Disgraced politicans come back 'cleansed': Japan's election serves as a ritual purification for figures tainted by corruption as they or their nominees return

THE elections on Sunday acted as a ritual 'purification' for all that was dirty in Japanese politics - at least that is what candidates associated with some of the more egregious corruption scandals in recent history were saying.

The term used is misogi, which means to purify oneself with water at a river, and those politicians who were re-elected interpret their good fortune as proof of 'misogi by democracy'. Such is the Japanese way.

Even Japan's miserably unpopular Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, declared himself chastened by the election result, although for the time being he has refused to resign. With a popularity rating that had fallen to just 6.7 per cent on the eve of the vote, Mr Miyazawa led the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to its first ever loss of a parliamentary majority.

He said yesterday: 'I believe I have to straighten myself up by taking the election's results as an indication of tough public criticism and indignation.'

Politicians in Japan have a long tradition of resigning to take the blame for some impropriety and then popping up several years later proclaiming they have been purified and will dedicate themselves to the voters and to the country. Then along comes another scandal, and the cycle begins again. The idea of a politician's career being finished by a scandal - such as that of Richard Nixon after Watergate or John Profumo after the Christine Keeler affair - is inconceivable in Japan.

Voters proved again that local considerations usually outweigh matters of principle, and turned out in their thousands to elect politicians whose names might have been dragged in the dirt by the Tokyo media, but who are regarded as loveable rogues in their home towns. And the principle of misogi, originally a ritual from the Shinto religion in which people went down to a river to purify themselves with water, had not lost its magic.

Three politicians elected on Sunday were Noboru Takeshita, who was linked with the Recruit and Sagawa scandals; Makiko Tanaka, whose father, Kakuei, was the grandmaster of corrupt money politics in Japan when he was prime minister; and Shomei Yokouchi, who took over the seat of Shin Kanemaru, the former 'godfather' of Japanese politics who was arrested for tax evasion in March.

Mr Takeshita had said repeatedly during his campaign that the election would 'prove' that his record was clean. Tosen shite misogi da ('If I am elected I will be purified'), was his catch cry. There was quite a lot to purify. Mr Takeshita was forced to resign as prime minister in 1989 after the Recruit shares-for-favours scandal, and it has recently been revealed that his election to prime minister in 1987 was assisted by an organised crime syndicate. He has also been linked with the Sagawa political bribery scandal. True to form, he won 105,296 votes on Sunday in his constituency in Shimane prefecture, and topped the poll.

Makiko Tanaka also topped the poll in her constituency. Her father was felled by the Lockheed scandal in 1976, but not before he had given his home area more bullet trains, expressways and other public works than it could use.

Ms Tanaka campaigned largely on the strength of her father's name, and said her victory showed 'the very deep sense of human relationship and solidarity' between her father and the local people.

And in Yamanashi prefecture a newcomer, Shomei Yokouchi, won the seat vacated by the Shin Kanemaru, the former LDP godfather who resigned last year and is to go on trial later this week on charges of massive tax evasion. Mr Kanemaru's strength came from his ability to raise funds from the construction industry in Japan. It should not come as much of a surprise, therefore, that Mr Yokouchi was, until a month ago, a senior bureaucrat with the Ministry of Construction.

Yesterday's graphic illustrating the results of the Japanese election should have contained a credit for the pictures of the party leaders which we obtained from Yomiuri Shimbun. We apologise for this omission.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride