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In the more than three decades I’ve lived here, I have progressed (if that is the right word) from irritation at the oddness of Japanese election campaigns to something like curiosity. How, I once wondered, could anyone choose intelligently among candidates whose “dialogue” with the voters was mostly bowing at train stations and having their names repeated incessantly from moving vans by dulcet-voiced women (whose voices were no longer so dulcet when amped to ear-splitting volume). And when I saw candidates making speeches, with stations again the favored venues, most of their constituents walked by with brisk steps and eyes averted. This was democracy in action?

In 2007, “Senkyo (Campaign),” by U.S.-based documentary filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda, exposed the strangeness of the election process here, with observational footage of subject Kazuhiko Yamauchi, an LDP candidate for Kawasaki city council, hustling doggedly for votes or sucking up to party bigwigs. At the same time, Soda not only highlighted the charmingly eccentric personality of “Yama-san,” but also delivered the sort of uncensored view of party politics not often seen on NHK.

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