the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Monday, September 29, 2008

Japanese Politics

This is the reality of politics in Japan. Some have gone so far as to
say the country is actually run by the mafia and politicians are just a
front - and that could well be the case.


Here the politicians do not actually matter. The country is run by the
bureaucrats - the middle managers.

*Scripted interview*

I was at first a little sceptical of this claim, until I went to the
prime minister's office to interview the previous incumbent, Yasuo Fukuda.

The problem with these kind of encounters is that Japanese civil
servants are always terrified that their man might put a foot wrong.
They try to leave nothing to chance.

A map of Japan showing Tokyo

For days before there are tortuous negotiations about what topics might
or might not be discussed.

When you arrive for the interview, there are more flurries and fuss from
the small army of men in suits, who fill the room long before their boss
makes an appearance.

On this occasion, they wanted Mr Fukuda to talk about the environment.
But they were worried he might not follow the script in his interview
with me, so they had written out what they wanted him to say and put it
on a teleprompter just behind my left ear.

We pointed out politely that this might look a little unnatural, but
they were having none of it.

The prime minister would make a statement before the interview began,
they said, to make sure he got all the points in, whether I asked them
or not.

"But we won't use that," I explained.

No matter, the great man was on his way.

*'Three, two, one, cue PM'*

He came in, sat down, was perfectly pleasant, and even had a few words
to say in English.

But there was no time for chat. An aide started gesturing from behind my
head, and barked out: "Three, two, one, cue PM".

The poor man started reading from the teleprompter. I had to keep a
straight face so as not to put him off. So did he.

*The poor man looked like a puppet and the fact that he was clearly an
intelligent, talented politician made the whole experience feel that
much more depressing*

It was quite obvious to both of us that this was not going to be used,
but he was doing what he was told.

By the time I was given the opportunity to ask my questions, I have to
confess the latent, bolshy teenager inside me had emerged.

I noticed he had five pieces of paper with densely typed briefings on
his lap, one for each question I was expected to ask.

I started asking them but in the wrong order.

That prompted much harrumphing and agitated shuffling of papers from the
audience of advisers clustered around us, but the prime minister, to his
credit, soldiered gamely on.

The poor man looked like a puppet though, and the fact that he was
clearly an intelligent, talented politician made the whole experience
feel that much more depressing.


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