Abe not laughing after online stunt pokes fun at snap election call


Staff Writer

An online stunt by a student activist poking fun at the administration for calling a snap election has drawn sharp criticism from the prime minister.

Yamato Aoki, 20, set up a website purporting to be run by a 10-year-old boy, which he used to ask faux-naive questions about the government’s actions and performance.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe weighed in on the stunt Tuesday, saying in a Facebook post that Aoki’s feigning of childlike innocence was “despicable.”

“I hope his deed is not part of some organized attempt to manipulate public opinion against me ahead of the election,” the post said.

The now defunct website was purported to be run by a schoolboy named Nakamura and was peppered with classroom-themed graphics. Titled Doshite Kaisan Surundesuka? (Why Dissolution?), it lampooned in child-speak everything from Abe’s money-pumping “Abenomics” policies to his sudden decision to call a snap election and his controversial state secrecy law.

“Hello, Mr. Prime Minister,” it said. “Your so-called ‘Abenomics’ policy — wasn’t it supposed to increase the nation’s money? My allowance isn’t getting any bigger.

“Why an election now? Oh, is that a secret too?”

By Saturday, the site had become a darling of Abe’s political foes. The Democratic Party of Japan shared a link to it via the Twitter account for a virtual party mascot and went so far as to call the site’s inventor a “child prodigy.”

DPJ member Renho, who goes by only one name, lauded the website as representative of public bewilderment over Abe’s decision to call an election two years before the terms of Lower House lawmakers were due to expire.

But the website’s suspiciously savvy design and unnaturally childish choice of vocabulary soon triggered an online hunt for the poster’s real identity.

On Saturday night, Aoki, a Keio University student, came forward and apologized on Twitter for deceiving his supporters.

“The so-called ’10-year-old Nakamura’ is me,” he wrote.

He was motivated by a sense of bafflement at Abe’s abrupt move Nov. 18 to dissolve the Lower House, Aoki wrote, adding that he wanted to do something to engage his fellow voters in a political conversation.

“By appearing to be a 10-year-old, I thought many people would be interested in what I’m doing,” he wrote.

Aoki also announced Sunday that he would step down as representative of a nonprofit organization that aims to engage young people in politics.

Abe’s Facebook post late Monday shared a link to a blog post on Hoshu Sokuho (Breaking News for Conservatives), a controversial website that compiles conservative threads from the popular online message board 2channel.

  • Sony

    Abe… you poor little diddums. Point where the naughty Aoki touched you.

  • timefox

    It is not right that it is silent. The prime minister should speak rapidly.

    Freedom of speech is secured in Japan.

    Mr. Aoki should just have spoken as it is, without changing oneself into the fourth grader in an elementary school.

    The Democratic Party which spread this site by the twitter is also mad, knowing that he is not a fourth grader in an elementary school.

    • zer0_0zor0

      He probably should have fictionalized the account, in manga form, maybe, instead of assuming a false identity.

      On the other hand, it seems pretty obvious that the site was a spoof, given the level of sophistication of the irony in the questions.

      The DPJ should offer Aoki a job.

      What was Abe thinking when he said,

      “I hope his deed is not part of some organized attempt to manipulate public opinion against me ahead of the election”.

      What is the purpose of the campaign in the run up to a democratic election in the first place?

      OK, I suppose that the aim of campaigns is to influence, as opposed to “manipulate” public opinion in order to win the election, but to characterize the spoof as “despicable”, etc., seems over the top. “How dare they attempt to influence the voters against my policies in the midst of an election campaign”…

      • FunkyB

        And why is Aoki stepping down from his NPO? Aside from falsifying his identity instead of using a fictionalized account, he was more than successful in getting a conversation going, which was the whole point. Abe needed to have a way better reaction to this.

    • Tony Alderman

      “Freedom of speech is secured in Japan.” Ha! Good joke!

