines. As I see it, there are three realistic scenarios, in order of likelihood:

1) The DPJ picks up a large number of seats but not enough to form a government alone or with its current opposition partners.

For the DPJ to win 241 seats, the number required to form a government without any help from coalition partners, it will have to expand its current standings from 112 seats by 129. Alternately, to form a coalition government with current opposition forces, the DPJ would need to pick up 98 seats (assuming all other parties stay the same).

Either result would be a true blowout. I haven’t checked, but one expert on the subject has told me that a gain of 129 seats would be the biggest win under the current constitution. However, that’s the result that most in-depth analysis is predicting.

But what if it doesn’t happen? It’s entirely possible that the DPJ could pick up just 90 seats, eight seats short of a clear win. In that case, as yesterday’s Nikkei notes, immediately after the election the parties would have 30 days to negotiate a government coalition before the extraordinary Diet session must be held to choose a prime minister. In that case, minority parties such as Your Party could end up being the deciding factor – they could go either way. The Nikkei predicts this could lead to some party defections as various groups jockey for position.

A DPJ loss would be an enormous shock considering the momentum and expectations for a DPJ win. For some it would be a relief, while others (including many in the foreign press, apparently) would be sorely disappointed.

2) The DPJ picks up a historically unprecedented number of seats and can form a government either on its own or in a coalition with the current opposition.

This is the easiest scenario to envision and it’s the one most widely reported. If the DPJ can pick up at least 98 seats, assuming other opposition parties stay the same, it wins. It can form a government headed by DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama.

3) The LDP pulls off an upset and manages to stay in power somehow.

Expectations for the LDP seem next to non-existent. While the mainstream domestic media are maintaining a more or less neutral tone, polls consistent show a clear advantage to the DPJ. The foreign media seems to discount the possibility of an LDP win (in at least one case conducting a pre-emptive post-mortem), opting instead to play up the historic nature of the election. But it’s not at all an impossible scenario. If all of Aso’s political gambles, his smears of the DPJ, and his insistence that the LDP is the most responsible party to lead Japan end up paying off somehow, he will have pulled off a major achievement that could lead to his own long term in office.

This scenario does seem unlikely, however. As Hiroshi Yamaguchi and Tobias Harris have been showing, election predictions by people who have analyzed each district are all showing major DPJ gains.


And so ends my introduction to the lower house election. From here on in, I’ll be focusing on my local race in Tokyo’s 13th district.

Japan Lower House election – Meet the candidates Part 0.1 – Issues and parties

Moving forward with my series on this upcoming election, today I would like to talk about the main issues at stake and outline the main parties in the race.

What are some of the issues in this election, and where do the main parties stand?

Bureaucratic control – As I mentioned in the last post, Japan’s bureaucracy has maintained control of the ship of state for most of the postwar period. The DPJ wants to fix that and create a system more like the British executive branch, while the LDP pledges to do some trimming around the edges.

Pensions – With the aging of Japan’s population, there is a widespread concern that the country’s pension system won’t be able to keep up. These concerns are no doubt bolstered when the government acts to limit benefits, as it has several times in recent history, or is caught losing records and misappropriating large chunks of the pension fund. As a result, the pensions issue turns up as the top priority for voters in most polls. A general consensus seems to have formed that the only way to fund the pension liabilities is to raise consumption taxes, but that remains a political third rail.

Depopulation – As mentioned above, the issue of population decline is a major source for concern, as the entire model for economic growth more or less hinges on a growing population. The prospect of relative economic decline has many Japanese putting off childbirth until later in life and settling in for a long-term period of mediocre lifestyles. To help assuage these concerns all parties have pledged one form or another of childcare support – The LDP pledges to make school affordable, while the DPJ has promised to give cash handouts to couples with children while levying tax penalties on single-income families with no children.No party is talking about expanding immigration as a way to stem depopulation, a move that would be controversial but has been widely argued for.

Economic turmoil/unemployment – The LDP has made the current economic downturn its top priority. Aso has repeated that it will take three years for Japan’s economy to fully recover (though it’s odd that he started saying that more than six months ago and he’s still saying “three years” in TV ads. Shouldn’t it be 2.5 years by now?) and will continue efforts to combat the short-term deficit.

