Back to Yoyogi Park, here is one of my favorite photos that I’ve taken recently. As I said previously, there has been a group of guys dancing to rockabilly in Yoyogi since the 1980’s. They have incredible endurance, but that’s nothing compared to the enduring capabilities of their hair. This guy had already been dancing under the hot sun for hours before I took this shot.
On a related note, Prime Minister Koizumi ([who also has very cool hair, sort of Richard Geer meets John Kerry](http://www.mutantfrog.com/2005/08/27/koizumis-magical-hands-part-2/)), led the LDP to a historically dominating performance in yesterday’s election. The LDP now controls a 2/3 majority in the lower congress (enough to override the upper house). No one is questioning the passsage of postal reform, they’re just wondering how fast it will happen. Just recently, the LDP seemed to be on the verge of collapse. Internal divisions had apparently thwarted Koizumi’s bid to reform the postal system (leaving him beating a dead horse, so to speak). So he called a new election, banned the internal troublemakers from running under the LDP banner (many of them old, powerful party members), sent out a slew of young candidates (labelled Koizumi’s assassins by the media), and won big time.
As I said in a comment yesterday, the question now is whether he’ll press on with real reform or sit back and enjoy the power. Some say that Koizumi will push through postal reform and then stop and let others deal with the really hard reforms ahead. My impression is that he’ll press on and try to pick a successor who will continue the process. He was actually talking about grooming such a successor today (to replace him in September, 2006).
In a nutshell, real reform means curbing government spending. Japan is — no exaggeration — the pork barrel capital of the world. They may not have actual pork barrels, but they have four lane highways to little country towns, dams on every river in the nation, bridges across the ocean to sparsely inhabited islands, state of the art community centers in villages…you name it. Although the street leading up to my house in Tokyo barely fits two cars side by side, and at least one of my neighbors thinks he needs a Land Rover…
But still filling in this nutshell, real reform means that countless projects and services of dubious merit would never happen. That means the loss of jobs. The death of villages with no real economy of their own. A widening gap between the cities and the countryside. Perhaps the emergence of an undeniably poor class outside of the cities. It’s a process of readjustment – pain – rebuilding – anger – renewed health in the economy – fear of the future – with winners and losers – etc.
You may be nodding your head saying, “No pain, no gain,” or shaking with indignation about who will speak up for the voiceless ones. I wanted to finish by pointing out the obvious: Japanese people from all walks of life across the nation voted overwhelming for the LDP, with most knowing the implications of Koizumi’s reform agenda. They didn’t just vote LDP again, as they have been for thirty years. They threw out previously elected candidates from other parties in favor of the LDP. They sent a strong signal for change; to support a politician who will passionately work to get things done.
One popular analysis is that Koizumi is so popular that he made this happen through sheer passion and charisma (not to mention the hair). More than that, I think that he convinced people he’s the person most serious about reform and willing, even through gutsy moves, to get it done. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but Koizumi certainly has made Japanese politics more interesting (for reasons other than corruption), which is a miracle in itself.