The story of the determined newcomer arriving in Tokyo to make it big is an old one in Japanese popular culture. Half a century ago, "Osho," a popular song about professional "shogi" (Japanese chess) player Sankichi Sakata (1870-1946), became a hit. I particularly like the lyrics to the third verse, about Sakata's determination to win as a gambler: "As I leave for Tokyo tomorrow/ I have to win no matter what ... ."
Many people from Osaka have followed in the footsteps of Sakata, and of rakugo storyteller Katsura Harudanji the First (1878-1934), all coming to Tokyo in hopes of "conquering the nation."
Now, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is advancing into national politics as the leader of his new party, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan reforming party). If he succeeds, I wonder how his story will later be told.
"Watching Tsutenkaku Tower light up the sky/ My fighting spirit ignites again," the song continues. Does Hashimoto feel the same way now?
According to reports, Hashimoto plans to win a majority by fielding a large number of candidates in a Lower House election. Apparently, he wants to change national politics in order to change Osaka. In contrast to the method itself, which seems to be somewhat backward or roundabout, the speed with which he is moving is unparalleled. A lawyer and former television personality, he is using his eloquence as a weapon to close in on the center stage of politics.
As a journalist working for a newspaper that originated in Osaka, I am particularly concerned about his success or failure in conquering Tokyo. Although Hashimoto laid a wide net to draw in candidates, the mesh wasn't fine enough. There were too few people worthy of carrying out reform and not enough funds in reserve, and a ballot cast just to satisfy oneself will do no good for either Hashimoto or the nation.
The vague expectations for Hashimoto are a sign of the disillusionment of voters who are fed up with "Tokyo politics." They think an outsider charging into Nagatacho can move Japan forward. The only way for politicians who claim legitimacy to counter such an unorthodox offensive is to also undergo change, but the two major parties are showing no such signs.
After all, the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential election is likely to end with the re-election of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Meanwhile, in the Liberal Democratic Party, the withdrawal of incumbent Sadakazu Tanigaki from the race will likely lead to a fierce battle to take over the presidency, as it is said the winner will become the next prime minister.
It would be an understatement to say the situation is reminiscent of the Showa Era (1926-1989). It is almost like watching the turbulent final days of the feudal government of the Edo Period (1603-1867).
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 11
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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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