FILMS > 10 DOCUMENTARIES > Campaign! The Kawasaki Candidate

About this film:
Producer:   Kazuhiro Soda
Director:   Kazuhiro Soda
Editor:   Kazuhiro Soda
Duration:   complete
Country:   Japan

Can politicians solve climate change?

- Join the debate


Things on this planet are getting warmer, but can politicians take the heat? The nature of political culture differs from one place to the next. For example, in Japan, internal hierarchies often define the political structure, and extensive experience, knowledge and a qualification is a prerequisite to the nature of Japanese politics. But this type of political culture is not prevalent in most democratic states. In terms of climate change, we might argue that the average politician is not necessarily the best informed, although most world leaders agree that it’s a problem. So here’s the hot-button issue: Can or will politicians act radically, intelligently and decisively enough to make a difference? Can democracy solve climate change?


Can a candidate with no political experience and no charisma win an election? Perhaps – if he is backed by the political giant, Prime Minister Koizumi and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). In the fall of 2005, 40-year-old, self-employed Kazuhiko “Yama-san” Yamauchi’s peaceful, humdrum life was turned upside-down when Koizumi’s LDP party chose him at the last moment as its official candidate to run for a vacant seat on the Kawasaki City Council. With zero experience in politics, no charisma, no supporters, and no constituency, Yama-San has one week to prepare for an election critical to the future of the LDP. Adhering to the campaign tactic of “bowing to everybody, even to telephone poles,” Yama-san visits local festivals, senior gatherings, commuter train stations, and even bus stops to offer his hand to everyone he sees. Can he win this heated race? Campaign! The Kawasaki Candidate offers up a microcosm of Japanese democracy.


KAZUHIRO SODA was born and raised in Japan and has lived in New York since 1993. He holds a BFA in Filmmaking from the School of Visual Arts and a BA in Religious Studies from Tokyo University. While still a student, his short fiction film The Flicker (1997) competed for a Silver Lion Award at the Venice International Film Festival in Italy. He has directed numerous fiction films and TV documentaries including Landscape Without Mother (NHK) which won a Telly Award in 2001. Campaign! The Kawasaki Candidate is his first feature documentary.


Traditionally the relationship between a Japanese politician and the voters can be described as that of a patron and his clients. Politicians ran by promising favours to their supporters rather than by running campaigns. Being from a family with a political background also helps, since Japanese society still has a strong sense of tradition and hierarchy. The current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (who recently resigned after a series of scandals) is a prime example. Prime Minister Abe comes from a politically “blue blooded” family with a grandfather and a great uncle that both served as prime minister. His father was a former foreign minister.

Political History
The US bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 are the two single events that most affected Japanese politics in the post-war era. As a result Japan withdrew from the war, gave up its colonies and its army, and focused on developing its economy. In 1947 Japan adopted a new constitution and introduced a more democratic parliamentary system based on the German system with an upper and a lower house. The parliament is called the Diet. The emperor took on a ceremonial role and universal suffrage was introduced.

The Political Scene
The Democratic Party (LDP), which is conservative and business-friendly according to The Economist, has ruled almost uninterruptedly since it was founded in 1955. However, the LDP received little support in the most recent elections for the parliament's upper house, which took place, in July of 2007. For the first time the LDP does not hold the majority. According to political analysts, this was a way for the voters to show their dismay with Abe, his policies, and the political scandals that have followed his government.

The most famous Japanese politician of the past decade is the former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (LDP). Koizumi was in power from 2001 until 2006. He committed to turn around Japan’s economic crisis. Among his measures was to cut government spending and reform the banking system. Filling the space left by Koizumi has proved difficult for Abe.

World Relevance
Koizumi was a radical politician who in many ways wanted to break with the LDP's and Japans political traditions. This may explain part of why in the fall of 2005, the LDP suddenly chose a stamp and coin salesman, a man of the people, as its official candidate to run for a vacant seat on the Kawasaki city council. All over the world we see democracies and especially election campaigns focus around the personal background of the candidates, rather than their political abilities. Campaign takes a look at the formalities that end up shaping election campaigns and ask whether we choose the best or the 'right' man for the job?

Looking Ahead
Japanese elections politics are shaped by traditions and formalities. You have to have your campaign endorsed and blessed. You have to have the right people endorsing it and you have to have the right family structure and the right bow and handshake to even be considered for a policial post. It makes us wonder whether a person with no political background can accomplish anything in politics? Looking ahead how important is it for our society that the people running the country actually knows what they are doing?

Use the html code supplied above to embed this film in your web site.

Campaign! The Kawasaki Candidate online:
News on Japan
Daily news on Japan; business news, internet, economy, stock market, society, politics, technology; a prime source for staying updated on Japan!

3yen Japan News Blog Network
Network of weblogs related to everything Japanese (travel, gadgets, food), and news on Japan in English. Based in Tokyo.

BBC Country Profile: Japan
Learn more about Japan and the political and economic context for the movie

In Japan, A Disconnected Democracy - Norimitsu Onishi, The New York Times

Review - Austin Chronicle, SXSW Blog, Spencer Parsons

Review - Derek Elley,

Official CAMPAIGN website
Official CAMPAIGN website

Interview with director Kazuhiro Soda -
Interview with director Kazuhiro Soda - Linear Reflections Magazine

Campaign blog

Bloody Cartoons
Freedom of expression is a democratic principle: does this mean ‘limitless freedom’, and at what cost...
More Info
Dinner with the President
Filmmakers Sabiha Sumar and Sachithanandam Sathananthan ask what democracy means in Pakistan...
More Info
Egypt: We Are Watching You
After 24 years of leadership under President Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, Egypt is a nation on the brink of change...
More Info
For God, Tsar and the Fatherland
Sixteen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the phrase ‘managed democracy’ describes the state of Russian politics...
More Info
In Search of Gandhi
What kind of democracy does India have today?
More Info
Iron Ladies of Liberia
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first ever freely elected female head of state in Africa. How does she lead Liberia...
More Info
Looking for the Revolution
Ché Guevara died in Bolivia trying to bring revolution to South America. Forty years later...
More Info
Please Vote for Me
In an elementary school in the city of Wuhan in central China, eight-year old children compete for the position of Class Monitor...
More Info
Taxi to the Dark Side
The US government has developed what appears to be a policy of using torture while at the same time...
More Info

Fearless Interactive Media