It was said that in the old days, Ise Shrine in Ise, Mie Prefecture, would give believers nationwide small boxes containing charms and talismans to ward off evil. The boxes were called “oharaibako” (literally, purification box). Every year, people would discard their old oharaibako and get new ones. The word is used today to mean dismissal or dumping and derives from this custom, according to a dictionary I have by my side.
The re-election of Sadakazu Tanigaki as president of the Liberal Democratic Party is looking uncertain; most media reports speculate on his impending dismissal. With a Lower House election looming, the party apparently wants to replace him with someone more popular with voters. Tanigaki, who has led the LDP for the last three years in opposition, must find it troubling.
One name that has suddenly surfaced as a possible successor is that of the LDP secretary-general. Nobuteru Ishihara carries a strong brand name--his father is Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara and his late uncle was movie star Yujiro Ishihara (1934-1987). Another possible candidate is Shinzo Abe, a former prime minister.
Abe has increasingly been making his presence felt with his closeness to regional political party Osaka Ishin no Kai. Although the Diet is in session until Sept. 8, it remains practically inactive. The LDP is ignoring pending problems as members have shifted their interest to the party's presidential election.
The situation is more or less the same with the Democratic Party of Japan. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's popularity is waning, and scurrying about are the DPJ lawmakers who want to dump him. While there is speculation about a new “face” to replace Noda, I think most of the public is becoming angry with the ruling party for not running the government as it should.
Although I don’t mean to defend Noda, politics that dump prime ministers every year like Ise Shrine’s oharaibako are pathetic. If the prime minister changes again after a year, Japan will lose even more weight in the international community. Besides, I think the leader responsible for a tax increase should be the one who seeks public judgment by calling a Lower House election.
Since a Diet dissolution is in the cards, I remember the following maxim that I have quoted in this column before: “If lawmakers think only about getting re-elected, it would be difficult for them to be worthy of re-election.” Some of them stay true to their political ideals while others act only in their own interests. The difference will soon become clear between the true statesmen and mere politicians.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 5
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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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