A customer at a restaurant complains: "This steak is small." The proprietor answers: "If you would like a bigger one, please take a window seat next time."
The joke is that seats visible from the outside are like ads to lure customers. I borrowed it from a book by broadcast writer Mitsuo Hakama, and I think it can be used to describe the current political situation in Japan quite well.
If the Diet were a high-class restaurant, then one could say that the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party are engaged in a fistfight at a window seat. Thanks to this "negative ad," customers are turning their backs on the Diet, while a crowd is flocking to Osaka Ishin no Kai, an Osaka-based local party which plans to make its debut on the national political stage soon.
The DPJ wants to put off the Lower House dissolution that Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said would take place "before long," whereas the LDP wants to have a Lower House election as soon as possible. Although the two parties agreed on raising the consumption tax rate, the approval of a censure motion against Noda in the Upper House has made the confrontation between them decisive. Now a battleground of party interests, the Diet will put off its homework of reapportioning Diet seats and once again remain idle even though it is still in session.
Under such circumstances, it is as if both ruling and opposition parties are supporting Osaka Ishin no Kai. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who heads the local party, is also sharp-spoken about reducing the number of Diet seats, saying the number of Lower House seats should be halved and the Upper House abolished. The more pathetic the Diet reveals itself to be, the more voters are attracted to a Hashimoto-style of "super-spicy public promise."
Osaka Ishin no Kai plans to invite lawmakers who want to link up with it to organize a debate. It doesn't even have to go out of its way to "attract customers," however, because active lawmakers are lining up to join it, taking along voters. No wonder Hashimoto looked so happy when he said, "Things are starting to get interesting."
Setting aside his choice of words, I can't help being impressed by his unbelievable good luck—just as his party is about to break into national politics, the reputations of the two major parties are hitting bottom.
We are witnessing the infantilization of parliamentary politics. The only ones who can discipline naughty children misbehaving in a window seat of a high-class restaurant are the voters footing the bill. But how? Should we punish them by forcing them to eat "super-spicy" food? No matter how hard I think, I cannot come up with a good way to discipline them.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 30
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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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