With Japan’s general election looming on 16 December, the tension in Japan is so thick you could cut it with a noodle. Yes, the country has been mired in a political malaise of apathy since the days of Koizumi.

The Prime Minister’s seat has been a musical chair for the past 6 years with no dynamic leadership on the horizon to guide the country into the future. Government in Japan is largely a good old boys club where people rise to positions of power simply by being the grandson of some great leader way back when.

Google has set up a campaign to help politicians get more in touch with their electorate and hopefully hash out a plan for Japan’s future that people can get behind – not to mention help promote the social network Google+.  Google Japan will be putting regular people face to face with representative of the major political parties for a little Q & A session on 14 December.

To participate in the Talk to a Politician by Google+ event, residents of Japan need to get a Google+ account and post a message beginning with “From where I stand now, what I’d love to hear a politician say…” and including the hashtag “#Talk to a politician” (both in Japanese).  The deadline to submit questions is 11:59pm on 2 December.

With your (public) posting, whether or not you will be accepted is determined by the number of “+1” clicks you receive from other users.  The candidates who get the most clicks will be selected to participate.

The only criteria appear to be Japanese residency and availability on the day of the meeting.  I guess it’s conceivable to submit in English but it’s unlikely you’ll get enough votes to be accepted.  Nevertheless, you can view a live stream of the meetings on Google Japan’s YouTube channel.

The chosen members of the public will get to sit in on as many 20 sessions as they want with one rep of a political party, 4 other civilians, and one moderator.

This is a great way for Japanese politicians to reconnect with people many of whom have been grossly out of touch with in recent years.  Perhaps with a good crop of intelligent citizens offering suggestions, a solid agenda can get developed.

More impressive though is the brilliant marketing of Google. What better way increase their market share than by reaching out to the huge elderly demographic of the country?  Who loves to complain to politicians more than anyone? That’s right, retired people.

Enticing senior citizens with a chance to beef with a politician is like getting teenage girls through a one-on-one chat with Justin Bieber. Not only that, but you need votes to qualify. Guess it’s time to call up all your friends at the mahjong club and get them to join this newfangled Google+.

If you’re still not convinced, the meetings will be held on Friday 14 December from 10am to 5pm.  Not really a convenient window for the working stiffs of the nation.

Just taking a quick perusal at some submitted questions, social security for seniors seems to be a hot topic.

So the internet giant likely got a nice chunk of new users while possibly facilitating positive social change.  Well played Google, well played indeed.

Source: Google “Talk with a Politician” (Japanese)