Structural reform – Though the 2005 election was fought on the merits of privatizing the postal service, both parties appear set to revise the terms of privatization if they win this time around. Aso’s LDP pledges to “say goodbye to excessive market fundamentalism” while the DPJ has pledged to freeze the planned stock offerings of Japan Post’s banking and insurance arms. On other fronts, however, the DPJ seems to be more active in pursuing some structural reforms – namely, eliminating “special accounts” that are managed by various ministries, and taking on bureaucratic rule as a whole.

One area of policy where the DPJ and LDP differ very little is support of less central government control over Japan’s local administration (which is incidentally a long-term goal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication).

Both the LDP and DPJ have also proposed reforming the legislative branch of government. The LDP wants to reduce the size of both houses by 30%, while the DPJ has only proposed eliminating 80 of the 180 lower house proportional representation seats.

Foreign policy – Though it might not decide the election, the parties have real differences when it comes to foreign policy. The LDP is seen as willing to maintain the status quo of the US-Japan alliance, while the DPJ has made it clear they would seek some more fundamental renegotiation. Meanwhile, the DPJ is viewed as more willing to build close relations with China, as evidenced by DPJ president Yukio Hatoyama’s pledge not to visit Yasukuni Shrine as prime minister. The prevailing view of US Japan-watchers seems to be that if the DPJ takes power, these differences would mean real but manageable change, as outlined in this WSJ op-ed by Dan Blumenthal and Gary Schmitt.

What are the main parties and what are their platforms?

Liberal Democratic Party – This is the party that’s been in power for almost all of Japan’s post-war history. There’s some truth to the cliche that the LDP is “neither liberal nor democratic… nor a party” – the members tend to be more right-wing (closer to the European definition of “liberal”) though the internal factions have widely disparate policy objectives. Their campaign centers on positioning themselves as the more responsible party versus a spendthrift DPJ that can’t be trusted with power.

(You can take a look at an English-language policy brochure here (PDF))

Democratic Party of Japan – The current main opposition party was formed in 1998 and took its current form in 2003 from an merger of several smaller parties that had either formed or evolved from the messy political reorganization of the 1990s. The LDP was removed from power in 1993 only to take back the premiership in various convoluted coalition governments until things stabilized in 1998, when the New Komeito and the LDP solidified an alliance that continues to this day. The DPJ, therefore, is a wide mix of former socialists, moderates, and conservatives united principally in their desire to gain power (this is very similar to the LDP’s uniting factor).

People’s New Party (Kokumin Shinto in Japanese) – A breakoff of the LDP, Kokumin Shinto is the party I like to call the anti-postal privatization party. This party was formed in 2005 when Koizumi ousted dozens of his own party for voting against his bill to privatize Japan Post, an effort aimed at helping restore Japan’s financial soundness while cutting off the political base of some of his political rivals. These included some long-time political heavyweights such as Tamisuke Watanuki of Toyama and Shizuka Kamei of Hiroshima, who now lead Kokumin Shinto. Their entire platform boils down to opposition to postal privatization, as the postal interests have long been the members’ source of support and funding. They are allied with the DPJ on the condition that the DPJ support the bill to freeze the impending IPOs of the Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance.

While Kokumin Shinto is somewhat single-minded, they have at times proven an adept opposition party, thanks to Shizuka Kamei, who is a foremost Soka Gakkai hater and opposition researcher.

New Party Nippon – This is another party formed in the wake of the LDP’s “postal rebellion” in 2005. It’s led by Yasuo Tanaka an author-turned-politician who led the fight against wasteful spending during his term as Nagano governor. This party remains tiny and in this election they are only fielding a few candidates.

Your Party – This is yet another party formed due a split in the LDP split, only this time the defectors are pro-structural reform elements. This party is led by Yoshimi Watanabe, a Tochigi Prefecture politician and former administrative reform minister who left the LDP after the party refused to implement his policy initiatives. His small party is also not expected to make much of an impact in this election, though if the results are close all small parties could become critical to forming a government.

New Komeito – This is the populist/pacifist party that serves as the political arm of lay Buddhist movement Soka Gakkai. With the third largest number of seats in the lower house, they are the LDP’s coalition partner and have pledged to stick with the LDP win or lose (yeah, right). They have a fairly stable voter base of Soka Gakkai believers, and so are expected to keep their current standing. They are campaigning on promises of administrative reform and enhanced social spending.

