Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Skilled At Improvisation?

There is a reasonable debate about what the Japan Restoration Party (Nippon Ishin no Kai) represents. For most commentators the JRP is a haven for the detritus that the Liberal Democratic Party coughed up as unpalatable (for the latest on that score - Link). For others it is the vehicle for a refreshing form of anti-politics. This was certainly the view former LiveDoor CEO Horie Takafumi expressed last Wednesday. (Link)

I was firmly in the former camp. After Sunday, I am not so sure.

On Sunday, Your Party candidate for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government assembly Fujii Kaoru was plugging the crowds outside of Hikarigaoka Station in Nerima City. Dressed in a white suit (a trademark, it seems: Fujii is a dentist) she roved back and forth about the plaza, cheerfully seeking out passersby for a mutual bow or a handshake.

By mutual agreement or through mutual antagonism, Fujii had to quit the scene at noon, awkwardly ripping her microphone and headset off her head as she did. For even as she was gamely trying to engage the potential voters (who are, understandably, not terribly interested in the upcoming June 23 assembly election) a young woman with a keyboard and a bass player set up next to her, launching, in their first number, into as swinging a version of Duke Ellington's Satin Doll as one will ever hear.

So what? A Sunday afternoon concert sent the politician packing.

Well, no.

The young woman on the keys, giving the Duke his due and more? She was Matsuoka Rika, the JRP's Nerima candidate for the Tokyo assembly.

How long Matsuoka held court on the plaza, delivering cool jazz to the multitudes on sunny, lazy afternoon, I do not know. All I know is that four and a half hours later, when I came back to the station, she was still playing, calling out "Hello, good people of Nerima Ward. I'm the Nippon Ishin no Kai’s Matsuoka Rika!" every so often -- but letting the music do most of the talking.

Now I have seen my share of campaign stop performances…but this one was one for the history books.

Whether Matsuoka's unorthodox approach to campaigning comes at the encouragement of open-minded JRP executives -- "Go ahead, play. Do what works for you!" -- or out of a personal "Oh, well, what the hell" defiance of the odds, the JRP having fallen, according to Kyodo's latest poll, to fourth place among the parties with 4.8% of the voters supporting it (and to only 1.5% support in the latest NHK poll) -- the result was a refreshing departure from the usual practice of politics here.

That the candidate Matsuoka pounded out of the plaza was the one from the newly arch-enemy Your Party (Link) made the notes sound all the sweeter.

Later - Broken links in the above have been fixed.

Photo: Nippon Ishin no Kai candidate Matsuoka Rika. Nerima City, Tokyo Metropolitan District on June 9, 2013.

Photo courtesy: MTC

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