Tightrope walking

Before I continue with my running commentary on Japanese politics, I want to just make it clear to my readers the fine line I’m treading. Because I’m on the staff of a senior member of the opposition DPJ, I’m perhaps not as free to be objective about Japanese politics as my academic’s mind would prefer to be. I have to be careful about (1) being overly critical of the DPJ and (2) being overly supportive of the governing LDP.

That said, if it seems like I am a cheerleader for the DPJ, I’m not. That’s not why I’m writing this blog. I will, however, be writing a lot about events from the DPJ’s perspective because that’s the value I can provide, and beyond that, the question of if and when the DPJ will be ready to govern Japan is one of the most interesting questions in Japanese politics today.

So if it seems like I’m cheerleading, let me know, but also be aware that because of my position I must exercise discretion.

Having made that clear, now I can describe what I’ve seen thus far. I’ve already been fully incorporated into Mr. Asao’s prefectural office in Kamakura. Yesterday his entire staff — divided into the constituent support/communication side here and the policy side at the Diet — gathered here to discuss campaign strategy. Japanese politics too has the permanent campaign that is present in most advanced democracies. Interestingly, Asao is using his office to support candidates in a forthcoming municipal election in nearby Zushi. I don’t know how common this is, but it seems that Mr. Asao would like to make Kanagawa Prefecture into a kind of DPJ stronghold, and a bastion for his Young-Turk reformist ideas.

I started work today at 6:30am: standing outside Higashi-Zushi station with the candidate and several other Asao staff members handing out pamphlets to commuters entering the station. I think some were surprised to see a foreigner assisting with a local campaign, at least that’s what I think the laughter meant. All I had to do was bow, say “ohayoo goizamasu” and “arigatoo gozaimasu,” so they couldn’t have been laughing at my Japanese (to which I’m all too accustomed — the Japanese regularly laugh at foreigners’ linguistic mistakes, even if they appreciate the effort).

The election is in early December, so my work for the next several weeks will largely be helping the campaign. I may even be going door-to-door.

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