Rather than churn out yet another hand-wringing column about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's impressive ability to annoy progressive intellectuals by repeatedly winning elections, I thought I would write about the significance of something else that happened at last month's polls: retention elections for seven of Japan's 15 Supreme Court judges.

It's a little-known fact that as well as deciding who will represent them in the Diet (and which single-seat losers will join them courtesy of proportional representation), voters are also empowered to choose whether certain judges at Japan's top court keep their jobs.

Ready? Here is what was significant about those contests: nothing. They take place because of constitutional requirements but became empty formalities long ago.