Filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda was born and raised in Japan. While attending the University of Tokyo, he met and befriended Yamauchi Kazuhiko, or “Yama-san.” Almost twenty years later, Kazuhiro was surprised to find out that his old friend was running for a critical city council seat in the city of Kawasaki as part of the Liberal Democratic Party. Sensing that Yama-san’s campaign might prove interesting, Kazuhiro asked him if he could shoot a film about the process. Five days later, Kazuhiro was in Kawasaki and rolling.
Parts of the Japanese political process in Campaign might seem quite strange and unfamiliar to the American viewer. Yama-san has to repeat his name as often as possible while he goes around the city district, and his wife, Sayuri, has to refer to herself as a “housewife” instead of a “wife” even though she is an independent career woman. Kazuhiro spoke about some of the differences between American and Japanese elections in his filmmaker interview:
In Japanese culture people should not look too proud or confident; if you look too confident people may think that you are arrogant and cannot be trusted. In American culture, on the other hand, political candidates have to look like they know what they’re doing, and they have to act like they are the best. So those differences go a long way to explain why the Japanese election looks so different from an American campaign.
Read more from Kazuhiro Soda’s interview and find out what Yama-san was like in college, and what aspects of the American political process Kauzhiro feels uneasy with.
Do you want to ask Kazuhiro Soda a question? Enter them in the comment field below, and he will select a few and answer them the week of July 28, 2008.