Don't fool us with day-old fish
In 1977, Sadaharu Oh set a world home-run record while playing for the Yomiuri Giants. (Now the manager of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, Oh has just announced his retirement at the end of this season.)王貞治
In honor of his achievement, then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda established and presented Oh with the first People's Honor Award.
While cynics sneered at the award, calling it "an attempt by a Cabinet with a record-low approval rating to court public favor," I was impressed at the time by Fukuda's choice for the first recipient. Still, the award did nothing to bolster his administration's popularity. The following year, Fukuda resigned, saying, "Sometimes heaven speaks in a strange voice."
Decades later, his son Yasuo Fukuda became prime minister, but he, too, proved unpopular and stepped down on Wednesday. His parting shot, made in response to a reporter's question, was: "I am not like you."
Kabuki actor Onoe Kikugoro VI (1885-1949) once said actors with good exit lines make good actors. Perhaps Yasuo Fukuda would have made a better actor than a prime minister.
At the risk of sounding rude, when I look at the administration of our new prime minister, Taro Aso, I am reminded of the rakugo comic story "Sakura-dai" (cherry blossom sea bream).
In the story, a feudal lord is served a sea bream broiled with salt. He takes one bite and stops eating it, ordering a servant to bring a new one. But there are no more to be had, so the servant diverts the lord's attention to nearby cherry blossoms. While he is looking the other way, the servant flips the sea bream over to hide the spot left by his master's chopsticks and presents the fish as a new one.
Aso's Cabinet lineup looks suspiciously like the other side of a fish left out on the table overnight. Since it mostly includes ruling party members who were elected three years ago, it lacks freshness. Unless released into the sea of popular will and caught again, this fish will never transform itself into a fresh one.
On Wednesday, Aso described today's situation: "It is more like turbulent times than peacetime."
Everybody knows that neither ruling nor opposition parties have a magic potion that can solve all our problems immediately. Instead of sweet words, voters want to hear frank discussions using straight talk.
Which party can deliver that? The tide of popular will is rising.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 25(IHT/Asahi: September 26,2008)