2012 Japan Election: TV Commercials

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    This weekend, Japanese voters will head to the polls to elect new lawmakers. Some expect that the election will drive the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) out of power and replace it with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), led by former PM Shinzo Abe.

    If you’ve watched much Japanese television over the last couple weeks, you’ve probably noticed that political parties are running a modest number of commercials. It’s a little more tame than the kind of stuff that goes down in America, where parties and political groups flood the airwaves with ads that harshly attack opponents.

    Let’s look at a few examples.

    First, we have the LDP’s commercial:

    It’s a very simple commercial with a very simple message. Shinzo Abe repeatedly calls on voters to help him “take back” Japan and return the country to economic prosperity.

    The DPJ’s commercial is also very simple:

    This one has Prime Minister Noda standing in front of a red screen as the camera slowly zooms in on his face. In contrast to the LDP message, Noda emphasizes the need to move forward and create a future that we can proudly leave to our children and grandchildren. Their slogan notes the importance of determination.

    Both major parties have pretty boring commercials. The smaller parties have less to lose, so they can take a risk by making their commercials creative and/or entertaining.

    Although I have not seen them aired on television, the Japan Communist Party’s YouTube channel has uploaded several issue-specific ads. For example, here is one about raising the sales tax:

    As cute birds bathe, they discuss how raising the sales tax might make it hard for them afford daily baths. They wonder why they, the common folks, have to suffer from such a tax increase. Shouldn’t the government tax rich people instead? (Another ad sends the same message with a conversation between two men eating oden.)

    The JCP also has an anti-TPP advertisement:

    Cute little onigiri are discussing the impact of a free trade agreement with the United States. Japanese farmers work hard to produce rice, but if Japan joins the TPP, say goodbye to those cute rice balls! (In another ad, pushy American beef is trying to force Japanese beef off a supermarket shelf.)

    The JCP has a few other ads too. One has a light bulb telling voters to support the complete abolition of nuclear energy in Japan. Another anti-nuclear ad has a hermit crab that fears for his life and wants Japanese people to remember the scary explosion that occurred in 2011. In one ad opposing U.S. bases in Okinawa an American aircraft replies to Okinawans’ safety concerns by saying everything is okay. The aircraft speaks Japanese with a shitty American gaijin accent. Another anti-base ad has cute fish playing up fears about Osprey aircraft.

    Here is the CM for Your Party (or “Everyone’s Party” in Japanese):

    Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe races across the screen on a skateboard! So hip and cool! Watanabe says there are more important things to do than raise taxes. The CM also emphasizes the party’s total opposition to nuclear energy and focus on economic recovery.

    The Happiness Realization Party, a right-wing party that is linked to the Happy Science spiritual movement, was known for some pretty extreme advertisements during previous elections. Unfortunately, their CM for this year is a bit more boring:

    One of their leaders outlines their major policies: 1) protect Japan from China’s nuclear weapons by strengthening defense (within the U.S.-Japan Alliance), 2) stop attempts to raise the sales tax, and 3) move forward with the development of nuclear energy in Japan.

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