Thursday, April 23, 2009

politics in japan

My knowledge of Japanese politics doesn't extend very far beyond the line of emperors and capital relocation in Japan's 17th century history. I've spent almost three months in Japan and I still cannot name any members of the Japanese parliament or even what political parties exist in Japan. But I don't seem to be as far behind in my governmental knowledge as I thought. Besides the inconspicuous political posters scattered on light poles and shop windows and the vans blaring political propaganda like the one in the video below, the presence of political discussion or interest is slim to none. When I asked my friend Yuki, a second year student at Kansai Gaidai about this, she said that Japanese students' interests in politics "languish" behind those of international students. The political figures in Japan don't hold the same international status as leaders such as the Prime Minister of Great Britain or President Obama. In fact, one of the only words I understood in my conversation with the lady I bumped into, pictured in the photo, was "Obama-san." In stark contrast to my home university which has organizations and demontrations sharing their political opinions often, here at Kansai Gaidai, I haven't seen or heard anything of the sort. While in Tokyo, I did witness a few political demonstrations on busy street corners, but they mainly consisted of a handful of people handing out kleenex with a notecard of information in which no one seemed very interested. Perhaps it is the Japanese aversion to making waves in society, or indifference, or contentment with their life, that the Japanese don't take impacting roles in their own politics. Coming from a place where politics is ingrained from first mention of George Washington, and with every TV commercial about Obama, the silence of Japanese political issues has come to be a sort of relief. But it would be interesting to see what kind of political issues may be ignored or covered up as a result of this indifference. For now I will do my best to answer the questions about "Obama-san", and leave it at that.

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