Friday, 28 August 2009

House Of Cards

I feel I was a little unfair yesterday when I wrote about my time down the JCP HQ. I simplified things in the name of lulz. My friend Heathcote said something before I left - I can't quite remember the context - but it was something about how I "don't really see the Japanese as people anymore", which unfortunately has some truth to it. A year of studying Japan and things Japanese at Cambridge, moreover, a year outside Japan, has abstracted and intellectualised Japan for me. This has a fairly literal representation in the fact that I got a 1st in Japanese Literature, a 2.1 in Japanese History, and a low 2.2 in Japanese language. I've gone from a bumbling fluency in the spoken language at the end of my trip here last summer, to simple bumbling at the moment. I've gone from a situation where Japan was my reality and Britain seemed like some sort of Matrix-esq virtual reality, to a situation where I simply couldn't conjure to mind what Japan was "like" in the face of the sadness at leaving my friends and family behind. Japan has to be my reality now, so in the name of good faith I can't treat Japanese people as fodder for bloggy amusement.

But to put it simply, it dawned on me just how ridiculously nice the whole thing was! I went in to this aforementioned Palace of Leftism, made my meaning known to the receptionist with vocabulary closely approximating Japanese and grammar somewhat more abstractly so, where he then called for somebody who spoke more English. I was sat down at a desk in a semi-private booth which seemed to be designed for smart-casual chats. And I waited. Enter Mr. Tashiro Tadatoshi (Tadatoshi Tasiro-san), Deputy Director of the International Bureau, Member of the Central Committee of the Japanese Communist Party, according to his card. He gave me his card. I'm not going to lie, half the appeal of Leftist politics is the idea of being a "card-carrying member" of something. But yeah, he sat down, and said that he appreciated the offer, but that as a foriegner I couldn't legally campaign in any official sense of the word.

But he also explained the parties views on foreign rights - they support greater involvement of foreigners in the political system generally, and support the right of non-citizen residents to vote in local elections specifically. We talked politics a bit, I lied and said I was a member of the Socialist Workers Party - I would be! But I've been a bit disorganised and figured it wouldn't make too much sense to become a due-paying member of a party I wouldn't be able to participate in for the next year - and when I was able to answer "Trotskyist" to the question of "what's their orientation" felt as though I had reached a certain level of esoteric knowledge regarding the Left, in the same way I felt when I could answer "Speyside" to the question of "favorite region?" regarding whisky. We chatted a bit about Japanese politics and the like, and then he asked me to wait. He went off, and when he came back, he brought English translations of the latest JCP newspaper editions, and 4 expensive looking English language books from the party press. He let me know where to see some party speeches and said that I could probably help hand out manifestos if I just showed up. This isn't a rhetorical question, are most dealings with political parties this friendly?

Is this post too detailed? Is it too political? I would have thought the blog title and logo would be enough to scare people off, but maybe I need a rating system at the top of each post with starts indicating how much I'll be talking about politics as opposed to robots or Pokemon?

OH! I went to get one of my disposable camera's developed and put on CD, and I bought a charger and memory card reader for my digicam so the picture's should start and keep Rollin' Rollin' Rollin' in from tomorrow.

So I went to watch the party chairman speak in central Tokyo today. The party members where pretty surprised to see a foreigner wanting to get involved, but were quite happy to have a go at handing out manifestos. And they even let me wear a nifty armband! The form of the thing is, sadly far more Japanese than it is revolutionary. There was no blowing anything up, let alone shouting. Just lots and lots of slight bows. And "Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu" ("If you'd be so kind"). Say it. Say it fast. Real fast. And a few hundred times. Not surprisingly, a lot of people hurry past and avoid eye contact. What is surprising is that some people didn't. Some people took the manifesto in approval of my novelty factor. Some people actually came up to me to ask for one. Perhaps the most satisfying thing is when people's eye is caught just before the leave your arm's reach and decide in the last moment to take one. I've always thought that the slog work of low-level politics was rewardless. But weirdly enough, for all the people who look at you discerningly, or who simply ignore you, the minority who take the manifesto, who stick around to watch the speech, who devote just a bit of their time to a cause greater than themselves, even if that is just taking the actions to make an informed vote, do make it worth while.

After that died down and as the members packed away, I began chatting to a few. We talked about student politics, what I was doing in Japan, what was I doing at a JCP speech and thank yous. We went to Shibuya to hand out more manifestos. But before the van arrived - you can't do politics in Japan without a van with loudspeakers behind you - we sat in a cafe and got an ice-cream. The Japanese Communist Party bought me an ice-cream. I was told to be careful, as in Japan the term "Trotskite" is strongly associated with political terrorism, ala the 70s' student movement. I said that in England, it was more of an intellectual thing, ala opposing Stalin. I probably should have said it was more of an angry old men thing TBH. But anyway, I donned one of their matching pink t-shirts and took to the streets.

I left early to meet some friends but they flaked out, so I wandered around until I found a cheap curry house and came back. Also tonight is my last night in this hostel, so I need to find somewhere to sleep. Tomorrow there's another speech going on, the last event before the day of election, so I'll be doing more footwork there.
Checklist for tomorrow:
Find place to sleep for reasonable price.
Start the revolution.
Pick up photos from developing.

Night night, big love

1 comment:

  1. this one is better!
    I'd quite like to see some articles about the politicians involved, i doubt there are that many translated though, possible there are photo...i hope you took fotos of the führer..