If Harada is to succeed in inspiring widespread political activism, he will have to convince the likes of Toshio Sudo, 30. Already in his fifth year as a real estate fund manager at international investment firm Morgan Stanley, Sudo could be the poster child for the Japanese postwar economic miracle. But he is also the epitome of Japan's lost youth. Sudo can't quite shake a sense of disappointment about where his homeland has ended up after decades of financial supremacy. At the University of Tokyo, Sudo defied his father's wishes and studied philosophy and education in order to realize his goal of becoming a teacher. An academic environment more focused on endless campus politics than on innovative teaching quickly disillusioned him. There were other disappointments too, like the realization of just how precarious various Japanese government programs are, from a vastly subsidized agricultural sector to a faulty national pension system. "[It's] a Ponzi scheme," he claims, of the pension fund. "Young people won't get their money back."
Being forced to pay into programs they believe are broken has cultivated a sense of helplessness among many young Japanese. Certainly, the country's graying demographics are daunting. But Sudo also laments a lack of initiative among many youth to do anything about their future. "[Japanese society] pretends to change, but politicians and citizens [procrastinate]," he says. But it's hard to break old habits. When asked how he'll vote on Aug. 30, he doesn't express much enthusiasm for either party. And what does he want out of his own future? "I would rather focus on my job and earning money," he says. "If I can do that, politics in Japan doesn't affect me much."
with reporting by Yuki Oda / Tokyo
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