Sunday, September 6, 2009

"The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step."

Last weekend Japan elected a new Prime Minister, Hatoyama Yukio, who is notable for being from the Democratic Party of Japan (which is liberal), as opposed to the Liberal Democratic Party (which is conservative) which has had control over the country for most of the last 50 years. This is notable for me personally because it makes the third Prime Minister since I've moved here, and one who was new when I first started to apply. They've been changing annually since 2005. The one on his way out, Aso Taro, had face pre-caricatured for your convenience, and also a foot permanently implanted in his mouth, so he was about par for comedic value with our own former president. Let's hope the new one, if he follows the one-year trend, will at least be entertaining while he lasts.

Now, I'm even less knowledgeable about Japanese politics than I am about American, but I do have a personal grudge against this year's election. It overlapped with the annual charity event "24 Hours TV," which is one of my favorite entertainment programs. Everyone who is everyone has made an appearance in it at one point - the main hosts have usually been one of the bands I like since 1995 (Kinki Kids did their part the year of their debut, 1997), some celebrity makes a marathon run during the entire broadcast. There are all manner of performances and challenges featuring individuals and groups alike with disabilities and disadvantages, in an alternating heart-breaking and heart-warming day of television. It takes a huge amount of coordination, and a lot of people have been looking forward to it - including me, obviously. The main hosts this year were squeaky-clean boyband NEWS, and the runner was young comedian Imoto Ayako, a favorite of my students, whose shtick consists of huge painted eyebrows and the willingness to do just about anything. Her prize for running 126 kilometers was a promised hug from her crush, NEWS member Tegoshi. Her eyebrows washed away as she ran through the start of a typhoon.

Then it turned 9:00, and they started airing election results. I kept watching thinking it was a newsflash and then they'd go back to the end of the marathon. Half an hour later, I realized that since the time had gone over they'd stopped airing 24 Hour TV. You can imagine my reaction. I mean, I could watch election news on any other channel - I could only make sure that Imoto didn't drop dead before the finish line on NTV. Eventually, at news stories and interviews in the days after, they should footage that she did indeed make it and got her hug. But it was still kind of a let-down to not see it as the natural conclusion after watching for it. Also I'm hoping that Imoto doesn't disappear from the industry now that people have seen her as a real person, as last year's runner, female comedian Edo Harumi, has for the most part.

The triumphant arrival on morning news:

An incredible performance by an all-deaf dancing troupe from 2007's event:

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