Politician from opposing party criticizes Shinzo Abe for official project, but the true crime is a linguistic one.

On Monday, Japan’s House of Representatives, the lower house of the country’s parliament, was holding a plenary session with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, in attendance. During the day’s business, Abe delivered a financial address which touched on the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and recovery plans.

When the floor was opened for comments, a criticism came from Kensuke Nishimura, a member of the opposition Democratic Party for the People representing Aichi Prefecture’s 13th District, who said:

Online, the public has been ridiculing [the government’s] Robbery Campaign, because of the 309.5 billion yen (US$2.9 billion) that has been earmarked for its administrative fees.”

▼ Wait, the WHAT Campaign?

Despite the strangeness of the question, Abe began to calmly respond, explaining “The upcoming robberies…”

Granted, it’s true that the coronavirus crisis has had an extremely negative impact on the Japanese economy. But have things gotten so bad that Abe has decided to drop any pretense of working within the country’s legal framework, and is planning to rule as not only a straight-up bandit king, but as one who’ll be plundering so much treasure that he’ll need to spend hundreds of billions of yen just to organize his brigand brigade?

Thankfully, the answer is no. Really, the only crime taking place was a butchering of correct pronunciation.

▼ “Take that, pronunciation!”

What Nishimura had actually been trying to ask about is a massive travel incentive program being organized by the Japanese government. Announced late last month, the campaign will provide grants which private citizens can use to partially cover the cost of hotels, restaurant meals while traveling, and even souvenirs. Because the goal is to encourage people to “go to” travel destinations once health conditions become safe to do so, it’s been dubbed the “Go To Campaign,” with the “Go To” part officially rendered in English, like this:

However, the sound of the English “to” doesn’t exist as an indigenous part of the Japanese language, and so it’s a particularly difficult word to pronounce for Native Japanese speakers. When Nishimura broached the subject, he incorrectly pronounced the “to” part of “Go To Campaign” like the “to” in “Tokyo.” That made it sound like he was saying goutou, the Japanese word for “robbery,” and thus asking about the Goutou/Robbery Campaign.

Goutou Campaign

After inadvertently copying Nishimura’s pronunciation, Abe quickly caught his slip. “It’s the ‘Go To’ Campaign, not ‘Goutou,’” he corrected himself, and while his muff was met with some light snickering from the politicians in attendance, it’s likely some were thankful for a bit of unexpected comedy, since it’s probably harder for Japanese legislators to keep themselves entertained by watching crocodile videos at work these days.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko
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