Shaking Up Japanese Politics? He Is Up For It

by Chikashi


Rowland and I have known each other since we had green stuff hanging from our nostrils. Now, he is running for a seat in the upper house of the National Diet. To say that I am surprised about him entering politics would be the understatement of the year. Upon reflection, it is actually not surprising that he is a Tokyo district candidate for the four-year old, centre-right Your Party. I do not really like discussing politics, but the Japanese political / legislative scene has been stuck in second gear for about 15 years. It could use a bit of shaking up. Well, lots of shaking, actually. Rowly is not the sort that is shy about stirring things up.

Because Japan has very little natural resources, the country has been very reliant on imported fuel. In order to make up for this deficiency, Japan has had nuclear power plants operating for a very long time. Nuclear power has always been controversial in Japan, but things came to a head when an earthquake and a tsunami hit northeastern Japan in 2011. The debate about nuclear power has always been more emotive than practical in the sense that a robust, informed dialogue has been, well, as scarce as natural sources of fuel. Rowly is prepared to address the issue without mincing words. Every solution or alternative will have associated costs, but what is required is to assess each of the solutions and alternatives in a frank and informed manner.

Similarly, he is prepared to address tough issues that most politicians would consider too polarising.

This being politics, there is bound to be some dirt-digging. I hate to disappoint, but the worst thing I have on Rowly is he and I sitting at Caffe Dante in Greenwich Village, washing down a toasted prosciutto and cheese sandwich with espressos and cigarettes, or chewing on some greasy fabulousness and a thick Bloody Mary at Florent in the meatpacking district, nursing our hangover mid-day after yet another evening (morning) at Nell’s. (I heard Nell moved back to Oz?) And, we may not have been of legal drinking age according to local law. Absolutely scandalous…

In 2007, Rowly completed the Dakar Rally on a motorbike. Not just participated, COMPLETED. On the first attempt. If you know anything about Dakar, then you would know what that means. So, if you want determination and commitment, there you have them. I hope he gets elected and shakes things up a bit. It ought to be interesting.

From the Dakar 2007 web site:

Rowland Kirishima had intended to wait for his 40th birthday to take part in the Dakar. Caught by the passion and worried he might get injured, the Japanese from a Scottish father decided to come to the rally a bit earlier than that: “I just couldn’t wait any longer.” So it’s on a Yamaha 450cc that this racetrack biker embarked upon the journey to Lac Rose. A painful first time… At the Ayoun El Atrous bivouac, he admits: “I must be the biker who fell the most of the whole Dakar.”

Before the mythical rally, Rowland prepared himself participating e.g. in the Pharaohs Rally of Egypt where he finished at a very honorable 28th place: “But the Pharaohs is a walk in the park compared to the Dakar. I didn’t know it would be that hard; it’s constant agony. There is no time to catch your breath.”

In the stage between Atar and Tichit, Kirishima lived in hell and kept pushing his limits further. “I think I fell about 20 times in the first 50 km. I then drove at night with the broom truck right in my tail. The organizers wanted me to withdraw; they told me to stop for a few minutes to catch my breath… I kept going. And in the last 10 km I fell about 20 times again in the middle of the night. On top of that, I had no more headlight due to a battery problem. I was just driving with my front sidelamp.” The day after this apocalyptic stage, this professional photographer, suffering from a leg injury, did not dare go to the medical tent fearing they might force him to withdraw…

Lessons in courage are many on the Dakar particularly in the bikers’ family. Rowland Kirishima adds a bit of chance to his courage: the chance of the Atar stage being shortened due to low visibility or even the one of not having had to drive to Timbuktu. With a great smile, he adds: “at any rate, I’m getting my money’s worth!”