The Spring I entered junior high school, a teacher approached me and said that I should become a member of the students’ committee which was responsible for the hosting of major school events and representing students’ voice in the school community. In Japan, public junior high schools tend to have the least democratic and most stifling culture among all school structures and my junior high school was no exception. Many students had a rough time in an environment filled with rules where teachers constantly shouted at students for their wrong doings.
But that Spring, fresh out of primary school, I was still a happy and vocal child eager to try new things. I listened and trusted this teacher when he said that he would love it if I joined the students’ committee.
“Become the Vice President,” he said to me. “There will be an election, so nominate yourself. I will support you.”
Having taken many active roles in primary school and having always had sincere and supportive teachers around me, I thought that this election would be no different. In the end, I decided to run for the election.
There was one more person in another class who was nominated to this election. He was a boy from the same primary school, but I didn’t know him very well. A rumour said that he was called to the election under the recommendation from the same teacher who convinced me to become the Vice President.
“How odd is that!”
But that was only the beginning of this shady election process. The moment we started running for the election, the teacher who recommended both of us to the VP position disappeared from the picture altogether. No hand of support was offered by him.
Having no prior experience with elections, I searched for guidance from teachers, but they were all busy or not interested in helping me. So, I started doing things that I thought a candidate would normally do, such as creating banners and handouts and greeting the students. Every morning, I stood at the school entrance with my banner, greeting students and teachers alike and handing out my promise statement. My close friends from primary school helped me by standing and greeting with me.
My opponent, on the other hand, had a rather big supporter group. His homeroom teacher was fond of him and asked the whole class to help him with the election. Every morning, on one side of the street stood me and my friends calling out my name, and on the other stood my opponent and his large group of supporters calling out his name. The power balance was quite obvious, but I was not going to give up, being certain that I had a clearer vision for the school community and would be a good fit for the role.
Along the journey, even though I was more of a lonely candidate, my visibility led to the formation of a few very passionate Fan Clubs. One was a group of senior boys who were aspiring to become comedians. They thought I had good looks and good sense of humour, and whenever they saw me, they called out my name in a loud voice.
“We support YOU!” They would shout out. “We are in love with your sense of humour. You are also beautiful. Please shake hands with us!”
It was embarrassing to be honest, but they were sincere people, and it made me happy to have them as my supporters.
The other fan club was a group of senior girls in the track & field club. I had a close friend in the club, and she always talked a lot about me during the training sessions.
“We love you!” They called out to me whenever they saw me at school. “We want YOU to win this election, not that boy!”
Again, their passionate support shined a light on my lonely election journey.
On the day of election, I made a well thought-out speech on the vision of our school community and how I planned to contribute. My opponent gave a rather generic speech from which it wasn’t clear what exactly he was promising to the community. Later that day, the result came out. He won, and I lost.
A rumour had it that my opponent’s homeroom teacher pressured the class to vote for him. But it didn’t matter anymore. My lonely election journey was finally over.
On my way back home, I met the group of aspiring comedians.
“We are shocked by the election result!” They said. “We voted for YOU!”
“Thank you,” I replied. “I really appreciated your support. I’m sorry I didn’t win.”
“You must know that we are still your fans!”
The senior girls from the track & field club also came to console me.
“So disappointing!” They fumed. “Your speech was clearly better. What was that gibberish of your opponent after all?”
Though it was quite a bitter election experience and I never ran for the position again, looking back, these colourful people’s presence who saw me and really supported me makes the memory a rather special one.