Ah, election season in Japan! While for other countries this might mean a deluge of angry black-and-white TV commercials, in Japan it mostly means street-side speeches.
Last week, Prime Minister Abe swung by Fukushima City in Fukushima Prefecture to support local candidate Masako Mori, who’s the current minister of the Consumer Affairs Agency. And what did he talk about?
How great Fukushima-produced food is, of course!
Standing atop a campaign van, the prime minister addressed the crowd on behalf of Minister Mori. Among other things, Abe touched on the issue of Fukushima-produced food.
▼Prime Minister Abe, center left, and Masako Mori, center right.
As you are probably aware, following the horrific Tohoku disaster in 2011 and subsequent radiation leaks, many people, both in Japan and abroad, are reluctant to eat food produced in the prefecture out of fear of radiation poisoning.
The prime minister, perhaps hoping to appeal to local voters, claimed to eat Fukushima-produced rice every day, saying that the food was what kept him energetic. He continued, saying, “Whenever I go to a summit meeting, I tell the other leaders. I eat Fukushima-produced rice.”
The politician added later, “We’re going to wipe away the financial losses from this misinformation, speed up the rebuilding of the infrastructure, and use all our power to take up the rebuilding of Fukushima.”
For those of you who have never seen a political speech in Japan, let us just say that it’s not particularly exciting, thanks in part to strict campaign laws. For example, door-to-door campaigning is banned—though it is legal and common to drive around in vehicles blaring the names of the candidates. Some other things that are currently banned for campaigners include offering food and drinks (though hot tea and small snacks are okay), turning campaigns into popularity contests by performing public opinion polls, or activities that excite people.
Well, we can safely say that we haven’t seen any politicians doing that last one.
While the safety of Fukushima rice may not be in question for Prime Minister Abe, he seems to face an uphill battle on changing public perception. Though we’re sure there’s no one who wouldn’t welcome Fukushima’s revival.