The August 30 general election will select all 480 members of Japan’s lower house of parliament. 300 of those seats are apportioned to 300 single-member districts, elected in first-past-the-post contests similar to the US House of Representatives. The other 180 are chosen by proportional representation among 11 regions, which means that in each region parties will receive seats in the proportion that their party receives votes.
My job for the next few days is to profile the candidates in my local district, Tokyo’s 13th.
First up is the incumbent LDP dietman and licensed psychiatrist Ichiro Kamoshita. He’s been re-elected five times and served as environment minister in the Yasuo Fukuda cabinet.
A native of Adachi-ku, Kamoshita spent his entire education in the district before entering the Nihon University’s medical school. He then worked as a psychiatrist until 1993, when he ran and won his first election under the ticket of the Japan New Party, a party that was formed during Japan’s period of political instability and now no longer exists.
Since joining the LDP in 1997, he has risen quickly, scoring a position in the second Abe cabinet in 2007 as environment minister.
Unfortunately for Kamoshita, his rise came at a time of turmoil for LDP governments. Abe’s cabinet reshuffle came soon after the LDP’s punishing defeat in upper house elections that resulted in the ruling coalition losing control of that house. Simultaneously, the media was unearthing scandal after scandal on cabinet ministers, which just months before resulted in the suicide of then-agriculture minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka. During his tenure as environment minister, Kamoshita became best known for becoming the focus of his own funding scandal as discrepancies were found in various official financial disclosures.
When Abe suddenly resigned in September and handed the prime ministership to Yasuo Fukuda, Kamoshita was kept on along with most of the rest of Abe’s second cabinet. He was spared further scrutiny of his political funding as similar discrepancies were found in the disclosures of high-level DPJ officials.
Kamoshita is a member of the LDP’s Tsushima faction, a group that traces its roots to the Takeshita faction of the 1980s. Known as “mainstream conservative,” the Tsushima-ha is led by former health and welfare minister Yuji Tsushima and has 68 members, notably current agriculture minister Shigeru Ishiba, gaffe-prone ex-defense minister Fumio Kyuma, and last but not least the flamboyant Japan Post-bashing Kunio Hatoyama, who was justice minister and then internal affairs and communication minister under Aso.
Policy: Aside from the official LDP platform of emphasizing economic recovery first and the LDP’s “power of responsibility” (責任力), Kamoshita has his own set of labor-related proposals that he’s outlined in the form of a Scientology-style stress test. They include encouraging telecommuting and helping people to have two homes (a small apt. near the office and a weekend home on the beach).
Kamoshita’s literature and website will not let you forget that this man is a real live doctor. It’s this personality-driven appeal that shines through more than his policies.
Here‘s his answer to a Mainichi questionnaire on his policies, though I doubt you’ll find much that’s surprising. He supports the Koizumi reforms “to a point,” supports a missile defense system, wouldn’t ban corporate political donations, supports temporary employment, opposes the recording of police interrogations, etc. etc.
Chances of winning: He might not make it. The Nikkei-Yomiuri poll gives the edge to his rival from the DPJ Tairo Hirayama, and he’s lost to the DPJ before in 2003 (but won election as a proportional representation candidate). A news report on one of his campaign speeches indicates a lack of enthusiasm. About 100 people watched him speak in front of Kitasenju Station, but apparently no one applauded or cheered. One observer noted, “I’ve never seen such a quiet campaign speech.”
Tell me something interesting: Ichiro Kamoshita is one of those rare Japanese politicians who actually has a life outside of politics. Soon after he was first elected in 1993, he began to write prolifically in the self-help genre, and to date has authored more than 90 books mostly on mental health, including such titles as Read This Book if You No Longer Feel Like Meeting People, A Book to Cure “Not Being a Morning Person,” Subtle Habits of “Women who Are Chosen [by Men]”, and Mother, Don’t “Love Your Kids Too Much.” Many of his books seem to apply the same basic approach to various problems. So if he loses this one, you can bet he can keep working as a writer.
He has also released three music-therapy CDs – one each for dieting, skin conditions, and constipation.
Kamoshita visited the potentially sinking nation of Tuvalu in his capacity as Minister of Environment to initiate an effort by JICA, Japan’s aid implementation agency, to assess local conditions for future support from the Japanese government to mitigate the effects of climate change.