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“Nani sore?”…”Kowai!”…”Kawaii!”…”Shiro mo aru!”
From Sakae to Nagoya Station, from Minato Matsuri to Nakata Matsuri, wherever the Mosshi-mosshi Troop made its mysterious appearances, those were the sure sequence of reactions. But what exactly is it that is both freaky and cute, and is more than just white? If you are clueless, you are on the right track.
The Mosshi-mosshi Troop consists of 4 members. The leader is called “Blue Man”, dressed in a blue bodysuit and body-paint. He is followed by “Kaeru-ichi” and “Kaeru-ni”, wearing frog headgear vaguely resembling the popular cartoon character, Keroppi. To complete the team, we have “Whitie”, who is literally all white. The Mosshi-mosshi Troop had two forms of transportation. In the first stage, the team traveled on bicycles, with color-coordinated banners of “motto zutto shikkari” tied to the back of each bicycle. Blue Man and Whitie rarely showed any emotions while Kaeru-ichi and Kaeru-ni exhibited constant smiles and waved enthusiastically at onlookers. Public reaction was tremendous. Passersby stopped to ask their purpose; drivers and passengers waved back with fascination. However, regardless of the scenario, instructions were not to explain anything and move on as per normal. As the Mosshi-mosshi Troop accustomed itself to crowds and attention, the gang of four took up the challenge of public transportation on the second stage of their mission. This time, instead of banners, each member walked around with a magazine called “Manifesto” in hand. The magazine happened to have a certain famous Japanese oyaji-Ozawa Ichiro as its cover.
At this point, one should have a pretty clear image of what the Mosshi-mosshi Troop looks like. However, what is its purpose? If one has not already deduced from the title, yes, it is related to politics; if one does not already know who Ozawa Ichiro is, yes, the Mosshi-mosshi Troop is affiliated to the Democratic Party of Japan. To be exact, it is part of Aichi-ken candidate Kouhei Otsuka’s Upper House Election campaign efforts. Then why was his name not yet mentioned? After all, the purpose of election campaigning is to convince voters to put the name of your candidate down on their voting slips, not just that of the affiliated party. Indeed, since inception of the Mosshi mosshi plan, this move has been troubling to many veteran campaigners on the team.
Not that it is not important to publicize your own candidate, but the key to the success of the Mosshi-mosshi Troop is in creating suspense. We wanted to initially generate curiosity among voters and provide them with a refreshing image of politics. It is alright if on their first encounter with the Mosshi-mosshi Troop they have no idea why these people are silly enough to be dressed in tights and don suffocating headgear on a burning mid-summer’s day. All we wanted was for voters to be surprised, to wonder why, and to find this interesting enough to want to find out more. Because politics have such a dull and dead reputation in Japan, if on impact people realize that it is a political campaign they won’t look it twice or dig deeper. We wanted to change that image. We wanted people to know that it is not all dead, that our candidate can make a difference.
The wait did not last too long. The press gave us a pleasant surprise when they covered the Mosshi-mosshi Troop just a day into its mission. The political affiliation was made clear by the Mosshi-mosshi Troop’s color combination and slogan, which matched that of the candidate. The team was elated; it was not only just great publicity, but also a palliative for the more senior members who had initial doubts about the effectiveness of the Mosshi-mosshi Troop. The mysterious team roamed the city center for an entire week. The missing link was finally revealed at the end of that week, at Kouhei Otsuka's Sakae walkabout. The candidate was flanked by the Mosshi-mosshi Troop wherever he went, making speeches and shaking hands with merry shoppers and shop owners.
On 29th July 2007, the election results were revealed. Kouhei Otsuka came in first in the Aichi-ken Upper House Election. Whether much of his success should be attributed to the Mosshi-mosshi Troop is a mystery and will probably remain so since there is no ground for proof. However, what I do know for sure is that the look in people’s eyes when they saw the Mosshi-mosshi Troop and when they walk past the usual gaito is different. That fascination and interest is something that I do not usually come across in normal campaign activities. I saw the younger generation coming up to the Mosshi-mosshi Troop to take photos and chat. I heard their cheers of “Gambatte!” to the team. I felt their joy when they figured out the relationship between “kaeru” and politics –think “seiken kaeru”. The sight was promising. It was nothing like the groans of “Oh Minshuto again! Oh politics again!” that we are so used to hearing.
From Mosshi-mosshi Troop, I see hope in rejuvenating Japanese Politics. I see the possibility that people will regain their interest in politics, especially the younger generation. All it matters is the method. The old and tried methods of campaigning are, just as it reads, old and tried. How many people actually voluntarily go to one of the gaitos, other than people who are already in the candidate’s supporters club? New methods need to be tested to gain the attention of the younger generations who are mostly non-party affiliated. They are the important swinging votes that make a difference to who gets elected.
Be adventurous and spontaneous. That is something that Japanese Politics lacks. In this day and age, one can take advantage of so many different strategies, making use of new media and technology. But no, it does not usually happen in Japanese Politics. People often equate politics to Political Science. “Political Science”, the name given to politics by academics, is the study of the processes, principles and structure of government. However, that is not politics in its entity. There is also the Art of Politics, the “how”, the process of getting to the position to be able to practice politics. In a democratic model like Japan’s, that means winning elections. People often tend focus on the Science of Politics –the “what”, the formation of policies, and forget about the Art of Politics. The current state of Japanese sentiments on politics should serve as a warning not to ignore the Art of Politics.
Everyone could a politician in his or her own right. Everyone has their own versions of the right policies; however, not everyone has the power to execute them. That power is given to whoever who can win elections. Therefore, it is of absolute importance to effectively communicate to those with voting powers your ideas and convince them to trust that you will do your job. The ability to do that will differentiate a truly brilliant politician from a mediocre politician who might be more suited to being an academic.