The Spring list of awardees of national honors is out and it is a snoozer. Except for Sakaiya Tai'ichi, Iwashita Shima and Jacques Diouf, one is left asking "Who are these folks?" and in the rare instance where one knows the answer, "Why this award, now?"
Sakaiya Tai'ichi (real name: Ikeguchi Kotaro) has received the Grand Cordon Order of the Rising Sun for his contributions as a former bureaucrat and a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He was, until recently, a key supporter of Osaka City Mayor Hashimoto Toru, providing some intellectual firepower and legitimacy to Hashimoto's Osaka Ishin no Kai movement. He has downplayed his ties with Hashimoto since the Ishin no Kai released its eight point Ishin Hassaku plan for reviving the country, parts of which Sakaiya has derided as rubbish.
Choosing to honor actress Iwashita Shima (real name: Shinoda Shima) with an Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, a decidedly low-ranking award for someone who has contributed so much to Japanese cinema, still represents a pretty gutsy call for the awards committee. Iwashita, whatever her actual morals, always played the baddest of the bad girls. In terms of the number of sex scenes in which she has appeared in what have been classed as serious films, she is simply without peer (if I am wrong in this, please tell me).
That Iwashita travels in rather better social circles than the characters she has played can be surmised by her having been one of the featured lecturers last year at Shimomura Mitsuko's juku.
As for the awards, they are, as they always have been, a way of only adding to the disparity between what bureaucrats do for other bureaucrats and what they do for the populace at large. In addition to their pensions, their lump sum retirement grants, their falling gently into sinecures at corporations or non-profits, bureaucrats and other officials are still receiving the lion's share of the gongs: over 56% of the 4110 handed out this spring. (J)
Also as usual, the over 50% of the population of this blessed land with XX chromosomes got gypped, receiving a mere 9% of the awards.