The seat of power is confined within these walls, in this ominous building that’s shrouded in mystery. It is the center of Japanese politics and international affairs where foreign dignitaries and Heads of State have dined alongside some of Japan’s greatest luminaries and national fathers. This is the government of Japan.
Why is it called the Diet?
Answer: The Japanese architects had to draw from the vast resource of knowledge developed by the forefathers of Democracy, as far back as ancient Greece. Three languages were used in choosing the word Diet: Greek, Latin, and French. In Greek it’s “diaita” In French it’s “diete” and in Latin it’s “ diaeta.” All of these meanings translate to how one leads his/her life. However, according to Middle English it means, “ day set for meeting.” The forefathers had to choose a word that was not only international, but easy for Japanese to say.
ダイエットwould sound something like " Dai - e - to," which for many modern Japanese would mean cutting back on food, but for native North American English speakers would mean how a person chooses to eat. That could mean someone with an illness, like a diabetic for example, may choose to refrain from eating starchy foods. In other words, his dietary requirements are different than somebody with normal blood sugar and insulin levels. He or she is not necessarily striving to loose weight, but working towards managing his/her blood sugar through restricting his diet to non-starchy foods. "I'm on a diet" means you are reducing the amount of food you eat for the sole purpose of losing weight.
The term "Diet" was chosen to reflect old Western values from countries that share the same Democratic principles such as the aforementioned countries. The Japanese name for the National Diet of Japan is called "国会/ Kokkai" in the Japanese language, which translate to gathering of government officials. Mr. Ito Hirobumi, one of Japan's greatest Statesmen, understood that you couldn't expect Westerners to be able to pronounce "kokkai" properly, and there's nothing worse than when someone butchers the English and the Japanese language. Diet was a much easier word for Westerners and Japanese to use and pronounce, therefore it made sense to choose it, and not "kokkai." There is a slight pause in the vowel "o."
Tell me more about the Diet Building: Click on this link in English.
What did you like about the tour?
I think the Central Hall was the most impressive area for me. I was particularly impressed with its decorative ceiling adorned in hundreds of chrysanthemum reliefs. Many of the walls were made from Fossils sources from Okinawa and Tokushima Prefectures. The stain glass ceiling were also noteworthy, but slightly gaudy for Japanese architecture.
In the above picture you can see the Chamber of the House of Representatives where its plenary sittings are held. You can often see this on the news. If you are interested in attending one of these plenary sittings it's open to the public by appointment only, and you can only stay for a short time. The balcony is where the Emperor of Japan sits, but that's quite rare nowadays. The woody decor is all original from as far back as the 1930s, and has not been changed.
What was your impression of the place?
I don't know. Initially, I felt the original architects over did it with too many Western enhancements like with the American made doorknobs and stained glass window panes on the roof. The sanctity of the National Diet Building was somewhat perverted by this overcompensation to appear international or Western. There were no sliding paper doors, no tatami, no references to Shinto. Some of the offices had doors that were 8ft high and were totally un-Japanese. The toilets had marbles sinks.
The guard staff and tour guides were extremely ignorant about their own history and the building itself, and were not ashamed of their ignorance - not a single apology. One painting by Watanabe was Eurocentric and had no correlation to the Times, and sorely misplaced. The good point is that building itself was immaculate and in order, as it should, which only highlights how good stewards Japanese have become for the former Occupational Authorities under S.C.A.P.
There was no correlation between the number of pillars; either 4 pillars or 6 across, both bad numbers according to Asian astrology. The most important symbol is far out of view at the end of the North Gate, which is a huge stone monument of Ito Hirobumi. You are not allowed to see it, and it's a shame because he was the most important figure in Japanese history during the time of this buildings construction and had a hand in its design.
It wouldn't be fair for me to tell you not to go, you should, and take from it what you consider to be good.