Japan Communist Party – The communist party in Japan has essentially renounced revolution as a means to achieve socialism and instead campaigns on labor and other populist issues. This election, as in 2005, they are emphasizing their role as a check on the conservative tendencies of the other parties. For instance, they devote the back page of their manifesto to criticizing some of the DPJ’s policies, though they are expected to enter into a coalition with them should the DPJ win. The DPJ’s success is likely to come at the expense of some of the JCP’s seats, especially in the proportional representation voting. Though the revival of 1920s communist propaganda The Crab Canning Ship has renewed interest in the JCP, it’s unclear whether that will help the party in this election. In last month’s Tokyo assembly election, the JCP actually lost seats. In my district the JCP is fielding a candidate against the LDP and DPJ.

Social Democratic Party – This center-left party is what remains of the Japan Socialist Party, the longtime permanent opposition under the 1955 system of semi-permanent LDP control. Since the 1990s their numbers have dwindled and they are struggling to remain relevant. They are also considered likely to coalition with the DPJ if they take the reins of government.

Happiness Realization Party – The sudden decision of new religion Happy Science, a personality cult of guru Ryuho Okawa, to form the Happiness Realization Party and run in the general election has raised eyebrows in Japan but not garnered much local press coverage. As I noted in my posts on the Tokyo assembly election, their campaign pledges make promises that don’t even seem physically possible – they want to eliminate most taxes, invade North Korea, and build a massive bullet train system all over the world. What does this have to do with reality? Not a whole lot, but the party seems to be betting that people are stupid enough to vote for “no consumption taxes.”

There are a couple other parties running, including Muneo Suzuki’s Shinto Daichi, a Hokkaido-specific party designed primarily to keep Suzuki in office. But they are too minor for me to bother with at this point.


In my next post, I will discuss the three likely post-election scenarios: Will the LDP stay on top, will the DPJ score a landslide and take over, or will the DPJ gains not be enough to form a government with the current opposition parties?

Japan Lower House election – Meet the candidates Part 0 – What voting means and how it works

On Tuesday, parts of Japan’s political net-osphere will go dark as the official campaigning period begins for the August 30 general election to select members of the nation’s lower house of parliament. Considering that this election has the potential to take government control away from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for the first time in 13 years, national and international attention on this race is high.

So what can I add to the conversation? My interest in Japanese politics and other current events is fairly intense, so I plan to follow this story with the same rigor I apply to my other favorite topics.

Mainly,  I plan to profile the candidates up for election in my district (Tokyo’s 13th) to give a worm’s-eye-view of the election from my perch in Adachi-ku, Tokyo. Some readers will recall my series of candidate profiles leading up to last month’s Tokyo prefectural assembly elections.

But first, some opening remarks:

What will this election decide?

On Sunday, August 30, Japanese voters will go to the polls to elect all 480 members of the House of Representatives, the more powerful house of the country’s bicameral legislative branch of government. After the election, the Diet (Japan’s word for its parliament) will be convened to choose a prime minister, who will then form a cabinet. The upper and lower house will each conduct a vote, but if the upper house vote differs from the lower house’s, the lower house’s choice will prevail. If one party has won an outright majority of seats in the lower house, it can elect a prime minister without the aid of any other party, but if not various parties will have to negotiate and form a coalition government.

The lower house is where most substantive legislative business is done. It controls the passage of the national budget, can override an upper house veto with a two-thirds vote, and most importantly decides the appointment of the prime minister. The DPJ currently controls the upper house, which is a less powerful but still significant part of the legislative process.

The party (or coalition of parties) that wins this election will ostensibly gain control over essentially the entire country — if the DPJ gains control it will preside over the executive branch, dominate both houses of the legislature, and possess the power to appoint Supreme Court and lower court justices.

In practice, however, the prime minister and cabinet’s power has been limited – to give a very broad outline, powerful ministries set the agenda on most important national issues, the legislature exists mainly to ratify that agenda and distract the public with loud but ineffectual drama and scandal (in exchange for funneling money back to their districts), and the judicial nominees are almost never decided by the elected officials themselves.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan are on track to make significant gains in this election, though it will be a tall order to increase their current standings (110) to exceed the LDP’s total of 303. The DPJ are campaigning on many issues, but perhaps first and foremost on a revolutionary vision of administrative reform. They believe that the bureaucrats in the country maintain power based on, in Secretary General Acting President Naoto Kan’s words, a “mistaken interpretation of the Constitution” that bureaucracy has the inherent right to control government administration, while it’s the job of the cabinet and legislature concentrate on passing laws. The DPJ would like to wrest control away from the “iron triangle” of unelected bureaucrats, powerful business interests, and their cronies in the Diet and place power squarely in the politicians’ hands. But more on that later.

