Taiwan’s NMA Youtube channel has produced yet another wacky computer animated video about current events in Japan! It’s election time:
Somebody must have read about Shinzo Abe’s battle with crippling diarrhea, because he is shown shooting vast amounts of liquid feces out of his rear end. Noda, who famously compared himself to a loach fish, seems to be using one as a weapon. And it looks like South Korea’s national symbol is now the Gangnam Style guy…
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.
The poster stands out because Matsumoto has chosen an interesting font for his name. The font makes it look exactly like the logo of the Matsumoto Kiyoshi drugstore chain!
He is actually a grandson of the Kiyoshi Matsumoto who founded that company (and later became a politician). Matsumoto’s poster said he held an position of importance at Matsumoto Kiyoshi, so he probably won’t get in trouble for making his name resemble the company’s logo.
Matsumoto served one term as an LDP lawmaker in the House of Representatives in 2005-2006, after getting elected as one of Prime Minister Koizumi’s “children.” It now looks like he’s trying to make a comeback by aligning himself with Ishihara’s Japan Restoration Party.
Tokyo’s air quality gradually improved under former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara. Japan was behind the west in regulating atmospheric concentrations of known carcinogens such as PM2.5 – particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (µm). The primary source of these fine-sized particulates in Tokyo was diesel engines, which in 1999 Ishihara began a campaign to reduce.
A law banning “dirty diesels” in Tokyo was passed in late 2000 and subsidies to help local businesses replace or retrofit noncompliant vehicles began in 2001. Enforcement through heavy fines as well as naming and shaming began from late 2003 in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and (from 2004) Kanagawa. Upper limits on diesel exhaust were further lowered in 2006 [J].
It wasn’t until 2009 that the central government introduced regulations comparable to those set by the US EPA: 35 and 15 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) for daily- and yearly-averaged concentrations, respectively.
The graph above shows the PM2.5 levels from fiscal year* 2000 to 2011, the limit of the raw data currently available from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. There are only four long-term PM2.5 measuring stations in Tokyo (two “general” and two “roadside” stations). The bar graph indicates that the roadside station along the Nikko Kaido in Adachi Ward recorded daily-averaged values that exceeded 35 µg/m3 on approximately 160 days during FY 2000. This decreased to only about 10 days during both FY 2009 and 2010.
However, much of Tokyo appears to be struggling to drop under the yearly limit of 15 µg/m3, and the data presented here are insufficient to definitively link the improvements directly to the actions of Ishihara and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. A recent study has noted that mortality from cancer has decreased in Tokyo over the same period, but the methods available and the nature of the data prevent statistical attribution of any observed changes.
Now, concentrations have begun to increase since the 3/11 disaster, but with only 10 years of data in total, and only 1 following the quake, it is impossible to attribute the changes to any particular cause. The magnitude of the change is also within the inter-annual variability (for example the increase from 2004 to 2005).
Could this reflect the increased usage of traditional fuels for electrical generation with a number of nuclear plants offline?
*Fiscal years in Japan begin in April, so FY2011 was from 4/1/2011 until 3/31/2012.