Friday, August 03, 2012

On Hashimoto Toru's Limited Return

As Okumura Jun has noted, Osaka City mayor Hashimoto Toru is tweeting on Twitter, after a 10 day period of silence following the publication of a report detailing his affair with a bar hostess from 2006 to 2008.

What prompted his breaking his silence was his attendance last Thursday of a bunraku performance, after he swore in 2009 he would never attend another one.

The upshot of this second chance for the puppet theater, for which he had cut off public financial support when he became mayor: he hated it just as much as he did in 2009.

The bunraku theater's choice of having the mayor attend a performance of The Love Suicides at Sonezaki (Sonezaki Shinju) was baffling. The story is a complete downer; the motivations of the main characters obscure; their actions nonsensical; and their deaths pointless.

Not what you want to show a man who cut his teeth in the Osaka television entertainment complex.

So he returned to tweeting in order to pontificate on the bunraku and his idea of popular culture, which evolves and thrives without government subsidy.

For five whole days.

Admittedly, there was a brief interlude where he considered an Asahi Shimbun report on his reforms of Osaka's bureaucracy. Otherwise it was all bunraku, all the time.

Finally, on August 1, Hashimoto shifted gears and started bashing one of his more usual great bugaboos: the Board of Education. He then shifted to a discussion of the powers and responsibilities of ward mayors in the city of Yokohama, a part of his own greater discussion his reform of the internal organization and responsibilities of the wards of Osaka City. Not coincidentally, on August 1, Hashimoto held a ceremony at Osaka City hall handing out the mayoralties of 21 of the 24 wards of Osaka, 16 of which were handed out to private citizens -- a step toward his grander scheme of converting Osaka from a prefecture to a metropolitan district. (J)

[An aside: one mystery has always been why, aside from Osakans having a huge chip on their shoulders regarding the Tokyo Metropolitan District, Hashimoto has been so obsessed with this conversion. One possible explanation is that transforming Osaka into a metropolitan district makes it the presumptive candidate for the proposed backup capital to Tokyo, with mirrored national goverment functions in the event Tokyo is destroyed or critically disabled by a natural or human-caused disaster.]

After the Yokohama ward mayors discussion, however, it has been nothing but more bashing of the Board of Education and the freedom the education system from control by elected officials, who represent the will of the majority [A bit of leap there, Toru-kun, given the voter turnout for mayoral elections - MTC].

From his Twitter feed, however, one would never learn that Hashimoto handed off to his protégé Osaka Governor Matsui Ichiro the honor of announcing that Hashimoto's brainchild, the Osaka Ishin no kai, will be participating in the next House of Representatives election as a formal political party (E). To expedite this process, Osaka Ishin no kai will be recruiting five sitting members the Diet to form their own Ishin no kai subsidiary, which Osaka Ishin no kai would then absorb in a reverse merger. (J)

This is huge political news, something that Hashimoto, if his ego were as gargantuan as portrayed in the media, would reserve for himself.

Unlike Ozawa Ichiro, however, who never accepted the political reality that for his reforms to succeed he had to step back and let others run them, Hashimoto acknowledged himself as too damaged by his marital problems to be the man at the microphone at the ceremony announcing the big change.

The reason for the Osaka Ishin no kai's change in course, from a political movement -- which has done extremely well, seizing the Osaka governorship, control of the Osaka prefectural assembly and the Osaka City's mayor's office -- to a full-fledged party is the same reason why Ozawa Ichiro's People's Life First Party seems on a course toward implosion: money.

There are many benefits to being a formal party, due to this blessed land's absurd electoral regulations. As a political party, Osaka Ishin no kai could legally distribute campaign literature, It would be legally empowered to broadcast political ads. With five Diet members as in its embrace, Osaka Ishin no kai would have the ability to have its candidates double listed, as district candidates and on the proportional party list.

The real benefit is, however, the ability to receive money. At present, Osaka Ishin no kai is forbidden from receiving funds from corporations and organizations. It is also, of course, ineligible for public campaign financing (J). It has been sidling up to the small- and medium-sized business owners of the Kansai region, asking them for private donations. However, the prospects of financing a national movement this way are poor. The movement has also had to jump through legal hoops, at one point establishing a non-profit organization with the sole purpose of absorbing one industrialist's gift of 100 million yen. (J)

Just do not ask Hashimoto about the details regarding all this. Oh he knows them; he just will not talk about them. He will refer you to Matsui.

So Hashimoto's back -- but in a truncated form, for the time being.

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