Japan goes back to the dark age of election campaigning..

I feel strongly about this because technology is the one way in which we can spread democracy and good governance at a grass roots level! So, it’s a ‘wider’ aspect of ‘Open Gardens’ i.e. Open societies!

Compared to the refreshing approach by the European parliament and also Senator Barrack and others, it is indeed strange to see Japan taking this stance.

I have always believed that both Japan and Korea have structural flaws in their society that need to be revised / modernised.

In that sense, the West is a far better place in the long run for the growth of technology and indeed Japan and Korea should learn much from the West in terms of Open societies.

Note that all this is motivated by ‘treating politicians with respect’ i.e.

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Here in Japan, it is seen as important to treat politicians with respect. But such is the deference paid to them; it is hard for anyone to challenge them to try new ways to make the political system better.<<<

But that just impedes the growth of society, maintains existing cartels and fiefdoms.

This is indeed a backward step for Japan!

from the BBC

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Surprisingly, in a country with some of the fastest broadband speeds and a wide internet penetration, it is now illegal for candidates to create new websites or update existing web pages between now and election day, 29 July

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Japan’s old-fashioned campaigning

By Chris Hogg

BBC News, Tokyo

This Japanese politician’s office in Second Life is closed temporarily

Now the campaign for the upper house election in Japan has started, tough rules on how politicians can canvas for votes have come into force.

Surprisingly, in a country with some of the fastest broadband speeds and a wide internet penetration, it is now illegal for candidates to create new websites or update existing web pages between now and election day, 29 July.

So instead, the loudspeaker vans are out on the streets again. The candidates sit inside, waving regally wearing white gloves, smiling and politely asking for votes.

Prof Phil Deans, who works at Temple University in Tokyo, describes it as “almost a throwback to the 1950s”.

“Cars with speakers on the roof, the use of posters, leafleting, and the almost complete absence of electronic media to communicate political messages, is one of the most startling things about the way elections are conducted here,” he says.

Kan Suzuki wants to change all that. He is a lawmaker who wants to modernise the way elections are fought here.

In my constituency, I can only distribute enough [leaflets] for 3% of voters

Kan Suzuki

He has built an office in Second Life, the virtual world where you can work, play and interact with others.

Here, he says, he can get his message out to people who do not normally listen to politicians.

But now that the campaign has started, he has had to close the office temporarily.

“Basically, the election law was drawn up in the 1950s,” he says.

He is also critical of another old-fashioned rule, limiting the number of posters and leaflets that a candidate can give out.

“In my constituency, I can only distribute enough for 3% of voters to get a leaflet from my party. So 97% of voters can’t. How can I reach them?”

Little support

Usually Japan allows its politicians to use the internet to communicate with voters.

But as soon as an election campaign starts – the time when you might well think you would really want to communicate with them – the use of electronic media for campaigning is banned.

Instead it is on the traditional media where politicians hold court – for instance, on ponderous political TV discussion shows that sometimes look like they have not changed in 20 years.

YouTube is more casual… but if the government or any politicians are on the web it doesn’t feel right

Kentaro Shimano, student

Prof Yasunori Sone, a political analyst from Keio University in Tokyo, says Japanese election law is very strict.

“There are many rules and prohibitions. But many parties want a strict law to contain other parties’ political activities,” he says.

“Some of us are trying to get the law changed. But the number of supporters for a change in the law is very small.”

One group you would think would be keen to see the internet used in campaigning is young voters.

In Japan, 95% of people in their 20s surf the web, but only a third of them bother to vote.

Some, though, do not seem keen on politicians using the web to try to win their support.

“I believe that internet resources are not very official,” says Kentaro Shimano, a student at Temple University in Tokyo.

“YouTube is more casual; you watch music videos or funny videos on it, but if the government or any politicians are on the web it doesn’t feel right.”

Haruka Konishi agrees.

“Japanese politics is something really serious,” she says. “Young people shouldn’t be involved, I guess because they’re not serious enough or they don’t have the education.”

There cannot be many places in the world where students feel their views should not count. Perhaps it is really a reflection of the reality – that they do not.

Here in Japan, it is seen as important to treat politicians with respect.

But such is the deference paid to them, it is hard for anyone to challenge them to try new ways to make the political system better.

Comments

  1. Interesting read and (given how far ahead Japan is in terms of the CPA online lifestyle) very surprizing. On the other hand, it’s clear that there are cultural standards involved that we can’t measure by Anglo-Saxon norms (as if there’s such a thing as a generic AS norm, mind!)

  2. Mark in CA says:

    Yes, Japan is a country of stark contrasts of old and new. They are everywhere, and rarely make sense to outsiders. You can take a high-speed shinkansen (bullet train), arguably the best rail transport in the world, yet when you get to the station, you may not find an escalator to help you schlep your luggage down to the street level. And unquestioning deference to authority is widespread, along with a strong aversion to standing out from the crowd. People don’t even complain in restaurants if something isn’t right.
    Interestingly, my wife, who is a Japanese national in the US, plans to vote in the upcoming election, something she has not done in many, many years, because she is so disappointed in the current government in Japan.