The Japanese tolerance for drunkenness is something you never quite get used to. I mean, I’ve got English, German, and Polish genes in me, so I know how to tie one on–believe me. What I’m talking about is public, undisguised drunkenness, which is a big no-no in the States (at least, everywhere I’ve been).
That Tokyo stress gets to everyone, though, including LDP members of the Diet:
The session [of the House of Representatives on Friday] began its recess at 5 p.m. and reopened just before 9 p.m. Tomoko Abe (Social Democratic Party), who had stood up to argue against voting [to extend the Diet session], looked out over the red faces of several members and spoke. “We should all get out of here right now,” she said, raising her voice. “If this is going to be the ‘Pickled Diet,’ there’s no need to extend the session.”
When Osamu Yoshida (DPJ) got in Ken’ya Akiba’s (LDP) face, Akiba left the chamber immediately after casting his vote, despite the fact that the doors were officially sealed for the session. Subsequently, there was commotion in the chamber.
There’s often commotion in the chamber. (That’s a fact that seems to floor a lot of Westerners schooled to think of Japan as a place where the citizens do everything in neat rows.)
DPJ leader Katsuya Okada censured the Prime Minister:
“Prime Minister Koizumi and former Prime Minister Yoshio Mori were both casting votes red-faced. You’d think they’d understand how to comport themselves during these sorts of proceedings.”
Fingers are being pointed in multiple directions: the DPJ has submitted a motion to the Speaker of the House that Akiba and Mori be disciplined. The LDP is seeking disciplinary action against Yoshida.
I’m a big believer in strict formal behavior on ceremonial occasions, and obviously public service at the level of Diet membership deserves to be performed very respectfully. On the other hand, it doesn’t take much alcohol for a lot of East Asians to turn bright red. I don’t know that I’d be affronted if a bunch of MP’s had one or two servings of liquor over a four-hour period. It’s odd that the opposition party was apparently able to abstain, though.
Added after lunch: Atsushi–safely delivered to me by JAL, thankfully–says that there was at least one DPJ representative who was also looking extra-ruddy at this particular Diet session, so it wasn’t just the LDP.
Added before dinner: Thanks to Dean for linking this. His angle is interesting. I’ve now lived in Japan for a quarter of my life, so I’m used to undisguised curiosity about ethnic characteristics. It can get annoying. Japanese people don’t always apply to foreigners the respect for personal space they use among each other, and I get heartily sick of having my arm hair yanked as if I were a science exhibit. (Being told, “Wow! That’s so sexy!” while it’s happening doesn’t help. Hair is attached, people.) And some of the reasoning is a bit sketchy. I’ve heard all of these multiple times over the years: “Are you sure all your ancestors are northern European? You’re so dark!” (I have no idea where this one comes from. I have green eyes and the skin tone of a dead mackeral’s underbelly; only my hair is brown.) “You can’t be American! Americans are fat!” (Not if they have to pay Tokyo food prices for eight years.) “You can’t be American! You’re so quiet!” (If it makes any difference, my superpower arrogance more than compensates for my lack of volubility.)
It can also get ugly. One frequently hears Koreans blithely characterized as congenitally lazy and stupid, for example. My standard reply is to wonder aloud where all those impressive math/science scores in the ROK and among Korean immigrants in the US come from.
On the whole, though, the sheer frank acknowledgement that there are physical differences in the way people have evolved in various parts of the globe can be refreshing. When the tone is good-natured rather than petty, hearing one Japanese person tell another that he has “a Thai nose” or “Indian eyebrows” is kind of sweet.