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Politics meets porn in Japan

Sex-industry reporters? Topless lawmakers? A new day has, indeed, arrived in Tokyo's Diet.

On the left, Eriko Fukuda, 28, of Nagasaki, a former activist who sued the government after contracting hepatitis C from a tainted blood transfusion. On the right, Mieko Tanaka, 33, of Ishikawa, who once worked as a sex-industry reporter and appeared in provocative costumes in a magazine photo spread and appeared topless in an erotic movie.

NAGOYA, Japan — When Kayoko Isogai got the call from high-ranking officials at the Democratic Party of Japan asking her to stand for a seat in the national parliament, she was shocked.

It was just two weeks before the Aug. 30 election; she had spent most of the previous five years unemployed and taking care of her terminally ill parents; and she had no political or governing experience whatsoever.

“Impossible, impossible, impossible, impossible, impossible,” Isogai said recently, recalling her reaction to the offer. “I said it five times.”

But Isogai, 43, reconsidered and put her name on the DPJ ticket. Then, she watched in surprise as the party’s historic, landslide victory over the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party swept her into the House of Representatives of the Japanese Diet.

This rags-to-riches story seems like the kind of Horatio Alger-styled tale that would symbolize the DPJ’s rise to power, which was predicated on a promise to break the LDP’s incestuous old-boys network long viewed as an impediment to reform. Since the election, however, Isogai has instead come to symbolize a dispiriting, business-as-usual picture of the new administration: She has been held up as an example of the DPJ’s cynical use of unqualified female candidates who helped broaden the party’s appeal to voters, but who likely will not play a significant policy-making role.

Learn about the Seijin No Hi celebration (e.g. Coming of Age Day) for Japanese women. 

Japanese reporters and political commentators have dubbed the DPJ’s 26 new female Diet members, many of them young and attractive, the “Ozawa girls” after former party boss Ichiro Ozawa, mastermind of the campaign strategy. In addition to Isogai, the group includes a former sex-industry reporter who has appeared in a provocative photo spread and an erotic movie; a pretty former television reporter; and a 28-year-old activist who gained celebrity after leading a well-publicized legal battle against the government after contracting hepatitis C from a tainted blood transfusion.

(In the YouTube clip below, new DPJ member Mieko Tanaka stars in the erotic horror film "Blind Beast v. Killer Dwarf")

“I do not think the DPJ made a serious effort to recruit qualified women. They just wanted to have some kind of flowers,” said Kumiko Shindo, a professor of gender studies at Toyo Eiwa University. “They will never let them into decision-making or put them in important positions.”

DPJ leaders scoff at the suggestion that the women were mere pawns, noting it is simplistic to lump them together when they have diverse resumes.

Kuniko Tanioka, a former university president who won a DPJ seat in the Diet’s upper house in 2007, helped Ozawa recruit and train the female candidates by distributing a campaign “survival guide” based on the experiences of other women legislators. Tanioka, 55, acknowledged that Ozawa’s election strategy was predicated on growing the party by appealing to constituencies, such as women, which had traditionally shunned the DPJ. “The party had been very male-oriented, very heirarchical,” Tanioka said. “When Ozawa became premier, he decided to alter it. … The DPJ tried to recruit women candidates from local politicians. We had a series of seminars for women legislators from local areas.”

Tanioka and her female colleagues made caravans across the country to coach women candidates on such things as dress code (one woman was reprimanded for wearing flashy purple shoes), speaking style (use simple slogans that passersby could easily understand), and etiquette (emotional bursts, such as crying, should be kept out of public view).

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/japan/091001/politics-meets-porn-Japan