With handwritten letters nowadays all but a thing of the past, the Japanese word “pendako” (a callus on one’s finger from writing) has virtually become obsolete.
Still, calluses that workers develop can be likened to a medal of honor that shows their single-minded dedication to their profession. I was told that right-handed bartenders often develop a callus on their right little finger with which they support cocktail shakers. The skin peels off repeatedly and eventually hardens.
If Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has a callus on his hand, it must be proof that he kept knocking on the door for a consumption tax increase without regard to appearances. In the end, in an attempt to break open the door, he made repeated concessions to the opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito and secured a revised agreement on the integrated reform of the tax and social security systems.
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s election manifesto is now in tatters.
Noda, who is currently visiting Mexico for a Group of 20 summit, must find it difficult both mentally and physically to concentrate on the international meeting. Having been forced to gulp down the demands of opposition parties, his throat must be swollen. His arms, which shelved so many of the DPJ’s flagship policies, must ache. And his legs must be cramped from snuggling up to the opposition parties so much. Perhaps he is now downing a shot of tequila to relieve his fatigue from political turmoil and preparing for a political showdown he will likely face when he returns to Japan.
Such criticisms as “collusion for tax increase” and “suicidal behavior” are swirling within the DPJ. Lawmakers who belong to an intra-party group led by former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa are openly voicing rebellion. If the bills are put to a vote in the Lower House, the party could break up, and if the voting is put off, the administration could come to a standstill.
The prime minister is teaming up with opposition parties and is at loggerheads with members of his own party. Such a situation must be a rare occurrence in the long history of constitutional government. Now that the DPJ can no longer be called a solid party and has run out of options, the sooner it breaks up, the better. The responsibility of individual politicians is being put to the test.
The hands of a bartender, which responsibly support the weight of a cocktail mixer, produce a wide variety of tastes by mixing different types of alcohol and other ingredients. This is not the time for Japan to get drunk with cocktails of political realignment. But without them, it cannot move forward. Once the problem of the consumption tax increase is settled, it will be time for the administration to make a political realignment once again to peel away the thick skin of politics.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 19
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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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