“Elections are exciting!” proclaims “election visualist” Garei Zamamiya in an interview with Weekly Playboy (June 20). A lot of people will be surprised to hear that. If Japanese election campaigns were as exciting as they are noisy, it would be a different story, but everyone knows they’re not, with debate dumbed down to imbecility and outcomes largely foregone conclusions. Zamamiya may have a point, however, with reference to the Upper House election slated for July 10. Two factors set it apart. One is a question of some urgency: Will the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe procure a two-thirds majority enabling it to revise the Constitution?
The second factor is the first-time participation of the youngest voters in Japanese history. Eighteen- and 19-year-olds have been given the vote. There are 2.4 million of them. Will they change anything? If so, how? There’s no telling. No Japanese younger than 20 has ever voted before.
Zamamiya, 39, cites a recent NHK survey showing 49% of these new voters feeling “uneasy about voting.” They don’t think they know enough about politics. Zamamiya is reassuring. “Don’t worry,” he says, “most adults don’t know anything either.” It’s more than a laugh line. “How should they know? Japanese schools teach absolutely nothing about elections.”