I live in Tokyo now but most of my friends and family do not. The main idea here is that I can tell these people about interesting things that happen and are seen.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Electioneering

The metropolitan elections ended yesterday... this is as merciful as the coming of Spring. The past week saw an escalating tumult of Tokyo-style electioneering that culminated in me losing a sock because I was so agitated that I tore it off my foot and threw it across the room and now I can't find it. It's hard to throw a sock far without bunching it up pretty tight, so I'm not sure how I contrived to lose it but I guess that's politics.

It is generally accepted in Tokyo that the best way to relay information to the public is by yelling at them through a megaphone - the busy commercial districts ring with the shouts of touts, sometimes as many as four or five outside a single storefront. They often experiment with wild variations in pitch and volume, though it's not clear whether this is intended to crack the public's unassailable ability to ignore stimuli, or to relieve their own boredom. (They have been known to keen and ullulate, modes of expression formerly restricted to "things being described by H.P. Lovecraft").

This is a pretty tolerable practice once you're accustomed to it. One does not go to Shibuya to stroll about doing maths problems in one's head, after all. In election season however, the practice extends to every part of the city. Nowhere remains unmolested as volunteers mobilize in support of their preferred candidate. The main streets are worked by small cars - roofs buckling under the weight of speakers, ladies dressed like the Queen Mother (RIP) wave gloved hands at pedestrians and chatter into mics. No-one waves back, or reacts at all if they can help it... the seasoned Tokyo citizen effortlessly deflects all incomings, like Daniel-san pretending to wash a car window.

Narrower streets, such as that on which I live, are visited instead by small parades of supporters in headbands and fluorescent windbreakers, armed with banners and loudhailers. Occasionally the actual candidate will accompany these parades - identifiable by a different colour windbreaker and a look of replete satisfaction on their faces. I even saw one women bellowing away with her PA aimed into a tiny alleyway flanked by just three doors.

There are certain parts of these tirades that I can understand and they do not vary much. I will attempt a translation (for this example, I am imagining that there is a politician named "Tanaka")

"He's Tanaka!"
"Let's have a good relationship! (with Tanaka)"
"Good relationship, please!"
"Tanaka! Tanaka! He's Tanaka. (I can say his name in a variety of tones!)"


(repeat until out of earshot... as the old story ends, "and for all I know, they may be yelling still")

I have no idea what the issues were in this election (suppression of touts and hawkers, anyone?) - there is some suggestion that a sum of 10,000,000,000 yen may be missing, or required, or at stake, or is desired by some person or persons, or you can buy Odaiba for that amount... I dunno.

Anyway it's over and I'm glad. I belatedly noticed that some of the election posters are pretty amusing and I have put some up on the flickers with mildly acidic commentary. I feel no shame in gently ridiculing these strangers as there's every chance that at least one of them woke me up while I was trying to sleep off a hangover on Saturday morning.





MKD

PS: This is now the #1 hit for "Murray Dixon" on Google Japan - run it through a translation engine if you feel you'd like to become more confused.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mr. David Hall said...

In the first and third photo you look the spitting image of your dad proudly showing of a "Mainframe".

Second photo - d to the a to the n to the d to the y I think you are.

I could not work out how to make the internets translate the page.

Tue Apr 24, 04:00:00 PM PDT

 
Blogger Murray said...

Try this hotshot:

http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.buzzple.com%2Fculture%2Fdiscover-eye%2Fvol_08.cfm&langpair=ja%7Cen&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&prev=%2Flanguage_tools

"It does funny discovery all the way"

Tue Apr 24, 07:50:00 PM PDT

 

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