When I hear the word "donguri" (acorn), I remember adventurer Naomi Uemura, who never returned after making a solo trip to the top of Mount McKinley in Alaska, the highest peak in North America, in 1984. The nickname he acquired as a member of a university mountaineering club suited his physical frame and appearance. But his passion and drive were exceptional. After college, he conquered the highest peaks of all five continents, traversed the North Pole and was posthumously presented with the People's Honor Award.
But I doubt whether the candidates for the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential election can boast such extraordinary acorns. The Kataekubo column of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun's Tokyo edition dated Aug. 23 carried a biting sarcasm about the lineup: "A bumper crop/ Acorns/ DPJ presidential election."
In Japanese, the phrase "a lineup of acorns" means a drab competition among mediocre contestants. But with the decision by former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara to enter the race, it looks as though a large chestnut has joined the acorns.
With such matters as a scandal over suspected illegal political donations and speculation to establish a full-fledged government to take over the current administration, up to now, Maehara had remained reluctant to enter the race. While it may be disrespectful to liken the other candidates to low-priced popular dishes, it cannot be denied that they give the impression that they are "second tier." Setting aside likes and dislikes for chestnuts, with the entry of an ace player, tensions are expected to rise.
Until now, Prime Minister Naoto Kan's successor was regarded as a middle reliever to pass the baton to the next administration. But no citizen thinks the DPJ can afford such luxury. As it is, the party has its back to the wall. There is no way that calculations and speculations for next fall will bring hope to the stricken areas of the Great East Japan Earthquake as people are still struggling to survive day by day.
Be that as it may, the race for prime minister is too inward-looking. The first thing candidates talk about is how to deal with disciplinary action for former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa. I am fed up with the way they are sidling up to him, paying courtesy visits and changing sides. What do they plan to do about nuclear power plants and tax increases? I hear little talk about such serious issues.
Be it acorns or chestnuts, a prime minister must work for the people and should not be chosen to please Ozawa.
"We will find ourselves saying/ We would have been better off with Kan." I hope the prediction presented in this senryu satirical poem that ran in The Asahi Shimbun proves wrong.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 24
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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