Japan loves counting things. The precise length of the noodles in rival brands of instant ramen; the average skirt lengths of high-school girls from the north or south; the number of words for “obsessive” — Japan doesn’t wonder, it tallies.
So when general elections come around, and official campaigning for the August 30 vote began yesterday, the armchair Japanologist is immediately squashed by statistics. You want a snapshot, but end up with the whole album. Each data point seems so exact and so significant: the fertility rate, the suicide rate, number of patents filed annually, the number of people over 65, the unemployment rate, the rate of GDP growth and a thousand more beautifully calibrated gauges.… Seguir leyendo »
When the Japanese promise radical change, howling disappointment usually follows. “New” flavours of canned coffee or “epoch-making” tatami-mat cleaning products turn out to be only modestly ground-breaking.
In Japanese politics, where general election campaigning will begin any minute now, the phrase is an outright fraud. The last truly radical change in the Japanese political arena was in 1954 when grudgingly — and only after furious debate — they decided to put a ladies’ loo in the parliament building.
But all of a sudden, Japanese friends are saying “radical change” with an earnest glint in their eyes. Japan may be about to get its first entirely new government for 53 years, and the phrase no longer rings quite so hollow.… Seguir leyendo »