Sassa Narimasa, a 16th-century warlord based in Etchu province (present-day Toyama Prefecture), loathed Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a powerful warlord at the time, with a passion.

One day, he decided to visit Tokugawa Ieyasu, Hideyoshi’s potential rival in the Totomi province (present-day Shizuoka Prefecture), and talk him into forming an alliance to rise up against Hideyoshi.

But as it would be suicidal to travel through pro-Hideyoshi territory, Narimasa chose a route to Shinshu province (present-day Nagano Prefecture) through the snow-covered Tateyama mountain range.

Having almost died from frigid temperatures, starvation and incessant avalanches, the warlord finally reached Ieyasu, who was shocked and impressed by his determination.

Although Ieyasu decided not to side with Narimasa, the latter’s exploits became the stuff of popular legend during the ensuing Edo Period (1603-1867).

There are conflicting theories about its historical accuracy, but Narimasa’s expedition is known as "Sarasara-goe" (Sarasara Crossing), partly after the treacherous Zara ridge, which he is believed to have successfully crossed.

The tide turned for the Oct. 22 Lower House election after Yuriko Koike, leader of the new Kibo no To (Hope), said she had "no intention whatsoever" of allowing all candidates from the Democratic Party to run on the Hope ticket. She used the Japanese phrase "sarasara nai" (not in the least) in this context.

Koike also said she would "remove" anyone who does not subscribe to her party's policies. She later admitted that she had "spoken too harshly," but the damage had been done.

Now that the ruling coalition has won by a landslide, I am brooding over the state of opposition parties. Are they going to remain as fragmented and ineffectual as ever? Will voters who hope to end the "one powerful party" political structure ever have a vehicle to realize their goal?

Robert Alan Dahl, a high-profile U.S. political scientist who died in 2014, noted famously to the effect that the opposition is one of the three greatest inventions of democracy, along with the right to vote and the parliamentary system.

He explained that the opposition’s function of heeding the voices of the people ignored by the party in power is indispensable to democracy.

With his Sarasara Crossing, Narimasa staked his life in an attempt to form a united front with Ieyasu.

An equally daunting trial awaits former Democratic Party members who were torn apart following Koike’s harsh "sarasara" comment.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 24

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.