The Dec. 14 national election was personally significant for me because, for the first time in my life, I voted. A bittersweet experience it was. I happened to be on a short-term sabbatical in Japan when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for the snap election. During the weeks leading up to it, I collected fliers, pored through local newspapers for candidate profiles, and debated with family and friends. Through the process, I learned that, despite the general disillusionment with Japanese politics, everybody had an opinion, one way or another. After some reflection, I walked to the local school on a crisp Sunday morning to cast my vote. I’m in my early 40s.

There’s never a good excuse for not voting. It’s an obligation for those lucky enough to live in a democracy. But it was the fortunate fact that I was able to vote domestically, rather than from abroad, that made the difference this time.

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