Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hashimoto Toru's Beast

So it's decided then.

The correct pronunciation of Osaka mayor Hashimoto Toru's new party is Nippon Ishin no Kai - the "in your face" pugnacious pronunciation of the two characters making up the name of this blessed land. The same pronunciation used by the dinosaur Sunrise Party (Tachiagare Nippon).

Hashimoto was in his element yesterday at the unveiling party, roving back and forth across the stage, tossing out laugh lines like an American-style stand-up comedian. He looked like the ideal new national leader -- vibrant, youthful, in command of his facts, unconcerned by the challenges ahead, promising a new-different-better tomorrow.

Clearly, Hashimoto has what it takes to shock the uncommitted voters out of their lethargy, getting them to walk over to their local elementary schools to write down on their ballots the names of his candidates and the name of his party -- long and complex though that name may be. The differences between himself and likely offerings from the two mainline political parties is stark.

Of course, that Hashimoto -- as of this writing -- is planning to remain mayor of Osaka, meaning that the voters, in voting for the Japan Renewal/Restoration Party (no word yet on the official English translation) Party and its district candidates will not be voting for Hashimoto to take over as prime minister, seems a huge hurdle for the party to vault.

However, should the JRA win big, a workaround -- one of his party's Osaka district representatives suddenly resigning his/her seat due to illness, for example -- will be found for Hashimoto to earn his seat in the Diet and take over from a seat warmer premier, probably chosen from among the three current members of the House of Representatives who appeared on the JRA stage yesterday.

Hashimoto could also just go back on his word and run for a Diet seat. It would not be the first time he has backed away from a stance.

For good or ill, powering the JRA is:

Testosterone - The Democratic Party of Japan has trouble promoting women -- just look at the Cabinet. However, the JRA leaves the DPJ in the dust in terms of its unabashed celebration of the Y-chromosome. There were women on the stage at the unveiling, shunted way over to the side. At a glance, one would not notice them.

Osaka boosterism - The headquarters of the new party will be in Osaka: a practical matter when the head of the party is the mayor of Osaka. The JRA will indeed hammer away with the message that unlike the traditional parties, it has its home far from the evil influence of the Diet Building and the ministries.

Locating itself in Osaka has positive and negative aspects for the new party. In terms of fundraising, the JRA will be able to draw upon the wounded local pride of wealthy Osakans and Osaka-based companies, who have seen their prefecture fall from second rank to third in terms of population and economic might. However, by locating the headquarters in Osaka, the JRA faces the potential accusation that the party is solely about Osakan pride of place, not about national leadership at all.

Brevity - Hashimoto's performance on stage yesterday demonstrated the message discipline imposed by his constant tweeting on Twitter. Every thought was expressed in chunks of words that if you analyzed them, would probably turn out to be 140 characters long or less. His speech was the dream of every television program director -- pre-edited into 15 to 20 second bits -- and every campaign manager: memorable, direct and short.

In our scrambled, hustling, buzzing present, Hashimoto's punchy concision will overwhelm the rambling, dissembling presentations of his rival party leaders. Though the majority of voters may not respond to all of Hashimoto's messages, they will remember enough of his points to be willing to give his party a chance at power.

Incidentally, former prime minister Abe Shinzo, in announcing his candidacy for the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party, sold himself as Hashimoto's blood brother, insinuating that he was only candidate in the race capable of linking the hands of the LDP and the JRA, the grand prize being the two-thirds majority of seats in the House of Representatives and House of Councillors necessary to amend the Constitution. (J)

Considering how Abe does not seem to have made any new friends inside the LDP, the same cast of shady characters (Amari Akira, Inaba Tomomi, Shiozaki Yasuhisa...) standing to the left and the right of his podium yesterday as were orbiting him five years ago, the bond between himself and Hashimoto is the new wrinkle saving Abe's candidacy from being anything but a bad joke.

Later - The use of Nippon instead of Nihon for the name of the country is not necessarily a signifier of revisionist nationalist views. Fans at sporting events chant out "Nip'pon, Nip'pon, Nip'pon" because it is a heck of a lot easier to yell than "Ni-hon, Ni-hon, Ni-hon."


Bryce said...

Looks like it's "restoration."

Jun Okumura said...

“The use of Nippon instead of Nihon for the name of the country is not necessarily a signifier of revisionist nationalist views.”

Rats! And I’d always believed that the people at Nippon Shakaito were telegraphing their red-on-white militarism, which they would eventually put on full display when they came out of the closet and blessed the JSDF for the Murayama Administration.