17-syllable poems on politics and social affairs published on the editorial page of the Tokyo Shimbun on Saturday, September 6, 2014:
In response to five women
- Matsuda Masaru, Saeki City
In a poll conducted on September 3-4, the Yomiuri Shimbun found that support for the Cabinet among women voters rose 18 points, from 45% to 63%, in the aftermath of the announcement of a new cabinet line up including five women as ministers.
That same poll found that 67% of the voters "appreciated" (hyoka) the increase in the number of women in the Cabinet from two to five. By contrast, 25% of voters did not appreciate it, presumably because these voters felt the increase was mere electoral pandering.
So Mr. Matsuda is either reflecting the enthusiasm or the cynicism of one segment of the voting public or the other. It is up to the reader to decide which.
So the words "Military State"
should be pronounced
"A Beautiful Country"?
-- Hakeshita Koba, Yokohama City
Last week the Defense Ministry submitted the largest budget request in its history, with highly visible requests for an extra Aegis destroyer, an extra submarine and Global Hawk surveillance drones, among other hardware. (Link)
The poem, however, probably is alluding to more that just the defense ministry budget request, which, when compared to the growth in military spending in the region, is a risible increase. Instead, the author (Hakeshita Koba - the pronunciation is a guess - it may be a nom de plume) is probably also making reference to the July 1 Cabinet Decision on collective self defense, the loosening of restrictions on arms exports and last year's passage of the Special Secrets Act. The sarcastic suggestion that the kanji for "military state" (gunkoku) should be pronounced "Beautiful Country" (utsukushii kuni) is a reference to Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's book Toward A Beautiful Country (Utsukushii kuni e -- a sympathetic review of which can be found here) wherein the PM waxes nostalgic about the majesty of the pre-1945 Japanese state and its people.
The practice of having idiosyncratic pronunciations of kanji is widespread in the arts. An example of a similar duplicitously deviant pronunciation of a provocative kanji compound can be found in Shiina Ringo's theme song for NHK's broadcasts of the World Cup - a song which sparked quite a kerfuffle due to its seemingly World Cup inappropriate pugnacious punk patriotism.
In the song Shiina (above photo) sings, "Hurrah, Hurrah, for the blue skies of Japan" (Hure, Hure, Nippon bare). "Blue skies" is an allusion to both the actual sky over Japan and "The Samurai Blue," the nickname of the men's national soccer team (with France's "Les Bleus" and Italy's "Di Azurri" the blue category seems kind of crowded). In the printed lyrics of the song, however, the expression pronounced "Hurrah!" is written "Banzai!" (万歳!) in kanji -- an upfront patriotic and historically problematic expression. (Link - You Tube Video - J)
As luck would have it, the men's team crashed out of the tournament early. The public was spared full renditions of NHK's theme song -- and an extension of the controversy over its lyrics -- during the latter weeks of the tournament.
Later - For those who only know Shiina Ringo from her Kurt Cobain phase (YouTube video) here is something a little more recent...and in something of a different mode. (Youtube - video)
To be fair to the NHK execs hired Shiina to provide the theme song, they really had no idea which of her personae would show up.
Photo image: Shiina Ringo promotional photo for the World Cup
Photo courtesy: unrecorded