Tokyo Notes

Hatoyama’s Naked Dance

What connects Yukio Hatoyama, Youtube, Okinawa and a naked dance with each other?

Yukio Hatoyama has finally spoken out about the recent events that ended in his resignation, days after the inauguration of his successor as prime minister, Naoto Kan.

But he chose not to speak on TV, or to a magazine or to a newspaper. Instead, he chose Twitter. Who was he Tweeting to? To the nation and to his ‘followers’ (although not just followers in the conventional Twitter sense).

And what did he say after his brief but total silence since stepping down earlier this month? Roughly translated, he said:

‘Now the “new public” appears to have a life of its own. I thank all those who allowed me to do the naked dance. I also would like to thank all those who followed after my naked dance. This amazing power of propagation will definitely change our world.’

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Naked dance, or hadaka odori, means makinga fool of oneself in public. So what did he mean by saying that here? Many of his Twitter followers were puzzled, and asked him what exactly he meant by ‘naked dance’.

The following day Hatoyama Tweeted again, this time with a link to a YouTube video presented by young music industry entrepreneur Derek Sivers who outlines how one ‘lone nut’ can start a movement with a single follower. Hatoyama accompanied the link with the words:

‘This video is the answer to the mystery of the “naked dance”. This is the idea of the “new public” where the entire nation takes responsibility in leading public affairs. With this in mind, I'd like to continue dancing like the young guy in this video.’

Not everyone was convinced—several commentators speculated openly on Twitter that Hatoyama was just playing the fool presenting this video, and that he must have a hidden agenda behind his apparent act of 'loopiness.'

Sivers says in the video that: ‘The first follower is what transforms a 'lone nut' into a leader.’

Did this apply to Hatoyama? Many at the time, including myself, thought such an idea was just wishful thinking on the issue of the relocation of the Futenma Air Station, and that Hatoyama would simply succumb to internal and external pressure to accept the original agreement with the United States. And he did.

On Wednesday, a Mainichi Shimbun article entitled ‘The Reporter's Eye – Kisha No Me’ reported in detail on what was being said by the Democratic Party of Japan’s two departing leaders–Secretary General Ozawa and Prime Minister Hatoyama—as their administration drew to a close.

According to the article, on the day the new prime minister was being selected, Ozawa tapped Rep. Hiroshi Kawauchi on the shoulder inthe Lower House chamber and whispered: ‘So you've been to Saipan? I'd like to sit down with you and hear more about it.’

Following this, Hatoyama is reported to have said to Kawauchi as he returned to his seat: ‘I think the answer is Tinian (one of the Mariana Islands) after all.’

As he recalls these comments, Kawauchi is reported to have sensed Hatoyama’s regret over not being able to change the traditional US-dependent security posture. These are encouraging words for those who hoped for something different than the current agreement over Okinawa.

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But although the United States has what it originally wanted, it will still need to tread carefully. If the intent of the new Japanese government is indeed to follow through with the original agreement, Hatoyama’s naked dance may actually have succeeded in instilling some resentment nationwide among Japanese about the plan.

The interests of the Okinawan people have become the interest of the entire nation, and their demands are clear and simple: respect our sovereign rights, or no deal.

In practice, this would mean that if the United States can’t follow through with its May 28 commitment to ‘appropriately consider factors such as safety, operational requirements, noise impact, environmental concerns, and effects on the local community’, then no deal.

In other words, the marines at the Futenma Air Station would be forced to transfer off the island of Okinawa, and Japanese sovereign territory altogether if the US government doesn’t commit to improving safety standards and show due regard to the local environment. This would mean the Status of Force Agreement would also have to be amended.

So, it seems, hope hasn’t been crushed after all.