2014.10.23 Mitsuko Iwai
Eating politics. Not "food and politics," but "Eating Politics" - an unexpected, edgy name. This is a new EC site launched to introduced political issues surrounding food like TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), whaling, etc. not merely as text, but in a more digestible way, through food. Mr. Ryo Masuzawa, who studies effects of "Internet x Political Participation" as a graduate student at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and other youth in their 20s got together in June to start this website as a pilot program. The website has now kicked into full gear, with monthly sales starting from the 17th of this month.
People who subscribe to this service at 2,980 yen (shipping fees not included) will receive a monthly delivery of the "theme of the month produce/products." Their very first issue, the November issue, will be on gibier or game meat. Overpopulation of deer in hilly and mountainous areas of Japan is causing serious damage to the regions farming activities. In light of this fact, the inaugural issue will feature stew, curry, and hamburger made from deer meat. Subscribers will also receive a report on the subject as well as respective political issues with the products. Mr. Masuzawa, the representative of this organization, explains, "Whether they're eating by themselves or with their friends and family, I hope people will enjoy the food, and also that the food will also get them thinking about political issues."
During his years as an undergrad, Mr. Masuzawa worked as a volunteer for a political campaign in his home prefecture, Nagano, and found that "politics influences many lives," and "although people don't tend to voice their opinions, they do have them, and if given the chance, they will share their thoughts." After he graduated, Mr. Masuzawa began to focus more and more on bringing the Internet and politics together, so he helped launch the "ONE VOICE CAMPAIGN," which helped lift the ban the use of the Internet for election campagins in 2013, and the web service "FIRST STEP," which uses SNSs to encourage people to vote. In the recent Tokyo gubernatorial elections, he worked on the candidate, Kazuma Ieiri's campaign to draft for the first time in Japanese history, a manifesto reflecting opinions from 30,000 tweets.
Through these initiatives, Mr. Masuzawa felt that "movements created on the web can grow rapidly, but because they are far removed from actual experiences, they're often temporary and die down eventually." In order to encourage people to regularly think about politics, he decided to focus on "food." Japanese people are real food enthusiasts. And Mr. Masuzawa had heard often from politicians he's come to know that they don't have many opportunities to promote local produce. Moreover, food is an important, fundamental part of everyone's lives. Although at a glance, food and politics do not seem to be too closely related, he began to think that they were actually very compatible.
The ultimate objective of Eating Politics is to urge the younger generation to take part in politics. Since the end of 2012, the voting rate for the general elections of the House of Representatives among people in their 20s fell to 37.89%, even below the already low rates of the previous generation. Mr. Masuzawa describes these rates as follows: "Ironically, the percentage of people who want to contribute to society is the highest, at 80%, among people in their 20s. Perhaps there aren't enough programs that allow these young people to act on their feelings. That is how I am beginning to feel." Food is a relatable subject for all, and such a sharable theme, so it may have the power to bring together the hopes of the younger generation to contribute to society and awareness for political participation. With this hope in mind, Mr. Masuzawa will continue to introduce topics such as "agricultural boom among the youth," "delicious emergency foods" that focuses on disaster prevention, "restoration" after earthquakes, "TPP," and special features leading up to the nationwide local elections in April next year.
You will have a chance to win the November issue gibier set if you click on the "like" button on the Eating Politics' Facebook page before the 26th of this month, so don't miss out!