Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
In the Oct. 29 Japan Times article “Annoyed teen punches lawmaker giving speech outside (Gakuden) train station (Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture),” Lower House lawmaker Yukichi Maeda of the Democratic Party of Japan gives a strange analysis of the situation in which a passing teenager, annoyed at the noise he was making, punched him. Following the recent murder of lawmaker Koki Ishii, also of the DPJ, by an ultrarightist, the first suspicion by police was that an ideological motive was behind the attack - a copycat crime. Finding no such motive, Maeda was left with the problem of unexplained, raw aggression in society. So he said uppressing speech through violent means is unforgivable.”
Maeda just doesn’t get it. There are many “unforgivable” things in the world, not the least of which is the unrelenting and violently aggressive assault on the public by loudspeaker-blaring windbags. When and how did Japanese come to confuse the crime of public nuisance with virtue of the protected right of free speech? Japanese culture has very little sense of aural privacy, which partly explains why Japan is such a violently noisy place. The intrusion on the public peace by noise is broadly tolerated with a queer unnaturalness.
The roaming ultrarightist noise trucks, the politicians’ noise vans, recorded announcements on trains, recorded announcements in department stores and elsewhere, recorded instructions from machines, the patrolling baked sweet potato man, the wandering tofu guy, the late afternoon neighborhood announcements for children to go home - and the list goes on.
These are social customs that penetrate even the close intimacy of everyday neighborhood life. The situation is tolerated to the extent that it is, I guess, partly due to a deeply inbred acceptance of interference in personal lives (including the private aspects of them) and partly due to the service of the myth of harmony. I cannot regard a public noisemaker as an innocent, but rather as a provocateur, and at least an accomplice in his own situation when it turns bad.
Published on Sunday, November 10, 2002 as “Political noisemaker not innocent.”
Noisy candidates campaigning are a common problem. It reflects the typical way in which Japanese politicians campaign. Although American-style “Manifestos” have recently gained popularity there is no debate about issues, because debate means disagreement and public disagreement betrays the cultural myth of harmony and consensus. Instead what usually passes for election campaigning is politicicians or their support groups patrolling the streets in vans with loud speakers mounted on top shouting, or playing at over-the-top volume a recording of shouting “I am Watanabe! Watanabe Yuichi! Watanabe of the Liberal Democratic Party! That’s me, Watanabe! Be kind to Watanabe Yuichi! Remember Watanabe!” And, sadly, that is what passes as an election strategy here.