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2005年8月23日 (火)

Koizumi's twist on the Kabuki double-suicide


Koizumi's twist on the Kabuki double-suicide


In any contest, force of numbers decides the winner. But there is something pathetic about people who scurry around trying to get the numbers up at any price.



The Sept. 11 Lower House election campaign kicks off later this month, and the unfolding political contest is starting to look increasingly like an action-packed drama or a cutthroat power struggle being acted out before the voting public.


I do not mean to be disrespectful to novelist Shotaro Ikenami (1923-1990), but the ongoing "drama" reminds me of the titles of some of his works: "Banken no Heikuro" (Heikuro the watchdog), "Kubi" (The head), "Sakuran" (Derangement), "Abare Okami" (Out-of-control wolf), "Katakiuchi" (Revenge), "Kancho" (Spy), "Butaiura no Otoko" (Backstage man), or "Oni-bozu no Onna" (The fiend-monk's woman).


"Shikaku" (Assassin) is a short story about Toranosuke Kodama, a man who was made to serve the evil head retainer of the lord of the Matsushiro clan in Shinshu (present-day Nagano Prefecture). Toranosuke is ordered to eliminate an emissary, being sent to Edo by another senior retainer, a decent man seeking to reform the clan. Being an assassin is nothing to boast about in public: "Toranosuke smiled wryly, a sad and desolate smile." (From a complete collection of Ikenami's works published by Kodansha.)

Images and words right out of samurai costume dramas, such as "assassin," kunoichi (female ninja) and so on are flying around the political nerve center of Nagatacho as the process of selecting candidates gets under way.

But what is happening there today could not be farther removed from the world depicted by Ikenami, a master at bringing out the pathos and emotional subtleties of ordinary people in feudal Japan.

 刺客とは、表だって胸の張れる存在ではない。「虎之助は苦笑した。淋(さび)しく哀(かな)しい苦笑である」(『完本池波正太郎大成』講談社)。「刺客」のほかに「くノ一」や 「印籠(いんろう)」が飛び交う永田町かいわいは、池波さんが描いた人生の悲哀や機微の世界からは、かなり遠い。

A recent article on the Japanese political situation in the Economist magazine noted that most Kabuki plots look the same to the uninitiated: every story ends with "a double love suicide." But, the article observed, the Kabuki staged by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had a different ending--namely, Koizumi drew the curtain unexpectedly and, out of hatred for legislators who opposed his postal privatization bills, chose the path of "double hate suicide." The article went on to laud the outcome as a rare departure from Japan's political tradition.


Is this situation welcome for Japan? The outcome is to be decided by voters. How this political drama will end--with a "double love suicide" or "double hate suicide"--is really quite irrelevant.


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 19(IHT/Asahi: August 20,2005)


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