The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Let’s Vote

Japanese election

The sign, being held incongruously by a woman on Ogikubo station platform in the image above, reads “Let’s Vote.”

Later today Japan goes to the poles and will almost certainly have elected a new government and a new Prime-Minister by the end of Sunday. It is an important election, the outcome of which will shape the domestic nuclear and economic policies but also the diplomatic relationships Japan has with its Asian neighbours and allies internationally for some time.

There is a worrying lurch to the right and at this time of heightened tensions with China and the South Korea over territorial disputes, and North Korean missile launches. This is not a good thing.

The return of the centre-right Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is predicted however, with a majority that has been increasing article after article and day by day. Yet Shinzo Abe, their leader is a divisive figure that could split the right-wing vote among the many fringe nationalistic parties that have sprung up and whose jingoism appears to be attractive to even rational voters that are weary of the same old faces telling the same old lies to get elected, then doing nothing.

However short-sighted such a vote would be, the passion these politicians have when campaigning is motivating the electorate and there is a real danger these single issue, crazies could get their feet under the table of real power in any ad -hoc coalitions that are forced upon the two main parties by enough voters forgetting that they needed to vote for someone who can actually improve the country’s situation not just cause a flaring of shallow pride and directionless anger. Because these parties and their leaders do genuinely believe that the louder you shout and the stronger your demands are the more will get done and the more seriously Japan will be taken in the world. This is the vocabulary of the bully and the privileged elite however and is guaranteed to damage allegiances and reputations Japan has successfully built up since the end of the Second World War. It is the ultimate expression of hubris to demand the rest of the world understand and cater to your fall from importance, especially if you brought many of the misfortunes on yourself. People admired Japan once and will probably do so again; but there is only so many demands of sympathy that can be made, particularly where those with culpability cast around for scapegoats, labelling all and anything not Japanese as in some way responsible for the character deficits this country does now display.

There is a cancer of complacency at the heart of the political class in Japan that is made supremely manifest in the very fact that Shinzo Abe is even standing for election again. His aim appears to be little more  becoming Prime Minister (again) and enacting some cosmetic laws to bolster ego and enrich his friends. Never mind that these do not go near fixing the problems the nation faces; never mind that in pandering to the nationalists that support hime he will make Japan, if not exactly a joke internationally, something transparently desperate and unpleasant to be around. Friends will avoid us and enemies will have their prejudices confirmed. And that’s basically Abe’s promise for his victory, and he’s the pragmatist of the bunch. If Ishihara or his ilk gets a sniff of power on a stage where smarter mores are expected we could be a war with China before the end of the decade.

My wife will go to vote tomorrow, as the lady with the sign demands. It is her democratic right and she takes that freedom seriously because she understands history. I do feel sorry for her though, there is no easy choice this time round, despite the importance of the moment, despite urgent needs for decisiveness and new ideas, she cannot find yet who she should vote for. Like many I imagine, she will vote for disappointment. Such a thing can even be comforting in troubled times. I think the politicians will deliver on that promise at least.

Damon

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