Monday, December 24, 2007


There's some kind of local election going on. No one I know cares about it in the slightest and a fair number of people don't even know what governmental seats are being selected. Nevertheless, it's annoying because there are election vans roaming the streets making broadcasts over giant loud-speakers. A few times an hour now, while I work, some van or another drives by my window promoting their candidate.

This van was just parked on the side of the road when I was getting my groceries today. All I know about the candidate is what you can see in this photo - his name is Umeda (梅田), and his color is green. All the candidates have colors. I guess if your electorate couldn't care less about politics, you can at least hope to capitalize on their love of a particular color. That's Umeda himself in that ridiculous green jacket. The guy in black is making a speech on his behalf. This division of labor seems to be standard. You can see for yourself that Umeda is a typical politician. There was no one around, certainly no one listening, but every 30 seconds or so he would wave and, when he wasn't waiving, he would look down on us in utter disdain.

Actually, speaker-vans are common on the roads in Japan. They're usually advertising something you don't want and don't need at high volumes. Once, when I was in Kyoto, there was some kind of Christian proselytizing organization that was running a van up and down one of the mains streets for over an hour with a broadcast on loop. I couldn't understand all of it but I got the basics. It said, "Everyone is bad ... Jesus Christ is your savior ... Jesus Christ is the only god," and other gems along these lines.

Now, when I ride by a speaker-van in the street, if the window is open, I've taken to shouting "Urusai!" (五月蝿い!) at the driver. This is basically the Japanese way of saying "shut up!" but it's much more expressive, because it literally means you're annoyingly loud. I picked up that trick from a guy named Nori, who I ride with sometimes.

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