How are members selected?

Since the law was changed in 1993 following a major LDP electoral defeat, members of Japan’s lower house have been chosen using two parallel systems – 300 are selected through single-member districts nationwide similar to the US House of Representatives, while the remaining 180 seats are allotted through a proportional representation system (or PR for short).

Under Japan’s PR system, the parties running in the election field candidates in each of 11 regions. On election day, voters write down two votes for the lower house – one for their preferred individual in their district, and the other to choose a party they’d like to receive the PR seats in their region. In the interest of counting as many votes as possible, votes will still count if a voter writes in the name of an individual running in the region or the party leader’s name instead of the party name.

For example of how this works, in 2005 the Tokyo PR district had 17 available seats. To win a seat, a party would have had to earn at least 5.88% of the vote, or 389,682 votes. Only one party that ran (Shinto Nippon with 290,027 votes) failed to gain a seat in this district.

The fact that relatively fewer votes are needed to win a PR seat has convinced smaller parties to try their luck. Most recently, the Happiness Realization Party, a newly formed political wing of new religion Happy Science, has decided to field more than 300 candidates in all single-member and PR districts (though as of this writing it is unclear whether they will actually go through with it). The religion’s leader Ryuho Okawa has announced his intention to run in the Kinki PR district with the top position. To do so he will need 3.45% of the vote, which would have been around 375,000 votes in 2005. His party would have to seriously improve its performance after winning a dismal 0.682% (13,401 votes in 10 districts) of votes in the Tokyo prefectural elections. Okawa had originally planned to run in Tokyo, but Tokyo has a higher 5.88% hurdle to overcome.

How does voting work in practice?

After entering the polling station, voters will be handed a paper ballot and a pencil (yes, a pencil, not a pen). They will be directed to a table with a list of candidates and instructions on how to vote. There they will write in the name of their preferred candidate along with their PR vote. To make it easier for voters to remember, many candidates spell their names using phonetic hiragana instead of kanji, which can be harder to write and have many different readings.

Since this election will also include a people’s review of nine of Japan’s 15 Supreme Court justices, voters will be required to mark an X next to the names of justices they would like to see dismissed. Blank votes will be counted as in favor of keeping them on.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the issues and outlook for this specific election before getting into the more provincial task of profiling my local candidates.

Liveblogging Tokyo prefectural election results

(Scroll to the bottom for updates)

From Tokyo Prefectural Assembly Election

Join me as I watch the results pour in from NHK and the Adachi-ku government site!

10:10pm – DPJ set to become top party in the assembly, with LDP and Komeito 2nd and 3rd. Not sure if this means the Komeito will defect and actually govern with DPJ.

10:11pm – As of 9:45pm with 7% of the votes tallied, it looks like my picks for Adachi-ku are on target so far

10:13pm – DPJ has so far picked up 8 seats from previous election. Things will get messy if the LDP/Komeito coalition cannot hold a majority together.

10:25pm – The secretary general (幹事長) of the LDP’s prefectural chapter loses his assembly seat! Shigeru Uchida of Chiyoda-ku. First time LDP has lost a seat there since 1959. Tokyo Shimbun blames higher turnout for his demise. Also it’s easier to kick him out since Chiyoda is a single member district.

10:29 – Final turnout 54%, 10 points higher than last election. Adachi-ku turnout 55.76%.

10:32 – While we are waiting you can check out these pics of the Adachi-ku polling station (I took them before a dude told me to stop – apparently that is not allowed)

From Tokyo Prefectural Assembly Election

10:34 – Things are not looking good for former porn star “gravure idol” (read: soft-core porn star) Mai Goto who was running from Shinjuku. Here’s her campaign poster courtesy Ken Worsley:

10:40 – New preliminary results for Adachi-ku – DPJ’s Satoru Onishi in the lead with other credible candidates holding steady. Still a nailbiter to see if DPJ or LDP will come out with two seats.

