Tuesday, 2 March 2010

PostHeaderIcon Different Japan: The Leader

I think the current Prime Minister of Japan looks like an onion. I laugh almost every time I see his wee head and startled eyes on television. To be honest... I struggle to remember his full name. His name is Hatoyama or if that is too difficult to remember then use dove mountain like myself. Although, I wouldn't bother if I were you because the Prime Minister of Japan changes about once a year. I have been in Japan since August 2007 (argh!) and in that time there have been four different leaders. The first one resigned a few weeks after I arrived. I remember him well because I had to research Japan a little bit for my JET interview that year. His name was Shinzo Abe and he resigned whilst I was sitting in my office.  I actually tried to communicate with my colleagues during that early honeymoon period and so I asked them if they had all heard the news. The majority ignored me and the rest just shrugged in the most apathetic manner I have ever witnessed. The guy sitting next to me told me that it happened all the time and  that most Japanese people paid no attention to the leader or government. At the time this took me by surprise and it felt very strange when I compared it to the Britain I had just left. Tony Blair had recently stepped down to be replaced by Gordon Brown. The British media had been barking on about such a "historic" moment for years.  In the end it was a rather dull affair and Gordon Brown has managed to remain in charge despite years of hate from the public and his own party. Still, if Gordon Brown was to suddenly resign tomorrow then the British press would just about pass out with excitement. Abe's resignation had the same impact as a news channel changing their weatherman.

Still, such a response came as a surprise to me because whilst Abe had only been in charge for a year, the previous Prime Minister was a popular bloke called Koizumi who managed to stay in office for over five years and who I actually remember without the aid of wikipedia. Incidentally, he was the first man to achieve such a feat since 1972. Indeed, in the last two decades or so there have been fourteen men who have been in charge of this mighty archipelago. It's quite staggering when you compare it to Britain who have had only four leaders since 1979 or America where they have at least four years to do something. There are weaker coalition governments in the West such as Italy that require a sleazy, corrupt millionaire to run them but the recent turnover of leaders in Japan still astounds me. Koizumi seemed to buck the trend in recent years and was popular at home and abroad. He managed to give a cheeky wave and get a free jaunt to Graceland when he visited America. Yet, he still pissed off China and Korea by visiting Japan's war shrine and he has never seen his third child because he was born after he'd divorced his wife. He actually had security guards send his son away when he tried to meet him at a party rally.

The Prime Minister of Japan

Indeed, it is quite unusual for a Japanese politician to shun their family as usually they are trying to line up a successor. I'll stop boring you with the details but the amount of family connections in the Japanese parliament is amazing. It's even worse than the political families of America because there are hundreds of them. Every time I read an article about an old Prime Minister I notice that his grandfather was Prime Minister fifty years ago. Or he inheritated his uncle's seat or he married the daughter of a previous leader or his brother in law is his closest ally. Basically, the Japanese political system is like a ski lift. A bunch of boring looking blokes in grey suits jumped on a chair and rode it to government summit. Whilst there, they messed about with some stuff, got some arranged wife up the duff and then sent the baby back down the hill only for it to mature and repeat the cycle. This has lead many to call Japan undemocratic and even a dictatorship. I don't necessarily agree with this though. I think it's more a case of complete apathy to politics in a kind of "the older men must know best" sort of way that has continued to exist for decades.

Still, it is quite shocking to see the actual results of this democracy. Since the end of the war, the Liberal Democratic Party has been in government for almost the entire time. There were a few months in 1993-1994 when a coalition government ousted them but it was not until last year that the onion man himself became Prime Minister with his Democratic Party of Japan. The names are very similar, it reminds me so much of that scene in The Life of Brian it hurts. Everyone was hoping he would be the Obama of Japan but he has failed to live up to whatever expectations Japanese people had. Indeed, let me take this moment to say that everyone in Japan loves Obama. They can't get enough of saying "Yes, we can" to me. I used it to teach students "Yes, I can.... " but they can't process the different between "we" and "I"... because they're idiots. Anyway... so the onion man is in charge of Japan and everyone hates him as they do with any politician. His wife was an actress back in the day and told reporters last year that she had talked to aliens and Tom Cruise on Venus. That's the Japanese First Lady.

Well, I'm boring myself now. That about sums up Japanese politics then. Nobody in Japan cares who is in charge. The same party were in power for about sixty years. All politicians in the country have family links and arranged marriages. The most popular Prime Minister in recent year prayed for war criminals and cut all connections with his third child. The current leader looks like a vegetable and his wife's brain appears to have become one as well. Also, I was surprised to find that the Japanese Communist Party received around 5 million votes or 7% in the last election. They actually got about 12% a decade ago.

I may have come across spiteful and condescending as usual but I would argue that the government of Japan has done an absolutely fantastic job in the past six decades. It makes me wonder why westerners like myself are determined to point out its flaws if it has been working beforehand. They took a broken shell of a country and turned it into the second largest economy in the world. Everything has kind of fallen apart recently though so... yeah... they're rubbish... I was right.

The last Prime Minister looked like a sad duck.

I'm going to photoshop a picture at the next G8 summit and make every leader a vegetable. So far I have Potato Brown and Pickle Merkel.


Liam Edwards said...

Konichwa Craig!
Just come across your blog, its brilliant. I know you proberbly get asked this alot, but as a student who in the future wants to go and work in Japan for a while, is it actually worth it? I am learning japanese at the moment while in University. And have always wanted to go. Would you recommend it?
Liam Edwards

Kristina "クリス" Manente said...

You don't know me, I don't know you, but you make me laugh, so I'm following you. That was an intentional rhyme, but an unintentionally creepy stalkerish sounding statement.

Ahoy hoy said...

Thanks for the comment, Liam. I wouldn't let my miserable blog put you off your future plans. I would recommend a year in Japan to anyyone. There are enough great experiences to compensate for all the frustrations. I've even signed up to another year myself.

However, to put a downer on things... the employment options are pretty much limited to teaching English so I wouldn't be dreaming of walking into a job at Nintendo straight away. Still you should stick at the Nihongo and give it a crack. My Japanese is shit so what would I know?

Liam Edwards said...

Haha thanks for the reply, i really want to do it but it pretty much seems impossible at the moment, with finishing uni and my girlfriend and all that lol. but would love to do it!! no i no that from researching, i have always wanted to learn japanese anyway. haha that gives me some hope.

reckon you will live in japan one day?


Ahoy hoy said...

Thanks for the comment Kristina. I took a look at your blog as well. I'm actually trying to update my blog to make it look a bit nicer. I wish I had talent so I could draw... something.

Kristina "クリス" Manente said...

@Craig - I didn't draw the picture on my blog unfortunately, a friend did, but I did have fun making it ridiculously adorable, haha. Thanks a bunch :)

Anonymous said...

Banging blog, Creg.

Naomi said...

Plants vs Zombies


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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.