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Election Primer

"Taking Japan Back"   It’s election time again.

    Unlike the United States where politicians seem to be forever in election mode and pretty much anything goes on the campaign trail, elections in Japan are heavily regulated affairs. For one, campaigns only last twelve day before election day. That is why it wasn’t until yesterday, July 9, that you may have noticed that the sudden appearance of sound trucks and politicians making stump speeches on city corners even though an election has long been to take place sometime this summer.

   Another rule limiting how campaigns are run is what is known as the “Seven Tools” (七つ道具, nanotsu dôgu). There are a quite a few “Seven Tools of this”, and “Seven Tools of that” in Japan. The Seven Tools of a Samurai (武士の七つ道具), for example, include armor (具足, gusoku), katana sword (刀), tachi sword (太刀), arrows (矢, ya), bow (弓, yumi), the horo cloak (母衣, horo), and helmet (兜, kabuto). The Seven Tools of an Election are rather prosaic: a single wooden sign for the election headquarters, one tag for the megaphone, four armbands for the gang in the sound car, the sound car itself (or boat if necessary), one banner which must be displayed when making speeches, eleven armbands for campaign staff at rallies, and so on.

   There are other limitations on how politicians can spread their messages. They cannot, for instance, go door-to-door asking for votes, or solicit votes over the phone. And surprisingly they cannot make campaign promises from the sound cars. This is why all you are bound to hear from one of those annoying vans as it zooms by is a woman screaming out the name of the candidate.

   Speaking of those campaign cars, I know a man who runs a number of pharmacies around Fukuoka. Due to the nature of his work, he was obliged to join an association of pharmacists which supports as a matter of course the Liberal Democratic Party in both local and national elections. Membership in the association means that he has to attend rallies and even drive the sound car around town during campaigns. The funny thing about it all is that he doesn’t personally support the LDP. In addition to confessing that he had once crashed the van into a tree several years ago, he told me that usually votes for minor opposition parties.

   Another friend, a professional announcer, also told me she was sometimes hired to work on these campaign vans shrieking “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!!!” into the microphone all day long. I also asked her if she supported the candidate she was working for. The answer, I was no longer surprised to learn, was no


   To be continued . . .

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