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Ota gov't employees in frantic pencil-shaving spree to meet election day

17 Comments
By Katy Kelly, SoraNews24

Japan’s 49th general election, where voting takes place to appoint members of the Diet to the House of Representatives, is officially scheduled for Oct 31, drawing an especially large amount of attention as it is the first general election in the Reiwa era. The election requires huge preparation all over the country, as representatives are appointed through voting blocks that correspond to cities, districts, and towns.

One such city is Ota in Gunma Prefecture, which anticipates a voter turnout of over 100,000 voters. The voting process is performed with voter slips and pencils, but this year there’s a spanner in the works: namely, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the safety measures required to minimize the spread of the virus.

As part of the precautions, voters at Ota’s polling places will take the pencil they’re given to fill in their ballot home with them, so that each writing instrument will be only be used by one person. Complicating matters further, the starting date for early voting was brought forward to Oct 20, meaning that the specially treated, bacteria-resistant pencils needed to be ordered in a hurry to meet the deadline. And the pencils in question don’t come pre-sharpened.

City employees have been tasked with the monumental duty of sharpening each of the rush-ordered 10,000 pencils on their breaks in between work. As of Oct 19, they only had 300 pencils left to sharpen, and will also need to sharpen the bigger customer order of 103,000 pencils as it arrives so that voters can use them through the voting period.

Naturally, the image of public servants frantically sharpening pencils during their breaks has captured the public imagination and caused some jeering, especially from proponents of a digital voting system. Twitter users were more than happy to offer alternative solutions, too.

 “Why not order disposable pencils…? Each of these costs between six and seven yen. You’re currently frittering away human labor costs.”

“How essentially Japanese. Rather than even discussing the potential of online voting to present COVID-19 transmission, the city staff is personally sharpening 10,000 pencils.”

“Won’t you consider a digital option during these COVID-19 times…? This is really the Digital Agency’s time to shine. Sharpening pencils on their breaks… Can’t you at least order mechanical pencils?”

“This is absolute madness.”

“Wish they’d give me a job shaving thousands of pencils.”

After just shaving a few pencils in a row my fingers start to go numb, so spare a thought for the hardworking pencil sharpeners in Ota, and cross your own fingers that they manage to supply enough pencils for all the voters that need them.

Source: Yahoo!Japan News/TV Asahi News via My Game News Flash, Twitter

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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-- Beautiful cherry blossom-shaped Japanese pencils have a special surprise when sharpened

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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Surely it’d make more sense to procure some of those electric sharpening machines that still exist in most schools and offices and let voters pick up a pencil and sharpen it themselves.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Why not asking people to bring their own pencils ?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

No need for baseball, exercise, hobbies, streaming services, etc when “*the image of *public servants frantically sharpening pencils during their breaks has captured the public imagination”.

Gotta Love that SoraNews24 and their ‘news’(?) sources: “* Yahoo!Japan News/TV Asahi News via My Game News Flash, *Twitter” users, fellow “Netizens”

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Convenience stores have push button screens? But an erasable pencil is deemed best for government elections.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Why not pens?? Erasable pencils don't sound very above board!!!

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

City employees have been tasked with the monumental duty of sharpening each of the rush-ordered 10,000 pencils on their breaks in between work.

So instead of them taking a break and resting from work…….they make them do work on their break?

and for what?

People don’t know how to wash their hands yet, after going out in public in corona times?

just use regular pencils and have a couple of electric sharpeners at each voting station.

more unnecessary work given to people.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

This story should be used for a Cool Japan promo...lol...its 2021....advanced country, sugoooi. 3 guesses for how old the koomuin in charge who ordered this exercise is.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If people are going to take the pencil with them, then why the need to order special microbe resistant ones? just have the person handling them use gloves

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What a waste of time and money.

Just use rubber gloves

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Use a communal pencil, then use hand cleansing lotion. Job done. How many trees do you have to kill to give every elector in Japan a pencil to mark an X? I love it that we still vote with a pencil, old school, but this is crazy. It's a virus, not a magic spell. This extreme behaviour is disturbing.

People will be mixing all the way to the polling station and all the way home, and might be stopping for a snack. We saw this in the UK in 2020. Kids in school had to stay 6ft away from each other, couldn't touch or talk to each other or run about and wore plastic screens over their faces. Then, each day after school they all went down the local park and played with each other as they always had done.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why do the pencils need to be "specially treated, bacteria-resistant pencils" if only one person is supposed to touch them?

But at the same time, having the workers sharpen them means that the workers have touched every single pencil anyway. And I've seen plenty of workers coughing through their masks onto things since they don't want to avoid work even if they're sick.

But everyone should have washed their hands, even the voters, so we still don't need personal, specially treated, bacteria-resistant pencils.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Does it really matter? As long as the votes are counted correctly, a story about pencils is just a waste of time.

Does Sora news have anything else to cover other than pencils?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

City employees have been tasked with the monumental duty of sharpening each of the rush-ordered 10,000 pencils on their breaks in between work. As of Oct 19, they only had 300 pencils left to sharpen, and will also need to sharpen the bigger customer order of 103,000 pencils as it arrives so that voters can use them through the voting period.

Only in a country like Japan would employees be asked to do something so ridiculous, and on their damn breaks no less. And only in Japan would these spineless employees agree to this. Anywhere else in the civilized world and people would revolt or demand overtime pay. Pay your freaking staff when you demand things of them or don't ask at all. At the very least I hope they get to adjust their working time for the extra time spent doing this ridiculous task.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Too much is too much. Clean hands before and after using the pencil, job done.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

“How essentially Japanese. Rather than even discussing the potential of online voting to present COVID-19 transmission, the city staff is personally sharpening 10,000 pencils.”

says it all right there.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Perhaps Japan could sharpen its intellect also or is that asking too much

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

I just wonder who was awarded the pencil contract. Ota Mayor Shimizu's borther-in-law? I know he has a huge pencil factory in Maebashi. No, I'm kidding. But things like that happen in Japan all the time.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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