Well, election time is here again. My days are full of rude interruptions from candidates who have hired vans from which to shout repeatedly and loudly their names. That’s it. At deafening volume they drive past my house and yell their name and say thank you very much. The book of how-to-get-elected-in-Japan must start thus: ‘Chapter 1: Annoy the fuck out of all potential voters.’
As a resident but not a citizen of Japan, I’m not a potential voter but I get to be annoyed daily anyway. In our city there are 43 candidates running and each one, it would seem, is standing on a platform of being able to shout loudly from vehicles, outlawing afternoon naps and encouraging tubby women to wave cheerfully while wearing white gloves and a sun visor. If they have other policies they are not shouting about them.
I went for a stroll today and passed an advertising hoarding showing posters for each of the candidates. I stopped and looked at it and tried to decide who I would vote for, if that and the vans were all I had to go on. Which it would be, I think.
It was easy to discount a few. Those whose names I recognized as ones which had led me to embarrassing myself by shaking a fist from my bedroom window and shouting, ‘Fuck off!’ were immediately rejected as unvotable. So that left appearance and what little information there was on the posters.
The next to go were two or three candidates who seemed to think that voters might think, ‘Well, there’s a man who rolls his sleeves up! I’ll vote for him – he’ll get things done!’ No thanks. Then there were the older, conservative types. These were sensible-looking men with glasses, oily hair in sharp, side partings and stern, serious expressions. They may have been going for the no-nonsense, law-abiding, tough-on-crime approach but, I don’t know, there was just something about them that said, ‘I may look like a pillar of morality and good sense, but at weekends I wear nappies and ask bad ladies to spank my bottom.’ They were out too.
There was a cheerful fellow. He was dressed in a smart suit with a bright tie and he looked like he couldn’t be happier about standing in this election. This would have been fine if he hadn’t had teeth that looked as though he had carved them himself from a gnarled old tree. If you do have those sort of gnashers my advice is to opt not for the laughing-like-a-hysterical-horse look but to adopt a more closed mouth, less-frightening-to-children grin.
The ones that looked like kindly grandmothers were out, too. Bless them, they’re probably lovely but so was my gran and I wouldn’t want her making important decisions about how a city is run. Not all problems can be solved by a cup of tea and a Werther’s Original.
So who was left? A few normal looking men and women and a youngster. The youngster was 32 years old and proud of it. It was the most striking information on his poster. 32! in big bright font. Well, yes, youth is good, but only if it carries with it the promise of invigoration and exciting forward-thinking. I’ve got a few years on that candidate, and I’m not particularly cool but even I could see that the man was a nerd. No, youth doesn’t work if you are cross-eyed and have clearly been dressed by your mother. He may have been the one closest in age to young voters, but if these posters had appeared in Britain, he’d still have been the one with a comedy cock drawn on his head.
In the end I had about seven candidates to choose from. I went for a woman who looked as though she was in her early- to mid-forties. She was laughing and looked quite pleasant. The others looked fine too but, well, based on general experience, you run a lower risk of social constipation with women than with men. And I’m pretty sure she hasn’t driven past my house yet.