4/26 is Election day here in Ashikaga. The sound trucks have been out in full force. I have been coming home to a mail slot stuffed with campaign flyers for the past couple of weeks. I'm not sure if this is a highly contested race or if its slightly more heated because of the state of the economy or whatever, but these campaign people are relentless.
I always try to watch the reactions of the people around these displays that the candidates make of themselves. People usually just go about their business, some acknowledge and politely stand for a moment or two (perhaps only to wait for the crossing signal), but for the most part, these efforts go seemingly...ignored by the general public. I believe people do not want to show their political allegiances in public, due to... whatever historical socio-political obligations any individual may have. However, the percentage of the population that actually votes in Japan is extremely low. The voting age here is 20, but the amount of 20-year-olds that excercise this right is... also low. There are some fringe groups of university students that are gung-ho about political science and even perhaps allegiance to a certain party or what have you, but the fact remains that a mass amount of people in this country do not participate in thier political system.
A great documentary came out a year or so ago, called "選挙" or "Campaign" in English. I have the trailer below that explains some of the basics.
The thing about this film that never ceases to amaze me is that this guy had no ties whatsoever to the party and was kind of... thrown into the whole scene as a complete outsider, and was ignored and ridiculed, seemed to be suffering in his personal life, somehow actually managed to win the election.
The fact of the matter is that here, people just don't talk about these things within the context of their daily conversation. Whereas in many other places around the world, this may not be the case. I mentioned this reluctance to be opinionated in a previous post. In addition, the very candid conversations with his wife in the car were just wonderful little bits of insight into this particular facet of Japanese life that is so rarely rarely talked about.
Why is it interesting to me? Well... after having interned for a U.S. Senator and worked at a lobbying group, and considering various other political ties that I may or may not have, I find myself, personally, to be fairly politically active, as well as a large number of other people my age. For whatever reason, people in the U.S. are politically opinionated and don't hesitate to share! It's good! Because it creates dialogue, and sharing ideas and working together and so on and so forth. However, here in Japan... where there is little to no public dialogue concerning political matters, save for your regular monthly public meetings, and your sound trucks blasting through the neighborhood, the culture of political activism is significantly different here, and I always have to wonder why these things are!! If you get a chance, please check out "Election" it's a great documentary.