Plucked from obscurity by the ruling political machine, Kazuhiko Yamauchi runs for city council in Kawasaki. Welcome to democracy -- Japanese style. Peabody Award winner. (PBS)

With no previous political experience, no supporters and no platform, Kazuhiko Yamauchi was hand-picked by Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDC) to run for a key city council seat in Kawasaki in 2005.

The most conservative of Japan’s political parties, the LDC has been the country’s ruling party for 50 years almost without interruption. Criticized for running insiders, the LDC chose the unknown Yamauchi and bolstered him up with a heavyweight campaign team.

PBS’s P.O.V. documentary provides a fascinating insight into Japanese elections and culture. Filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda chose to make an “observational film” as he followed Yamauchi on the campaign trail for 12 days.

Without interviews or narration, Soda captures Yamauchi stumping for votes around the city, in private conversations with his wife (an independent career woman forced to be called “housewife” during the campaign) and obsequiously taking advice from party elders about everything from proper handshake etiquette to how to stand, bow and dress.

In sharp contrast to American politicians who are expected to possess confidence and superior knowledge, Japanese candidates are expected to be humble and modest. Likeable Yamauchi fits the bill perfectly and is seen earnestly pursuing the time-honored Japanese campaign practice of bowing to everybody throughout the film.

This film won a 2008 Peabody Award. It is presented in Japanese with subtitles.


Length: 55:00

Directed, Produced, Shot and Edited by Kazuhiro Soda