Media Mix, March 8, 2020

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about Yoko Tajima. It’s perhaps appropriate that the column is being published on International Women’s Day, though the timing of Tajima’s renaissance is completely coincidental. In truth, she never went away, and her semi-regular appearances on a certain talk show that is exclusively broadcast in the Kansai region mostly stick to the template described in the article. She’s the token feminist who everybody else gets to pile on, though, for the sake of clarity, she’s really the token liberal. This particular show, or, at least its original host, the late Yashiki Takajin, is famous for its reactionary opinions. Of course, in the end, the opinions and political stances of the participants is not important. What’s important is that sparks fly, titillating viewers in the process, and that’s always been Tajima’s strong suit as a TV pundit because she never backs down. Make of that what you will.

But one aspect I didn’t discuss in the column and which should be mentioned in this light is Tajima’s short-lived political career. In 2001 she was elected to the Upper House as a proportional representative of the Social Democratic Party but resigned in the fall of 2002, ostensibly because she didn’t like the SDP’s stance over the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea. However, during the “Session 22” program cited in the column, she said she quit because she had been encouraged by two “bureaucrats” to draft bills related to family issues, and after she submitted them to the Diet the two bureaucrats were transferred overseas, depriving her of institutional support. As a result, no one even read her bills, including people in her own party, so she concluded that the SDP wasn’t for her. She also hinted that she already knew many of the politicians she worked with in the Diet, including those from other parties, quite well through her work as a pundit on “TV Tackle,” and, in actuality, got along with them outside the halls of Nagatacho, but once she was a politician herself they treated her coldly. Ironically, the only person she said who made her feel welcome was the prime minister at the time, Junichiro Koizumi, who was the head of the Liberal Democratic Party, nominally her nemesis. He always took time to talk to her as a colleague and in a friendly manner.

Still, the impression I got from this discussion is that Tajima, in line with her TV image, is mostly impatient when it comes to expressing her views. On TV and in print she says exactly what she wants to say and people can take it or leave it, but in politics she has to work with others to achieve whatever vision she has, and, obviously, she doesn’t have the wherewithal for compromise. Another famous TV personality, the late Kyosen Ohashi, quit his Diet seat for almost the exact same reason. He was used to being in charge on TV, but once in the national assembly he had to compete with other voices, and that’s something he couldn’t tolerate.

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