Monday, October 20, 2008

Asō Tarō the Cringeworthy

Here is a description of a prime ministerial effort to investigate the actual lives of the common folk so feeble, one would almost believe Sekō Hiroshige had been in charge of it:

首相、スーパーを視察 物価高を実感?



Prime Minister inspects a supermarket, gets a realistic sense of rising prices?

In order to gets a "skin-sense" of rising goods prices, Prime Minister Asō Tarō on the 19th inspected a supermarket in the Nishi Waseda area of Tokyo. He walked around the flour products, the dairy products and the fresh fish sections. "It seems that recently there were shortages of butter, there is butter today!" he shouted to the store owner. After the inspection tour, the PM told reporters, "(Prices rise) on different products in different ways. I confirmed that you should not rely just on what the newspapers say."

After that, the prime minister went to the area in front of Takadanobaba Station, where he asked the drivers of the taxis waiting in the rotary area in front of the station about their sense of the state of the economy and about their incomes. When the taxi drivers made an appeal regarding the difficulties they were having in making a living, the prime minister gave them encouragement, telling them to "Hang in there!"
Note the question mark, present in the title of the original article. When not even the staid Nihon Keizai Shimbun can conceal its contempt for a pathetic display of cluelessness and false bonhommie, you have a problem.

Or a whole host of problems.

First of all Francisco, the butter crisis abated four months ago. We have had plenty of butter on the shelves for months.

Second, you spent all of 20 minutes comparison shopping in the supermarket. What the hell could you have "confirmed" (kakunin shita) in such a short span of time -- if you even knew what it was you were looking for?

Third, as anyone has ever asked knows, the government undermined the incomes of taxi drivers through an incomplete liberalization, allowing a flood of new entrants into the market while keeping onerous limits on the number of hours and days a taxi driver can work during a month. The taxi drivers in front of Takadanobaba Station were beseeching you because government was screwing up their lives, making it hard to earn a living.

Francisco, you and your party could actually do something to eliminate the regulations that condemn the drivers to marginal existences...and you blew them off.

Verily, from out of what pit of sordid ignorance and uncaring did the PM draw out that "ganbatte"? How did he find the gall to say it, the tanned princeling?

After the "Incident in Nishi Waseda" small indeed will be my surprise should this begin to gather a fearsome momentum.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sir, your impression of Mr Aso's effort at the common touch appears to be shared,

Tokyo, Oct. 22 Kyodo -- Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday tried to fend off criticism over his frequent evening visits to luxury hotels for wining and dining, saying that "hotels are inexpensive" and that he uses his pocket money for payments.

A lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan criticized Aso the same day, saying the prime minister's dining in hotels proves that his recent trip to a supermarket was "nothing more than a performance." Aso apparently made the visit to get a glimpse of ordinary people's lives hit hard by high prices.

The matter has drawn attention since recent media reports that Aso has been holding meetings at night in hotels, including the Imperial Hotel and Hotel Okura in Tokyo, and other places since taking office in late September.

"To me, I have the feeling that a hotel bar is a safe and inexpensive place to use when meeting many people," Aso said around noon when a reporter noted that his behavior seems to be out of touch with ordinary people.

Aso said he is often followed by around 30 newspaper reporters and also guarded by police officers who could disrupt business at some establishments and he could receive complaints as a result. But, he said, most hotels do not make such complaints.

"This has been my style up to now and I have no intention of changing it at the moment," he said.

Aso appeared irritated at one point, telling the reporter that she was "making a story as if I'm going to a high-class Japanese-style restaurant every night" and that she should refrain from such a "nasty" way of questioning.

Although Aso seemed to have wanted to say that hotels are less expensive than exclusive clubs or traditional Japanese-style restaurants, even some ruling party members are questioning his behavior.

A middle-rank ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker said, "Given the sluggish economy, he should refrain from lavish wining and dining."

Susumu Yanase, the DPJ's Diet affairs chief in the House of Councillors, criticized Aso, saying, "He goes to a supermarket to take a peep at ordinary people's lives and then goes to an ultra-rich hotel to dine at night."

"I get the impression that visiting a supermarket and other places is nothing more than a performance," he added.