Thursday, July 20, 2006


THE LADY GOVERNOR


As of July 4, Shiga Prefecture has a lady governor, one of five in Japan. Yukiko Kada, a professor at Seika University in Kyoto, handily defeated the former governor who, in the local tradition, was running for his third term and was expected to wind handily just by waving his white-gloved hands from the speakered van window while the cutely uniformed campaign girls beside him squealed "(Very Formal)Please! (Very Formal)Please!" in the traditional manner. Round up the usual voters. What a surprise then, when the well informed electorate declared its preference for intelligent feminine rule and actual decision making!

Here's a quote from a Kada interview: "The four case studies illustrate two types of community formation found in Japan: closely knit community (e.g., Minamata and Lake Biwa) and loosely knit community (e.g., Niigata and Nagara). We discovered that closely knit communities develop their own impetus for generating social movements that lead to significant progress on the environment. Such communities also tend to be more progressive, with members stepping forward to take responsibility for the community's future. For the purposes of our research, we have named these individuals 'framers': they frame the context in which the community develops. In loosely knit communities, by contrast, there is less impetus to seek solutions to environmental problems. Likewise, local leadership is harder to cultivate."

In her new capacity as "Framer," Governor Kada immediately kept her main campaign promise and froze construction on the pork barrel Biwako-Rikken Shinkansen (Bullet train) station. ("According to the Construction and Transport Ministry, in-process Shinkansen-related construction work has never been abandoned before.") I must say, a flabbergasted national ministry is a welcome sight around here.

The lady governor will stir things up for sure, where things are so rarely stirred up; she is already having trouble with the entrenched pork dispensers, who are set to thwart her at every turn. Kada, a Professor of Environmental & Social Studies, also said "a desired outcome of our research is to empower Japanese people to do something about their environment at the local level instead of leaving these issues entirely in the hands of national government officials. Ideally this would mean treating pollution and other problems early on, instead of waiting until a crisis occurs." Well they're doing something now; here's hoping they keep at it.

Local political history is about to get interesting. If that's really possible.

2 comments:

Winston said...

Kada certainly sounds like a fresh breeze. Would that we could have such in the US about now.

btw, how are elections conducted in Japan. Voting booths like most of the US, or puched cards and "hanging" chad, or perhaps something higher tech, less vulnerable, and more reliable?

Robert Brady said...

Yeah, wouldn't a fresh breeze of genuine air be nice in DC. The elections here have no Diebold touch screens made and programmed by the ruling party, no confusing ballots with hanging chads, no registering with a political party or any of that voter discouraging stuff. Every voter gets a card in the mail they take to the voting place, where they are ID checked, given a blank sheet of official paper upon which (in a booth) they hand write the name of their candidate, then fold it and put it in a locked metal box in front of the 7 or so monitors. Done in a minute. And recountable. Of course being a foreigner who has lived and paid taxes here for some 30 years I can't vote, so there are some drawbacks.