Last week, Shōnen Magazine (2007/45) broke the news that bikini idol Hoshino Aki intended to run for election as a member of the Japan ☆ Idol Party (日本☆アイドル党公認). The Shōnen Magazine headline — “What? Aki-chan’s standing for election?!” — was typically disingenuous but reflected the very real shock that many commentators felt upon hearing the news. Details of Hoshino and the J☆IP’s platform remain sketchy, but here we try to make sense of the practical political implications of her four immediately-announced campaign promises.
1. FOREIGN POLICY
“I will make everyone smile by appearing in my bathing suit.”
Japan urgently needs to build stronger, friendlier ties with its Asian neighbors. Hoshino proposes a strategy of overcoming the nation’s negative image with sheer eroticism, and her stern commitment to wearing bathing suits over the last few years suggests a feasibility to enacting this measure.
Nevertheless, it seems unrealistic to expect other nations to complacently make goo-goo eyes at Japan’s elected representatives, swimwear or no, and in any case, Hoshino has yet to propose any concrete steps for forging this hypothetical goodwill into lasting political and economic cooperation.
“I will replace summer homework with collecting Hoshino Aki trading cards.”
This idea is so obviously misguided that it is difficult to believe that she means it seriously. Encouraging entrepreneurial spirit in the next generation is vital for the nation’s post-industrial future, but a solid grounding in basic subjects should come first. Japanese children are already falling behind India’s in key areas such as mathematics, writing illustrated diaries, and using old-fashioned butterfly nets to catch stag beetles.
Hoshino claims she just wants to be loved by everybody, and this measure smacks of a weak attempt to placate this particular magazine’s target demographic. But why make such glib remarks when a wider audience could be paying attention? Shōnen Magazine‘s core readership cohort is not just shrinking: they lack the legal right to vote. Her strategists should have avoided the issue altogether.
The intention for broad appeal may be innocent in principle, but a long campaign among these lines may be interpreted internationally as an attempt to institute a somewhat sinister and dangerous personality cult within the Japanese political sphere, ultimately undermining any goodwill Hoshino may accumulate via previously-emphasized swimwear activities.
3. STRUCTURAL REFORM
“After winning this election, I will attend the Diet in a bikini.”
Japan’s officially democratic system of government has ossified to an alarming degree, and everyone agrees that reform is necessary across the board. This proposal, however, addresses only the most superficial of the issues — quite literally.
Note also that this pledge follows logically from her first campaign promise. Is Hoshino’s platform really so vacuous that it must be filled out with repetition?
4. SOCIAL SECURITY
“I will receive my pension earlier than any other idol.”
An idol intentionally drawing attention to her advancing age and intention to live off the public purse as soon as possible is, in a word, eccentric. Hoshino may have meant to signal a commitment both personal and political to ensuring that Japan’s social security system remains solvent and meaningful into the future, but there is a real danger that voters will perceive the statement as grasping and selfish. The danger is especially acute given the stark contrast with the naked populism of the rest of her platform.