Businesses reflect election jitters

From restaurants to flower shops, retailers keep close watch on timing of Diet dissolution

Kyodo News

Prime Minister Taro Aso’s wavering on when he might call a general election and increasing speculation about a possible date are leaving many people in suspense, especially those whose businesses depend on politics.

The concerns range from a chef near the Diet, to florists and publishers of politics-related books.

Aso, who took up his post late last month, was initially expected to dissolve the Lower House and call a general election late this month or in early November, hoping his new Cabinet would boost the popularity of the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition.

But the Cabinet is getting less than stellar ratings in opinion polls, and Aso is now looking to delay the long-expected dissolution.

“This is our restaurant’s best-known meal, so we can’t drop it from the menu. But what if the political forces in the Diet change in the election?” worried Hiroshi Tsuchikiri, 52, chief cook at the National Diet Library eatery.

Tsuchikiri created the Diet Rice Bowl, now the most popular of its 40 or so dishes.

Symbolizing the divided Diet, with portions representing the opposition-controlled Upper House and ruling bloc-controlled Lower House, the topping for the dish is equally divided into one half beef and one half curry sauce.

To symbolize voters, a half-raw, half-cooked egg is placed in the center.

The dish, which spread through word of mouth and the Net, sometimes accounts for 20 percent of the restaurant’s daily sales, Tsuchikiri said.

Yoshimi Tajima, who runs the flower retailer Kyoei Green Service, sees a big business opportunity amid the political turbulence.

By custom, politicians and their supporters often give expensive orchids to newly elected Diet members and Cabinet appointees.

Orchids usually sell for around ¥30,000 apiece, but two flower shops run by Tajima sold them for around ¥50,000 right after Aso took office.

“In my private view, the frequent changes in prime minister are a problem, but not for flower shops,” he said.