Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Michael Hoffman’s Sunday, December 2, 2012 Japan Times Timeout piece “Silent majority blasted by political noise” lent me yet another moment to think about Japanese politics and election campaigns. The noise of public speaking candidates is legendary. In
fact, with its continuous cacophony of public announcements - don’t forget your umbrella, watch where you’re going, report suspicious people, be careful of the doors, thank you for coming and have a nice day - Japan is a very noisy place in direct opposition to the Zen myth of aesthetic sensibilities and harmony with nature. It’s so noisy, in fact, that one might argue this is
not a good environment for humans to inhabit. It’s detrimental to our mental and physical health, and all this constitutionally protected free speech is a violation of many of our other human rights.
The main reason for the sidewalk speech makers who regale passersby with their golden voices, or the roving campaign vehicles that blast messages from rooftop speakers is that the Japan General Election Law prohibits door-to-door canvassing, which is good for me because I don’t want to have to deal with those people on my threshold.
But get this, the law also prohibits campaigning before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m. Every time I see a candidate with a bullhorn at my local station at 7:30 a.m. I want to complain to the local koban. They are criminals right in front of us, in full daylight. Is there any politician in Japan who is not a criminal, technically speaking, in violation of this restriction?
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe the law provides for out-of-hours campaigning in specific locations, like commuter hubs. Please teach me.
Published on Sunday, December 16, 2012 as "The criminally noisy politicians."
Naturally the paper printed this letter on the day of the election itself. I have read in the paper that the 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. rule applies to the roving campaign trucks. The stories did not say that the rule applied only to these vehicles. I have read in books, in other news articles, and on the internet that the rule applies to all public campaign speaking - which would include speakers using bull horns outside train stations at 7:30 in the morning. But the failure of the news stories to mention anything but the trucks makes me think that in their minds the Japanese have convinced themselves of another falsehood - that out-of-hours vehicles are prohibited but not out-of-hours speakers.