What’s Your POV about ‘Campaign’?

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Campaign is a whimsical look at Japanese electoral politics from filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda, whose friend Yamauchi “Yama-San” Kazuhiko is plucked from obscurity by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to run for a critical seat on the Kawasaki city council. Soda films his friend, and along the way, manages to provide a startling insider’s view of Japanese electoral politics.
Yamauchi Kazuhiko seems an unlikely choice to run for office. A newcomer to the city, he has zero political experience, no charisma, no supporters and no time to prepare. According to the candidate, he has never even owner a suit before. What he does have is the institutional power of Japan’s modern version of Tammany Hall pushing him forward. Yamauchi allows his life to be turned upside down by party bosses as he pursues the rituals of Japanese electioneering.

Watching Campaign from an American perspective is fascinating. The similarities and differences between the democratic process in the U.S. and Japan reveal themselves in a myriad of ways. For example, Yama-San calls himself a “parachute” candidate because he moved from Tokyo to Kawasaki to run for the open city council seat. This kind of term exists in American politics as well — in the form of the “carpetbagger” candidate. On the other hand, American candidates are encouraged to always be confident while Yama-San showed a lot of deference to the party elders during the campaign.

Yama-San’s wife, Sayuri, objects to the role that she has to take in the campaign. She is told that she must refer to herself as a “housewife” instead of a “wife” to appeal to the conservative supporters of the LDP. Do you think Sayuri was right to be upset? What roles do candidates’ spouses play in the American political process?

Filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda is also mystified by parts of the American political process. He says that in Japan, “election law prohibits candidates from spending too much money,” and he feels uneasy because in America, “only people who are rich can be elected.” Do you agree with him? Should American politics have more restrictive laws on how much money candidates can spend on their campaigns?

Ruiyan Xu
Ruiyan Xu
Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.
  • http://www.pbs.org/pov Ruiyan

    FOREIGNID: 16825
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  • Mauro Bertoia

    FOREIGNID: 16826
    Loved the film and I completely agree with Mr. Soda’s comments about giving too much information to the viewer and thus rendering him in a passive role.

  • David Ortiz

    FOREIGNID: 16827
    This was a well done documentary that captures the real sense of Japanese Leaders and its citizens in campaign race in Japan.

  • Denise

    FOREIGNID: 16828
    I loved this documentary; I had planed on going to bed bud I was so caught up in all this man was doing for his campaign I couldn’t take my eyes off the subtitles! It was so interesting to me to have an inside look at the electoral process not only in another country but from the point of view of someone coming from outside the district he was running for AND having no experience with campaigning or politics in gereral. I was so intrigued by how open everyone, especially random people on the street, were about giving advice about how Mr. Y. could better campaign. And I think Mrs. Y. took the critisism about wether she should be refered to as “wife” or “housewife” and if she should quit her job or keep it very well, better than I would have for sure. I enjoyed it very much!

  • http://mybookhouse.blogspot.com Ms. Kathy

    FOREIGNID: 16829
    I loved all the unique windows into Japanse culture that this film offered sans explanations. The scene in the beginning of the film where the subway “guards” were gently pushing the people into the subway car in order to make as many people “fit” was particularly wonderful. This film is truely a “documentary”. Best wishes to the Yamauchi family and many thanks to Mr. Soda for making such a fine film!

  • Cris

    FOREIGNID: 16830
    Having lived in Japan at the time the documentary was made and having seen political candidates canvas in the Japanese way, it brought back many memories. Indeed, the Japanese are inscrutable but this documentary offered a great glimpse into Japan and it’s culture. I indeed have a lot of questions that wouldn’t be answered even if the film had a narrator to lead the viewer to one viewpoint or the other. I also concur that Soda’s objective of letting the viewer watch uninterrupted helped the documentary. To me that was the magic of my time in Japan. Watching people engaging in their roles and do their duty in order to go along and get along was always a lesson in motion. Invariably the question would be asked…. “Why?” And invariably the answer would be; “Sore wa joushiki”….(It’s common sense)! I love Japan;-)

  • Cathie

    FOREIGNID: 16831
    One of the politicans that Yama-San met was a woman, which was interesting considering the demand for him to call his wife a “housewife.” Are there many women politicans in Yama-San’s party and in Japanese politics in general?

  • s

    Stuck portrays a one-sided viewpoint of international adoptions that is particularly ill-considered in light of recent journalism that shows a much darker side to international adoption such as adopted children dying of abuse and adopted children being traded on the internet (called disrupting an adoption…if you put in the phrase, you will likely find a few of these vile internet boards). It is not obvious that international adoption is for the good of the children. What would be best for the child is if world powers such as America did not interfere with aggressive economic policy and help ruin economies abroad. We should all be putting efforts into promoting the economic welfare of all countries so children can stay with their biological parents whenever possible.