Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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Past Issues
804: Drama Scene
803: Heads, Tails & Snake Eyes
801: A Legacy of Emotion
800: Through the Monocle
799: Fighting spirit
798: Taking the Stares
796: Friends Don't Let Friends Become Salarymen
795: Fuzzy Democracy
794: Hung Jury
792: Highway to Hell
791: The Cartography of Cyberspace
790: Train Talk
789: A Confessions of a Teenager in Kimono
787: A Downloaded Question
786: Counterculture Shock
785: The Good Sensei
783: Me, Charisma Woman?
782: Stumbling Block
781: Paradise Lost
779: Half and Half
778: Road Rage
777: Dumb Luck
775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ain't Easy Being Green
769: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Let's Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: I'll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes 'R' Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japan's Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters "R" Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthing's Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Caf Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Child's play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By C.B. Liddell

Fuzzy Democracy
Saitama has its Obama Moment

C.B. Liddell is Metropolis’ contributing editor for art

IAccording to political pundits, sometime soon—either in July or August, and certainly before September 6—we are going to be treated to the spectacle of a Japanese general election.

As most people know, the Japanese parliamentary system is divided into two houses—the House of Representatives, the more powerful lower chamber, and the House of Councilors, an upper chamber, similar to Britain’s House of Lords. While half the members of the House of Councilors stand for reelection every three years, the House of Representatives has to stand en masse within four years of the previous election. Here in Saitama, where I live, I was lucky enough to have a preview of the Japanese democratic process in action with the May mayoral elections for Saitama City.

Since it was founded by the merger in 2001 of Urawa, Omiya, and Yono cities, Saitama had been headed by the former mayor of Urawa, Soichi Aikawa. Despite his long tenure in office and voters’ (over) familiarity with him, the incumbent decided to spruce up his reelection bid with a snazzy if somewhat mystifying English slogan: “Let’s Begin Together!” Seeing as Aikawa spent eight years at the top in Saitama and ten years previously as chief of Urawa, this sounded more like a sorry admission of long-term administrative inaction than the start of a new political dawn.
Illustration by Shane Busato

Another key point about the election was that almost every candidate—with the notable exception of the Communist Party’s—had some type of connection with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Japan’s dominant faction in the postwar period. Aikawa was sponsored by the LDP, but even his main challenger, Hayato Shimizu of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), had once been a member of the party. This is a complete mirror image of the top leadership of the DPJ, several of whom are defectors from the LDP.

While Shimizu was merely an LDP old boy, some of the other candidates opposing the LDP-backed Aikawa also had strong connections with the party, as well as its tacit support. These included Fukuyo Nakamori, the only female in the contest and already an LDP Diet member. Because of this ideological interchangeability, Nakamori ran a sexist, isn’t-it-time-we-had-a-woman campaign that was devoid of significant issues or policy differences. Another LDP-backed candidate was apparently a disgruntled former Aikawa underling, who had got tired of waiting for the boss to step down and let him have a crack at the top job.

Yet another candidate, who may or may not have had connections with the LDP, mainly campaigned on the fact that he was a doctor and therefore licensed to take the pulse of voters in a medical as well as a political sense. Dr. Sakabe drove home this salient point by prowling the hustings attired in a white coat and dangling his stethoscope, which made me wonder when the other “men in white coats” were going to come and take him away.

So, what did the voters make of this political circus? It’s hard to say, but I have a feeling that the example of my wife is pretty typical. When election Sunday came around, I gently reminded her that it was time to go and do her democratic duty.

“Mmmh? Is it today?” she asked, and promptly popped out to vote with all the sense of occasion of a visit to the nearest vending machine.

When she returned half an hour later, I asked her whether she had cast her all-important ballot.
“Umm… yes,” she answered, somewhat absent-mindedly, as she busied herself with preparing lunch.

“So, who did you vote for?”

“Well… I don’t really remember.”

“What party was it?” I pressed.

“I don’t think it said.”

“What about the candidate’s name?”

“Mmm… I forget, because I don’t know him.”

Later, by a sort of Twenty Questions process that included quizzes on gender, age, amount of hair, and whether or not the candidate was wearing a doctor’s uniform, we worked out that she had in fact successfully voted for Hayato Shimizu, the winning candidate. With the LDP vote split by gender politics and internal squabbles, the DPJ newcomer, an ex-LDP man himself, with a not-dissimilar political outlook, had come through the middle to win.

“So why did you vote for him?” I finally queried.

“Someone said he was the same age as Obama,” she replied vaguely. “So I thought he might do something instead of that old guy.”

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