Monday, July 23, 2007

More Upper House Trivia: ex-Gaijin Out on Election the Hustings

hustings: definition
pl.n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
1. a. A place where political campaign speeches are made:
a candidate out on the hustings in the farm belt.
b. The activities involved in political campaigning:
a veteran of the hustings.

There are three candidates among the Upper House proportional-seats candidates who have names that are recognizable as naturalized citizens, two on the DPJ list and one on the People's New Party.

The DPJ has the colorful incumbent マルテイ・ツルネン (Tsurunen Marutei), formerly Martti Turnunen of Finland (Finland and Japan like each other; we both fought Russia, and, by some accounts, belong to the same broad language group) on its list and hopeful 金ジョンオク (Kimu Jonoku), the katakana (one of the two Japanese alphabets) version of his given name Kim Jongok and dead giveaway that he was born a Korean. (Mr. Kim's choice when he became a naturalized Japanese citizen is one of several options that Koreans have when they make this choice. It is something I would like to elaborate one of these days.)

The PNP has the most colorful name in Pema Gyaurupo (Pema Gyalpo in its original roman alphabetical version), a scholar of Tibetan studies and the Dalai Lama's virtual ambassador in Japan. It also has Fujimori (like Pele, Magic, and Ichiro, the PNP obviously feels that Mr. Fujimori is big enough to go with one name), the ex-president of Peru. Technically, Fijimori does not qualify as a gaijin since he obtained Japanese citizenship at birth, but certainly deserves honorary mention, like Sadaharu Oh in Cooperstown.

What intrigues me is that none of these people adopted names that obscure their foreign origins (unlike Shokei Arai, the naturalized South Korean Lower House Diet member who took his life in the wake of a personal political scandal).

The Japanese national side in soccer, rugby, basketball, softball, volleyball, and American football, as well as individual sports like table tennis, all include or have included naturalized citizens as key members on their rosters. And the top two sumo wrestlers are Mongolians. Now politics may be a contact sport as well, but the outcome also turns on popular consent. In other words, two political parties led by savvy old-timers (DPJ - Ichiro Ozawa; PNP – Tamisuke Watanuki, Shizuka "bad cop" Kamei, and Yasuoki "good cop" Kamei) from the LDP of the good old days have decided that these names will help pull in votes at the national level. Against a background of the heavy celebrity politicking on the national stage, this is surely an encouraging commentary on civil society in Japan.

PS: Is there no statute of limitations on the photos candidates are allowed to submit for a publicly paid-for ad? One of the candidates on party X looks at least 20 years younger than she should. And she didn't look like that when I saw her back in the day. The image has the smooth and shiny, retouched smile that reminds me of North Korean propaganda photos. Anyone who has access to the newspaper inserts in the national dailies is free to write in with his/her guess on who I'm talking about. I do not erase any comments, anonymous or non-, other than surf-by spam, so your efforts, if any, will not go to naught. (Visual legerdemain for the candidates' photos, by the way, does not appear to be limited to women.)

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