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)

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all faied
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
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

Welsh Year 6 Teacher required in Barry

£100 - £110 per day + Plus travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Welsh Teacher Year 2 required in Caerphilly

£100 - £105 per day + plus Travel Scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job:...

Year 4 Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work in ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?