10:42 – There was another election today, for mayor of Nara city. And the DPJ candidate won there too! Check Tokyo Shimbun for a gleeful Gen Nakagawa.

10:49 – Sankei is reporting that DPJ won six of the seven single member districts.

10:51 – Adachi-ku is way behind schedule. But it’s kind of understandable. While it’s clear DPJ’s Onishi won a seat, there are six other candidates who appear about even. Since there are only six seats total, one of those six will have to lose. My bet is it’ll be Asako the “samurai conservative” independent

10:55 – NHK is calling another winner in Adachi-ku: DPJ’s Katsuhiro Suzuki! That means both DPJ candidates nabbed seats from Adachi.

10:57 – Current standings: LDP – 25
DPJ – 50
Komeito – 17
JCP – 4

Too bad the DPJ didn’t run more candidates – they might have been able to win an outright majority by themselves!

11:00 – NHK is reporting more Adachi-ku results: LDP’s Masatsugu Mihara won a seat. He was someone I predicted would lose. Oops!

11:02 – Tokyo Shimbun has great pic of the local LDP leader who lost his seat in Chiyoda-ku:

11:07 – According to NHK, ex-porn star Mai Goto is officially a loser in Shinjuku-ku.

11:10 – On the national scene, DPJ is gearing up to file a no-confidence motion against Aso, and LDP members are leaning toward kicking Aso out rather than an early election. Aso is sticking to the line that this election does not matter and that the party should keep him on through the election, whenever it might be.

11:15 – DPJ now 5 seats away from an outright majority. (Correction – that’s DPJ plus other opposition parties)

In Adachi-ku, Nobuyuki Nakayama of Komeito won a seat.

11:19 – Final two Adachi-ku seats announced: Yoshie Oshima from the commies and Haruhisa Tomotoshi from Komeito. My predictions were 5 for 6 – not too shabby!

11:30 – I am very saddened to hear that the anko factory owner Naoki Takashima lost his seat! Maybe he can dedicate his free time to perfecting his bean paste recipe and finally mastering how to type Japanese using romaji.

11:33 – Final vote tallies for Adachi-ku (in order of vote totals):

  1. Suzuki Katsuhiro (DPJ) – 47,245
  2. Satoru Onishi (DPJ) – 45,208
  3. Masatsugu Mihara (LDP) – 37,612
  4. Nobuyuki Nakayama (Komeito) – 34,200
  5. Haruhisa Tomotoshi (Komeito) – 34,159
  6. Yoshie Oshima (JCP) – 34,130
  7. Naoki Takashima (LDP) – 32,895
  8. Osato Ichikawa (Independent) – 12,579
  9. Mitsuhisa Asako – 9,213
  10. Sachiko Miyamoto – 2,115

Only the top six won seats. The rest will have to find real jobs.

PS: over 2000 people voted for the Happy party! I’ll have to watch my back in Adachi-ku from now on…

11:40 – NHK is calling it – the DPJ and other opposition parties will end the night with a majority in the assembly.

Impressions: The people in Tokyo have just about had it with the LDP name. Not only has the LDP-Komeito coalition’s performance in national policymaking done little to inspire confidence, in Tokyo they’ve become synonymous with wanting to destroy Tsukiji Market, a world-famous landmark, and move it to a potentially unsafe location. They’re also the ones behind the bailout of the disastrous Singinko Tokyo, a bank that was set up using mostly taxpayer money and became a haven for bad loans. Those factors combined with heightened interest in this election thanks to the media’s description of the  race as a major political landmark leading into the general election. As DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama took pleasure in repeating, this was the perfect chance for Tokyo voters to cast a vote against the status quo.

I am going to bed now, but I will leave you with the music that was playing when Mrs. Adamu cast her ballot.

(for some reason they were playing music box オルゴール music at the polling station)

Tokyo assembly election: Meet the candidates (Part 4 of 10) – Yoshie Oshima (JCP)

Today we profile Japan Communist Party candidate Yoshie Oshima (age 59):

Yoshie Oshima 20090709080401

Taken during this morning’s commute.

Career: Oshima has spent her entire career working in the Adachi-ku government, first as a bureaucrat and later as a politician. After graduating from high school in 1968, she became a bureaucrat in the Adachi city hall. In a biographical video, Oshima recalls her daily tasks included cleaning the senior workers’ desks and serving them tea, tasks that she didn’t hate but considered fairly useless to her goal of helping the people of Adachi-ku. At that point, she decided to start looking for a job that would give her the same status as the men and allow her to realize her objectives.

She found her niche in 1973 when she became a case worker at the city’s welfare office. At this time she got involved with the Communists, which no doubt played a role in inspiring her to become a consistent political agitator. She joined movements to oppose price hikes to and push for improvements to pre-school services, in part because she herself had trouble finding ways to balance child-raising and a career. She also served as head of the city workers’ labor union.

Oshima left the city hall in 1982 to run as the chosen successor to a retiring Communist politician and won her first election in 1983. She’s been a fixture of the Adachi assembly ever since. As a city assemblywoman, her achievements have focused on very specific local issues, such as fixing water buildup in a Kitasenju walkway. She’s also been highly critical of the LDP mayor’s policies, such as the elimination of detailed garbage separation requirements and price hikes to pre-schools (a pet issue for Oshima).

Policy: While she has joined the other candidates in offering a program of beefed up welfare benefits, her campaign is unique for her particularly blistering criticisms of the Ishihara administration, echoing the general JCP line. The party’s efforts to uncover scandalous spending and potential corruption have formed the only credible opposition force in prefectural politics, a foundation the DPJ has sought to expoit by belatedly coming out strongly against Ishihara’s policies.

Despite the JCP’s commendable record in that regard, the main reason Mrs. Adamu and I cannot support any JCP candidate is their program of radical social change. The party may have softened its line in recent years, but the JCP’s policy remains essentially unchanged – they are working to build up their political support in preparation for eventually realizing communism.

Chances of winning: Hoping to repeat history, Oshima is once again running as the chosen successor to a retiring JCP veteran. This time she seeks to replace Yasunobu Watanabe who is retiring for health reasons after a long political career. Both Tokyo Shimbun and Nikkei Shimbun expect her to win a seat by inheriting the support of her predecessor.

Tell me something interesting: Not much in this department. Oshima is the only candidate so far to prominently feature her personal life in her campaign. This makes sense since it was no small achievement for her to lead a political career while married and raising three kids. The kids are grown up and Oshima now has two grandchildren. Her hobbies are photography and flower arrangement. 


North Korean propaganda posters

imperialist wolves

“Do not forget the US imperialist wolves!”

ess_north_korean_39 extensive goats

“Let’s extensively raise goats in all families!”

Check these amazing samples of NK propaganda posters, with an interesting analysis:

Stylistically, North Korean art is far more than a mere copy of Soviet Russian socialist realism. As was the case with the revolution itself, North Korean socialist realist art had to accord with Korea’s specific historical conditions and cultural traditions. Kim Il Sung pronounced that “Korean Painting” [Chosonhwa], the indigenous post-revolutionary development of traditional ink painting, was the best representative of Korean styles and emotions. He made the essential features of Korean painting the model for all fine arts. Kim Jong Il in his Treatise on Art (Misullon, 1992) described the qualities of Korean Painting as clarity, compactness, and delicacy. These characteristics have become the standard applied to all art produced in North Korea. As such, they also form the basis and model for poster art. On the latter, Kim Jong Il had more to say in his treatise on art. As important tools in the mobilization of the masses, posters have to have an instantaneous impact on the viewers’ understanding and their desire to act upon this understanding. Their message has to be accessible, clear and direct; informative and explanatory, as well as exhortative. The link between contemplation and action is crucial. A poster artist is ultimately an agitator, who, familiar with the party line and endowed with a sharp analysis and judgment of reality produces a rousing depiction of policies and initiatives that stimulate the people into action. Only if the poster appeals to the ideological and aesthetic sentiments of the people will it succeed in truly rousing the people. Kim Jong Il refers to poster painters as standard bearers of their times, submerged in the overwhelming reality and in touch with the revolutionary zeal and creative power of the people, leading the way from a position among the people.

Posters are visual illustrations of the slogans that surround the people of North Korea constantly. North Korean society is in a permanent mobilization. Party and government declarations are stripped down to single-line catchphrases. Through their endless repetition in banners, newspaper headlines, and media reports, these compact slogans become self-explanatory, simultaneously interpreting and constructing reality.

Koen de Ceuster

(thanks to @cominganarchy)