I met Joe Biden in the basement of the Marengo Public Library – the smallest library in America funded by turn-of-the-20th-century steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. Months before Biden’s arrival in the small Iowa town, the red-brick building completed a massive renovation. I had taken pictures of local schoolchildren forming a human chain across town, passing books from one tiny hand to another before placing them on the wooden shelves handmade by a local carpenter.
Biden was a Delaware senator at the time. I was editor of the Marengo Pioneer-Republican newspaper (circulation 1,800). Iowa is the first primary state in the US presidential election, meaning one year before the actual election the rural state in the American heartland becomes center of the universe as every mom and pop diner, every pork association barbecue and every basement teems with wannabe presidential candidates.
I met a thrice-divorced doctor from California running solely on the platform of more rights for divorced dads. I met John Edwards, as well as his lovely wife who was dying of cancer, a few weeks before his career nosedived after it was revealed that he impregnated his campaign team’s videographer. I interviewed then-Illinois senator Barack Obama in the back of a festival barn in the Amana Colonies.
Before I met Biden in that library basement his aides warned me that the senator talks a lot, and they might have to cut our interview short so they could hustle him to the next appointment. Biden was scheduled to talk for one hour. He stayed in that basement for two hours to make sure he answered every question. Heck, I didn’t even ask him a question. He just stood there, shook my hand, and talked until he was drug out by the elbow like my 3-year-old from the toy store’s Anpanman section.
Biden was the only candidate who didn’t evade questions. He addressed every topic, explained the background of the issue, explained his opinion on the issue, and told what he was going to do to fix the issue. Whether it was a good circus act or not, he appeared to genuinely care about the well-being of everyone in that library meeting room.
I never met Donald Trump.
A Few Hare-brained Ideas about How the US Presidential Election Will Affect Japan
Four more years of Trump will change little for Japan. Economy will come first. America’s crackdown on China’s trade will continue to benefit Japan. Prime Minister Suga’s promise to eradicate Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 can remain just that – a promise akin to Abe’s failed womenomics policy.
Under Biden, Japan will likely retake backseat to China for America’s affections. Biden has possible intentions to rejoin, or renegotiate, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the massive trade deal negotiated by the Obama Administration that was abandoned by Trump (as well as a good number of Democrats).
What is not going away any time soon is Covid-19.
The other day while strolling through Shinjuku Gyoen, I saw two giggling toddlers chase each other about the red and orange leaves strewn beneath the sakura trees. A studious pair of ladies in brimmed khaki and mauve hats perched beside the pond, painting the tranquil landscape. Couples lazed about on picnic mats, a modern pastel scene of Manet’s “Sunday Afternoon.”
Only rather than carrying parasols, everyone was wearing a face mask. Bottles of hand sanitizer stood sentient at each entrance gate of the park. This is today’s Tokyo, and it looks to be like this for the foreseeable future.
Clear plastic sheets shield us from convenient store clerks, forcing us to push bills of yen underneath like a lawyer passing notes to a jailed client.
Who knows when international tourists will return, but for now the national government is encouraging Japan residents to travel within Japan with reckless abandon.
To Live or Not to Live in Tokyo – that is the Question
In June, Tokyo’s population exceeded 14 million for the first time. In August, Tokyo saw a net decrease of 1,459 residents – the first monthly decrease in seven years. Japan’s hotbed for Covid (Tokyo has 30% of Japan’s confirmed cases) is not the enticing place to buy a dream home that it once was.
As people are finding they prefer to work remotely from the Tokyo suburbs, new modes of business have become necessary.
I had the privilege of sitting on a panel for the Japan Writers Conference with three other Tokyo-based editors. Rather than take the early train to Kanazawa, I sat in a tiny chair in my kids’ playroom sipping on coffee out of a Toy Story mug all the while berating wannabe freelance writers over Zoom not to send me their university thesis as a writing sample.
Earlier this month Globis University hosted the 10th G1 Global Conference online, allowing guests to learn from the world’s top business and industry leaders from our pajamas. Last spring I attended CWAJ’s annual scholarship ceremony while hiding from my screaming children in my bedroom.
It was amazing to see 157 women Zooming in from all over the world with no glitches. It’s not just the young who are able to adapt to new technology. There is hope for the future from all generations.
Here at Tokyo Weekender we are doing our best to meet our community’s daily needs via the TW website by providing necessary Covid-19 updates and important information about the government’s Go To Travel campaign.
We have also taken our TW entertainment online, showcasing Tokyo-based musicians on TW Live House, livestreaming a hanko workshop demonstration and hosting an exclusive invite-only online makeover led by none other than TW cover star Kodo Nishimura.
Like Joe Biden in that Iowa library basement, I can keep going on. The year 2020 is far from over. Here at Tokyo Weekender we will put politics aside and make the most of our time in the greatest city on Earth.
Feature image by Visuals6x / Shutterstock.com