  • Hanten

    I thought Aoki asked some really good questions and having the character of a 10 year old boy ask them was an interesting ploy. It is probably best to have honesty, though, on both sides, Abe’s and Aoki’s.

  • echykr

    LOL Abe got butthurt at being trolled. The said troll Aoki-san ought to have maintained anonymous in order to carry on the trolling bandwagon for the lulz.

  • Bruce Chatwin

    How dare Aoki, a plebe, dare to sully the noble Abe, a scion of the Kishi and Sato clans.

  • Piglet

    I wish Mr Abe had such strong words (“despicable”) against extremist groups (such as Zaitokutai) or occasional racist rants from politicians. For those, Mr Abe keeps silence or uses relatively neutral words like “regrettable”. Double standards…

    • Shiki Byakko

      He is a politician. Of course he fells that something is despicable if it puts him on a bad light. The Extremist groups are many times pro Abe, so of course he is not going to say anything.

    • Eagle

      He might have a good reason for that.

  • Max Erimo

    Great Job Mr. Yamato Aoki. You are a genius. This is a form of satire that obviously is not understood by Japan’s great leader Mr. Abe.
    He is gutless, shows no real leadership and whinges like a baby when attcked. He is crying so hard now, because what was on the sight is all so true. And everybody knows how Japanese governments of any form hate the truth.

  • Squidhead

    I wish more Japanese youth were politically motivated like this.

  • Hella Jiggy

    Lol Japan… sensitive as hell.

  • Eagle

    I think Mr. Abe will soon suffer from another attack of stomach ache and will resign.

  • J.P. Bunny

    Question why your leader does something, and you become despicable. Little Abe kun doesn’t like it when people snigger at him.

  • JSS00

    Abe, THE single worst post-war PM in Japanese history. There is no PM that is worse than Abe.

    Unfortunately, this guy was bashed into oblivion by everyone in Japan for “pretending to be a fourth grader”, INCLUDING the anti-Abe folks. Crazy.

    • MAAP

      You are delusional and irresponsible in the use of your words, and disrespectful to your fellow Japanese “Kikokushijos”. Your arrogance is truly exposed through the statement: “There are no “Western values” (that people take for granted) to hold on to.”

      Well, let me remind you that Japan isn’t a Western nation, therefore there is no need for Japan to uphold western values the way you want to underscore them. However, Japan has done a very good job over the last few decades to maintain “those” values you speak of, and to make them its pillar in today’s society.

      You should read your comments from different articles and put your thoughts together, in some responses you criticize western influence in Japan socio-economic and political life, while in others you underscore those values as necessary to enhance and bettering Japanese society as a whole. Therefore I am confuse, or you must be a relatively young fellow whose head holds many ideas but which lack in substance and order.

      If you speak of starting a new political movement, and hope to identify with your fellow hard-worker Japanese, I advise you to get a job and figure out how to pay your bills first, this will teach you a lesson or two about how society runs and the pains it carries with it. In the mean time, your words are just that; words – and they have been uttered senseless in a public forum, with no practical real solutions to the problems you seem to speak of.

      • JSS00

        Uh, what? I suggest that you shut the hell up and take a chill pill, because you have no idea what you’re talking about. Rofl…

  • Caolan Garret

    Wasn’t this just comedic satire? Sounds like the Japanese need to lighten up when it comes to politics. I know the Japanese don’t make fun of politicians like we do in the west with John Stewart and Colbert, but this is just some website. I think the Japanese have bigger problems than just the economy when a fake interview makes headlines on a website. This is ridiculous.

  • E S

    The student should not be stepping down from the NPO. Instead, he should continue leading the group and encourage youths to think about the political realm in Japan. There is much that needs to be discussed amongst the Japanese population and should not be stopped simply because the PM is afraid to confront what is already known, that he is not popular because of his poor performance.

  • Wrathful

    I think Mr Aoki has a great future ahead of him as long as extreme fringe group doesn’t go after him. Show support for this man.