I can pretty much sum up why I like living in Japan in one word: Randomness. Let me give you an example of what I mean.
It’s currently election season in Japan. Normally, this is a pretty sucky time of year, because the main campaigning strategy in this country seems to be driving around in a van and blasting inane slogans from a loud speaker. And they appear to think this is especially effective if you do it early on Saturday mornings. Now, as a foreign resident, I can’t vote in Japan, but the last person I would vote for if I could would be someone who disturbed my much-needed beauty sleep. But I digress.
Last night, as I was approaching Shinjuku Station to take my train home from work, I heard something strange over the usual hustle and bustle that surrounds the busiest train station in the world. Someone was blasting the familiar strains of the hit disco song “The Hustle” loud enough to deafen an entire city block. Now this in and of itself is not all that strange. A popular way of advertising new albums here is to drive around in a van and blast the single from a loud speaker. I know, I know, for an eco-friendly country, the Japanese seem to love pointless driving as an advertising medium. But, anyway, as I got to the entrance of the station, I found that the culprit was none other than the eternal optimist Mac Akasaka (be sure to follow that link to see Mac wearing an awesomely bad lycra atrocity).
Mac, for those of you who haven’t heard of him, is a politician campaigning in the general election under his own charmingly named Japan Smile Party （日本スマイル党）. I’m not entirely sure, but from what I can tell, his entire platform seems to be that people need to smile more. Not that I’m disagreeing, but I doubt that many of the world’s problems will be solved by smiling at them… Mac sets a nice example, however, never being seen without an ear to ear grin as he patrols the streets of Tokyo, sticking his head out the roof of his white Rolls Royce and often behaving like a bit of a larrikin. Recently, he’s taken to doing a little dance with castanets. I bet you’ve never seen your representative do anything like that!
It remains to be seen whether Mac can garner much of the vote on August 30, but he’s already fulfilling his campaign promises. Certainly, many of the harried commuters in front of the station last night, myself included, wandered off to their trains with smiles on their faces. And that is the wonderful randomness of Japan.