JIN-413 -- Viva la status quo!

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on Japan's culture, economy and society
Issue No. 413 Wednesday May 9, 2007 TOKYO

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Viva la status quo!

The senryu is a satirical verse form popular in Japan today.
It shares with haiku a construction of three lines of 5-7-5
syllables, but does not require a season word, for it
lampoons daily life rather than comments on nature.

Below, for their insights into Japanese thinking, I offer
translations of contributions selected by Kujin Nishiki for
the Asahi Shimbun's senryu column.

'Beranda ni iwashi mitai na koinobori'
From verandas fly carp no bigger than sardines.

--- Tetsuya Yoshida, Chigasaki

Families with boys hoist colorful carp-shaped streamers,
'koi-nobori,' on Children's Day (May 5). The custom embodies
parent's hope their sons will grow strong like carp, which
swim upstream. In the countryside out-sized koi flags
flutter from poles or rooftops, the largest for the eldest
son, the smallest for the youngest.

A result of the ongoing centripetal migration of Japanese
from provinces to cities is the growing number of people who
live in apartment complexes. Apartment dwellers fly
considerably diminished streamers from verandahs. Our
satirist looks up at an apartment building and sees a school
of sardines.

- - -

'Ogata renkyu futokoro kogata'
Big holiday, small pockets.
-- Akimichi Watanabe, Shizuoka

Children's Day is part of Golden Week, the holiday-studded
stretch in late April and early May. 'Golden Week' is an
English-sounding word of Japanese invention, eschewed, I am
told, by quasi-governmental NHK (the Japan Broadcasting
Network), a de facto arbiter of correct usage. What the
newspapers, and most Japanese refer to as 'Golden Week,'
NHK describes as 'ogata renkyu,' literally, 'successive
holidays on a large scale.'

This is the word used by the senryu writer. His wit turns
on the contrast between 'ogata' (large size) and 'kogata'
(small size). Prices spike, highways jam, and trains
overflow during Golden Week. This welcome respite is best
spent tossing a Frisbee in the park or watching a ballgame
with a cold one.

- - -

'Kohochi no risuto ni agaranu hibaku toshi'
Absent from the list of candidate sites - A-bombed cities
-- Rika Shimada, Anan

PM Abe announced on April 23 Japan will host next year's
G-8 summit at Lake Toya, a hot spring resort on Hokkaido,
northernmost of the main islands. The other candidate sites
were Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo prefectures ('Kansai summit'),
Yokohama and Niigata ('port city summit'), and Okayama and
Kagawa prefectures ('Inland Sea summit').

'Hokkaido is full of nature, and I think the environment
issue will be a major agenda for next year's summit,'
explained Abe at a press conference. 'It's also an
appropriate location to show off Japan's beauty to the world.'
Our versifier would have preferred Hiroshima or Nagasaki,
with their peace parks and memorials, to have been the
cynosure of the globe during the 2008 summit.

Four of the G-8 are 'nuclear weapons states.' The US is
presently fighting two wars. The Abe administration is
noted for its hawkish views including a drive to revise the
Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9. The choice of an
A-bomb-vaporized city would, in the writer's mind, have been
a repudiation of the bellicose zeitgeist.

But no way would the Abe administration have chosen
Hiroshima or Nagasaki, as either city would have proven a
lightening rod for peacenicks anti-globalization activists.
The zeitgeist demands hermetic security.

- - -

'Nihon demo shusho wa senkyo de erabitai'
In Japan we also want to choose the prime minister.

-- Sujin Miyazawa, Odawara

Under Japan's system of government, the prime minister is
chosen by the Diet. This means, in practice, the prime
minister has been chosen by the largest party, nearly always
the Liberal Democrats; in other words, the PM is the LDP
party president. This system has yielded such figures as the
scandal-sunk Noboru Takeshita, the geisha-smitten Uno
Sosuke, warmed-over pizza Keizo Obuchi, and the buffoonish
Yoshiro Mori.

After observing the French choice of Nicolas Sarkozy to
succeed Jacques Chirac as president of France, the senryu
writer wishes the Japanese could also choose their country's
top leader.

Several acquaintances of mine remark that given the choice,
the people would choose the hawkish Tokyo Governor Shintaro

Viva la status quo!

-- Burritt Sabin

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