The village is abuzz with election fever. Having the car with the loud speaker assault our house is nothing new to anyone who has lived in Japan longer than a year, but this time it's personal. Not only has Tomoe been sucked into being one of the loud-speaker ladies (she was practicing making her voice annoying last night and will be out all day today) but we actually know, on a personal and business level, 6 of the 14 candidates.
Perhaps the biggest introduction I feel to the dirty world of politics is that Tomoe's public support is decided by the village we live in, and the support we receive on a regular basis. Regardless of his views (not at all bad), we feel a duty for her to support the candidate from our hamlet. Who she votes for... that is another question - the thing is, it is difficult to tell other candidates "I am publicly supporting XXX, but I will vote for you". although I am sure they would understand as often candidates are even related and family members have to decide who to support.
I never thought I would ever be in a position where I actually *know*, and have drunk sake with, at their homes, almost half of the candidates on a ballet.
I also never thought that I (well, in this case it is Tomoe, really) would ever have such a direct influence on the outcome of an election. This is nothing like the BS I know from absentee ballets sent to the US. This feels like it makes a difference. And yet... it doesn't. For the most part, people just vote for the person from their hamlet. Even if they don't, the candidates have no expressed public stance (as is the norm in any election). One is promoting the creation of special education for mentally challenged children in the village (although her child is the only one who we know of that would benefit). Others are running on a platform of increasing "green tourism", which seems like something we would like, given our business, but I feel much more strongly about encouraging young farmers to settle here - tourism is just a temporary patch to take advantage of a small boom. I have no delusions that a village like this (we are NOT like Hakuba) can base an entire economy around tourism.
So, anyway, Tomoe is out today politicking, and I am trying to catch up on email and strangely miss the loudspeaker cars coming by our house today. Something I hated in Tokyo, but its much nicer to hear the voice of and to wave at people that you know. I just don't understand what effect it has on any outcome, considering the only information you can get from the loud-speaker is the candidates name.
The photos, in order, the sign at the corner with all of this year's candidates, a pile of cow manure, a neighbors house, and finally, one of our "new" fields which we are borrowing this year. We just went out and made the rows two days ago - just to show the owner of the field that we are on the ball. This is more for our own records - so we can visually see its progress through the year - how many weeds can we grow this year?