While coverage of the US presidential election and the road leading up to it is splashed across newspapers and floating over airwaves worldwide, the publicity seems especially prominent here in Japan. Both in print and broadcast, the buzz surrounding the event is un-ignorable, and Japanese media sources are arguably dedicating more attention to the US election than they do to their own politics.
Websites like Nikkei.net have their own special features updated daily or more frequently, covering the Democratic primaries almost as if they were being held here in Japan. The nightly news also gives ample airtime to the primaries, discussing percentages and delegate counts after the primary election in each state.
One interesting aspect of the election coverage is that there is surprisingly little attention given to the candidates' policies. In its place is coverage of the candidates' campaigning techniques and the slanderous trash talking that goes on. TV coverage is tabloid-like, with news sources such as Nippon News Network using comical graphics and music, and detailing all the small, emotional comments made by the candidates just as they would a Hollywood star. As opposed to print media, which sticks to primary results and the latest emotional appeal made by the candidates, television news sources do, however, touch briefly on issues such as which candidate is best for Japan and the importing of US beef, along with a few words on race and gender issues.
The media seems to favor some candidates over others, with AFPBB News describing Obama as being "popular and having a polite manner like a university professor," and peppering Hillary's bold and brash comments with the Japanese feminine particle "wa." Amongst all the buzz of the primaries, one would begin to wonder what happened to the Republican party. John McCain's appearances in the Japanese media are few and far between, popping up occasionally with discussions of the US presence in Iraq and the hot issue of the subprime loan crisis. In general, the media either tends to ignore the Republican party altogether or focuses on it's lack of popularity, inadvertently giving the impression that the next administration will undoubtedly be Democrat.
Regardless of which party or candidate the media focuses on, however, it is clear that the US election has made politics into a form of entertainment. And in Japan, where politics tends to be boring and the general population is disinterested, pulling this kind of political action into the limelight and making it accessible, and interesting to watch, is an achievement in itself.
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