Japan Lower House election – Meet the candidates Part 2: Tairo Hirayama (DPJ, age 37)

I am running out of time before the election (and have lots of research to do before my major live-streaming/blogging event tomorrow night), so I’ll be quickly running down the rest of the ticket in Tokyo’s 13th district:

Tairo Hirayama (DPJ, age 37) – This guy has been just about ubiquitous around Ayase recently, much more so than his LDP rival Ichiro Kamoshita.

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Profile: This first-time candidate was a guest lecturer at Akihabara’s Digital Hollywood University (a school specializing in IT and media) where he taught a class on e-commerce. His main occupation is running a non-profit organization that helps small companies set up e-commerce websites. While not as prolific as Kamoshita, Hirayama has authored several books including Net Shop Management Standard Guide – 37 Iron-clad Rules for Attracting Customers and Sales Promotions Known only to Top-selling Stores.

He is originally from Iki, a tiny island in Nagasaki prefecture between Kyushu and Tsushima where his parents run a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). I assume he is running in Adachi-ku because that’s where the DPJ placed him. He does not claim any prior affiliation with the area.

A turning point in his life came in 1995 when as a student at Waseda University he volunteered for the rebuilding effort following the Great Hanshin earthquake that devastated the Kobe area. It was there that he learned how to lead people; it’s also where he met his wife Sachiko, with whom he now has three children.

Policy: His campaign vans and literature all feature a big sticker announcing his support for the DPJ’s childcare cash handout program. Under the program, most families with children will receive 26,000 yen a month until their kids finish middle school. He’s made that the centerpiece of his campaign. He’s also been emphasizing his youth – the masthead of his website contains a logo with the word “age 37” in flames.

In an Asahi policy questionnaire, he said he’d like Japan to be known as a nation of “peace and culture.”

Chances of winning: The Nikkei-Yomiuri joint poll showed Hirayama slightly ahead. I’d say he will probably win backed by the groundswell of support for a DPJ-led government. He has the backing of 80% of DPJ supporters.

Something interesting: Hirayama’s wife Sachiko (apparently in her early 30s), who worked at a local Kyushu TV station before getting married, is no slouch – she won a female entrepreneur award in 2007 (with a 3 million yen grand prize!) from FujiSankei and Daiwa Securities for her creative business plan to open a “next-generation store” in Tokyo based on her online business Ikimonoya, an online retailer of gourmet Japanese food. The site is run under the brand of the Hirayama Ryokan, the traditional Japanese inn located on Iki that has been in her husband’s family for three generations. She is president of the ryokan company and her husband Tairo is the Representative Director (some sources say Tairo’s mother is the okami-san, the Japanese term for lead hostess/general manager, while others say it’s Sachiko now). Unfortunately the site shows no indication that they actually opened a store since she won the award in March 2008.  She reportedly lives on Iki full time, so it must be very lonely for her husband in Tokyo.

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Sachiko Hirayama