When Shintaro Ishihara announced on Oct. 25 that he was resigning as governor of Tokyo so that he could form a new political party before the next general election, some of the dailies printed gōgai (extra editions) to report it, thus indicating it was really big news that everybody needed to know about right away. But these days you have to wonder how effective it is handing out free newspapers on street corners for the purpose of relaying a breaking story. By the time the broadsheets were distributed most citizens had already read about it on their smartphones.

The gōgai treatment was mostly symbolic. Last week on TV Asahi’s political variety show “TV Tackle” pundits and politicians discussed Ishihara’s move, and someone remarked that journalists seem overly grateful for the story. Since early summer, mainstream media have been obsessing over another right-wing politician, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, and his own newly formed political party, since it was believed voters were enamored of his plain-talking pugnacious style, which is somewhat similar to Ishihara’s. But that belief proved to be premature, and the media have backed away from Hashimoto as they’ve come to realize people aren’t as enamored as they thought. With Ichiro Ozawa in the doghouse and national politics going through a puzzling rerun phase now that disgraced former prime minister Shinzo Abe is back at the helm of the Liberal Democratic Party, the political press doesn’t know what to do, so Ishihara’s announcement was like a gift from heaven.

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