Saturday, October 01, 2005

Guys, guys...please

The leaders of the Democratic Party agree: the party's opposition to the government's draft bill for postal privatization without proposing one of its own was a major reason for the huge defeat the party suffered in the September 11 elections.

This view is not without merit. During the campaign, Prime minister Koizumi relentlessly cudgeled his opponents with the contradiction between the Democrat’s claims to being the party of reform and their straight, party line vote against the only postal reform bill available.

So given this epiphany, what has the Democratic leadership decided to do? To not make the same mistake twice...which is great. You know, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" and all that.

However, it is how they have decided to demonstrate their resolve to not be fooled again that boggles the mind. As news reports earlier this week indicated and the meeting of the Democratic shadow cabinet on Friday confirmed, the party will rebound from its history of error by offering its own version of a postal reform bill next week.

Uh,'re killin' me here...

That cow is already out of the barn. Japan just had an election where the main question was whether the country supports Koizumi's continuing on as prime minister because of or in spite of his attachment to his personal pet project, the privatization of the post office. The country's overwhelming response was, "Yes!" Now unless the Democrats are presenting a bill that Koizumi and his supporters will love even more than the one they themselves have drafted, it would probably best for the Democrats to let this one go. Not only does Maehara not have the votes to do anything meaningful (and he and his colleagues are, after all, paid salaries in order to do meaningful things) but further delaying Koizumi's privatization bill will tick the man off. And there are people who can tell you, that's not the way to build a working relationship with Mr. K.

For him--postal privatization--it's personal.

Save that youthful moxie and those great ideas for the next fight, will ya? As far as I know, no chapter in Master Sun's The Art of War suggests:
"When an error in tactics leads to large losses and defeat on the battlefield, make up for the mistake with an utterly pointless symbolic counterattack with such forces as are left you."
And the men of sumo will fly

For those who have been pinning their hopes on the internationalization of Japanese society, the Asahi Shimbun's September 26 editorial on the proliferation of non-Japanese in the top ranks of sumo “Ozumo Takokusekika wa omoshiroi”( English here ) is a worthy read.

What is interesting is the Asahi's assertion that the introduction of foreign rikishi bearing techniques from other wrestling traditions has stimulated the production of better native Japanese rikishi. While Asashoryu's and Kotoshu's unfamiliar holds, grabs and movements have certainly facilitated their rise to the top ranks, it is in no way clear that Japanese participants have benefited from their creativity. To the extent that Asashoryu's and Kotoshu's more numerous victories prevented Kisenosato from winning the tournament, I would count the net impact for him as a negative.

What is interesting is the Asahi editorial board's commitment the principle that open competition in sumo brings benefits to Japan. Perhaps the huge impact Brazilians players and coaches have had upon the quality of Japanese soccer is the model. Or perhaps the Asahi board has embraced a larger, liberal view that competition is an engine for good, even when it dilutes the national character of an activity.

Mind you, the Asahi editorial does not endorse all forms of competition. It contrasts the impact of Mongolian and Eastern European wrestlers with the impact of the Hawaiians. According to the Asahi, the Hawaiians (i.e., the Americans) brought only an emphasis on bigness, of overpowering others through mass alone. Boring...and leading many rikishi to bulk up so much that their tissues fail, resulting in repeated, recurring tournament withdrawals and long recuperation periods away from the ring. The Mongolians and the Eastern Europeans by contrast bring finesse and speed to the dohyo (技が多彩になり、スピードあふれる攻防が確実に増える).

Now one could argue that the Asahi editors are just trying to look on the bright side of a depressing trend: the increasing inability of Japanese to compete at the highest levels of their national sport. However, the editorial goes out of its way to lament the passage in 2002 of the one-foreigner-per-beya rule, the mirror of yakyu's three- foreigners-per-team rule and similar rules for other Japanese sports leagues. What is fascinating is that the editors are decrying restrictions on foreign participation in a sport that is purely Japanese and which is imbued with religious, cultural and historical significance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When was the last time Asahi Shinbun showed sympathy for anything "purely Japanese and which is imbued with religious, cultural and historical significance?" As for "When a foreign wrestler who has overcome all these hardships wins a championship, he deserves to be honored with the national anthem of his country along with the Japanese anthem", one suspects Asahi is uncomfortable with any display of unadulturated Japanese nationalism.