An election was held in Japan last Sunday for the House of Councillors. Because campaign rules are so limiting, candidates resort to parking a van on a corner and having one of their cronies bark out ‘Please vote for me!’ speeches as they stand and wave. This is inescapable, wherever you go, for the three weeks or so leading up to the election (and reasonably apparent outside those times, too, as the more extreme parties drive around making rallying cries). Usually the leaflets and packs of tissues thrust into our hands by street walkers advertise izakaya, hostess bars and English schools (of course), but around this time a good chunk of them say how great and banal candidate X will be if you give them your vote.

So the election happened. The people voted for change, incidentally – the Democratic Party of Japan took a majority in the house while the incumbent Liberal Democrats lost seats all over the place. (Why do these parties have nearly identical names? Then again, the two Koreas are the same – perhaps it’s a regional quirk.) Right, that’ll be enough loudspeakers, won’t it? Wrong. Instead of a return to the comparative quiet of car and train traffic, the same vans drive about the place thanking everybody for voting for them. Even if they lost! Which means that the Japanese electoral campaign is as follows:

before vote: Please vote for us! Please vote for us!
after vote: Thank you for voting for us! Thank you for voting for us!

I’m sure they stated a whole lot of campaign promises in there that I couldn’t have a hope of understanding, but that’s basically what it comes down to. A month of noise pollution. You’d think people would hate it, and I suspect many do, but that doesn’t stop crowds gathering and staring whenever one of these vans is on show. I don’t know, maybe they’re onto something. Maybe Helen Clark should hit the streets in an ice-cream van next year, with my mother at the mic.

In other news, I’ve discovered after two months of trials that DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… is the best train music. Listening to Mutual Slump or Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain and looking at the scenery going past, the people sleeping or emailing on their cellphones, is somehow perfect. Oh, and I’m on vacation for 13 days starting Tuesday. Maybe I’ll have something interesting to talk about for a change.

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