Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Grand Performance

This is from last week but it is also for the ages.

For aficionados of Japanese political theater, it is hard to beat last Wednesday’s performance by Katayama Toranosuke (J) in the House of Councillors Budget Committee hearing. In his brief time before the microphones, he cleaned the prime minister's clock with such thoroughness and ruthless humor it is hard not to clap. His is a show with everything: a comparison to leaders past, tireless boring in on his target, the arms spread eagle wide at one point in an appeal to speak on behalf of the citizenry and a Cheshire cat grin throughout.

Now I have to admit I have not always been an admirer of Katayama. When he was a member of the House of Councillors for the Liberal Democratic Party, I saw him as one of epitomes of what was holding this blessed land back. “Old Chipmunk Cheeks” I used to call him, making fun of his appearance. I cheered when he was knocked off his perch in 2007 despite his position as the #2 man for the LDP in the House by a newcomer (and a woman to boot!).

However, my opinion of Katayama changed last year in response to his brilliant revival of himself as the Sunrise Party’s (Tachiagare Nippon's) sole elected senator. He managed to leverage a sudden and one would suspect not terribly deep conversion to the party’s hard rightist ideology in order to draw on the votes of the sadly overzealous nationalists. To these he added the personal votes of his old support group (koenkai), and in a pirouette, bounced himself back into his old playground.

To watch the spectacle, go the Sangiin TV website (here) and click on the calendar for the 16th of November. The only show that comes up is the Budget Committee hearing. Click on that link to start the video. Katayama’s turn at the microphones starts up at 4:52 into the broadcast.

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