On November 7th, the news of President Barack Obama’s re-election spread like wildfire over Japan.
While the American presidential election is always news on television and in the papers, this one, especially, captured the attention of the Japanese media and the general public.
Although there are probably several reasons this election has garnered more attention than than elections past, the biggest factor is probably the rise in number of Japanese wondering “How will American policy will address the recent intensification in territorial disputes between China and Japan following the election?”
Until last year, Japanese interest related to the election was more economically-oriented, with people focusing on questions like “What impact will the election have on Japan economically?” Because of this, it was not something the average Japanese felt had a very direct impact their lives. However, the current territorial dispute between Japan and China is a source of national anxiety for Japan. It’s probably no overstatement to say that the recent row over the Senkaku Islands was this year’s biggest news.
The result of the American election is recognized as not only having an impact on Japanese security, but on the future of Japan-China relations as well. It is only natural that it grabbed the attention of so many Japanese who are worried about the future of Japan.
Here are some posts from a major Japanese web forum immediately after the news:
- “Noda: Congratulations on your re-election!
Obama: …Who are you again?”
- “Japan should have general elections for prime minister like America.”
- “Awww…Romney was just trying to manhandle the world…”
- “Easy victory. I thought it was going to come down to the very end, though, but…”
- “Romney made too many gaffes.”
- “Congratulations, Obama ＼(^o^)／”
- “I don’t care – whoever”
- “Next are the appointments. Will the Secretary of State be pro-Japanese or pro-China? That’s what matters.”
- “I knew it…Now to see how the relationship between Japan, America, and China plays out…”
- “Whatever you may say, it turns out Americans are actually clever. It’s not a country that changes the administration with every election [like Japan].”
- “What would have been better for Japan, Obama or Romney?”
- “If it’s not a good person for America, it’s also no good for Japan. (When America sneezes Japan catches a cold.)”
- “Uhh…yeah…USA! USA!”
- “Democrat or Republican, they may have different approaches, but, whoever is elected, at least they work for their country. I’m jealous…”
All of the attention the election garnered was not due exclusively to the dangerous relationship between Japan and China described above. There are a growing number of people that are just purely interested in how the election will turn out.
Everything that Obama and Romney did was reported on in minute detail on news sites and discussed in web forums and Twitter in Japan – especially on the popular Japanese video site, Nico NIco Douga, which had a sixteen-hour live program, The American Presidential Election: Obama vs. Romney. The special broadcast was viewed by 260,000 users and there were more than 250,000 comments posted. Towards the end of the broadcast, the American ambassador to Japan made a surprise appearance and the program closed with great excitement.
The atmosphere surrounding this year’s presidential election is similar to what you would find at a Japanese festival. For the festival-loving Japanese public, this is as good an excuse as any to get excited.