Japan Lower House election – Meet the candidates Part 4: Kazumasa Fujiyama (Happiness Realization Party

The final candidate in Tokyo’s 13th district is Kazumasa Fujiyama, running under the Happiness Realization Party ticket.

Before I get to this guy’s profile, I want to quote from an excellent piece on the party from the Irish Times:

Founded earlier this year to offer voters a “third choice”, the HRP has an eye-catching manifesto: multiply Japan’s population by 2.5 to 300 million, overtake the US to become the world’s premier power, and rapidly rearm for conflict with North Korea and China.

If elected, its lawmakers will inject religion into all areas of life and fight to overcome Japan’s “colonial” mentality, which has “fettered” the nation’s true claim to global leadership.

A new book, The Guardian Spirit of Kim Jong-Il Speaks , by party founder Ryuho Okawa explains that earlier this month at a session in the party’s Tokyo headquarters, the voice of Kim’s guardian angel warned of his plans. But at least Kim is alive – Okawa also claims to be able to receive the thoughts of Japan’s notorious wartime monarch, emperor Hirohito (1901-1989), and his deceased predecessors.

Being able to commune with the dead is but one string to Okawa’s bow. A reincarnation of Buddha, he achieved great enlightenment in 1981, according to the party’s website, “and awakened to the hidden part of his consciousness, El Cantare, whose mission is to bring happiness to all humanity”.

Before he founded the Happy Science religion in 1986, Okawa wrote books under the names of Muhammad, Christ, Buddha and Confucius. Conveniently, if improbably, speaking in Japanese, some of the prophets had much the same message: Japan is the world’s greatest power and should ditch its constitution, rearm and take over Asia.

The Happies boast that they have sold 11 million copies of their bible, Shoshin Hogo (The Dharma of the Right Mind), in Japan since 1986, and opened 200 temples.

Okawa’s books, mixing new-age philosophy with self-improvement tips and political views, have sold millions more, apparently providing the funding for the campaign. Translating those beliefs into political power, however, has proved easier said than done. Tokyo voters shunned the Happies’ candidates in this month’s municipal election, which ended LDP rule in the city and set the DPJ up for a historic national win next month.

Also, you might be interested to see the Happy party’s new manifesto video. It’s very similar to the one they produced for the Tokyo assembly elections (that animated treasure was unfortunately taken down), only this time slightly more professional:

Now, to the candidate:

Fujiyama happy party SN390094

Profile: An architect by trade, Fujiyama became a full-time Happy Science member in 1995 and has since risen to become a leader in Tokyo – he previously served as the head of the Science’s Nippori Branch and Adachi Branch before being named deputy leader of the Tokyo Branch in 2009.

Before becoming a full-time Happie, Fujiyama was an employee of Haseko Corporation, a construction/engineering firm that’s listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. It’s unclear whether he was a member of Happy Science before 1995 or if he

One of Fujiyama’s bases of operations is the Science’s Nippori branch (seen here on Google Street View), which I happened to spot during a walk the other day:

Policy: As all Happiness Realization Party candidates appear to be carbon copies of one another, it’s no surprise that Fujiyama supports all the planks mentioned in the above video – slash taxes, smash North Korea, and somehow make Japan the world’s biggest economy by 2030 (I suspect they’d have to destroy all other countries to do this).

When asked in an Asahi questionnaire about how he would like the world to see Japan, he answered as “a great economy.” (経済大国)

Fujiyama claims in a blog post that the owner of a building near Kameari Station said she’ll support him because she hates paying consumption taxes.

Something interesting: Fujiyama bears an eerie resemblance to party founder and leader Ryuho Okawa:


Fujiyama asahi P_20090626SNSA0030S



OK, I’ll admit that their parts are on opposite sides, but don’t you think they both have a sort of “divine salaryman” look going on?


My next and final profile post will look at a few of the Tokyo proportional representation candidates.

Japan Lower House election – Meet the candidates Part 3: Shuji Watanabe (69) JCP

Profile: Watanabe is a former Adachi-ku assemblyman running on the JCP ticket. At 69, Watanabe is liver-spotted and somewhat frail-looking when campaigning. He is an old school communist – he never went to college but instead joined the party in 1960 after finishing technical school. Three years after graduation he began working as a sanitary inspector at a clinic for the poor, where he was an active unionist who pushed for improved benefits for workers. He entered electoral politics in 1971 and won a seat on the Adachi-ku assembly, where he has won re-election nine times (I assume consecutively). He has apparently retired from the assembly to run in this election.

Chances of winning: I don’t think he expects to win. True to the JCP’s commitment to being a vocal minority party, I think the point of him being there is to try and direct the debate in favor of the JCP’s policy platform. He doesn’t even have his own real website, so I kind of doubt the party’s commitment.

Policy: Watanabe is running on a typical JCP line of protecting employment. See my earlier post on the JCP to see why I find them unacceptable.

Something interesting: I can’t say for sure, but something tells me this guy is related to Yasunobu Watanabe, the Tokyo Prefectural Assemblyman who handed his seat to JCP candidate Yoshie Oshima in July.



Yasunobu Watanabe

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.

fish img_profile

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.

hirayama sachiko 200806040011o1

Sachiko Hirayama

Japan Lower House election – Meet the candidates Part 0 – What voting means and how it works

On Tuesday, parts of Japan’s political net-osphere will go dark as the official campaigning period begins for the August 30 general election to select members of the nation’s lower house of parliament. Considering that this election has the potential to take government control away from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for the first time in 13 years, national and international attention on this race is high.

So what can I add to the conversation? My interest in Japanese politics and other current events is fairly intense, so I plan to follow this story with the same rigor I apply to my other favorite topics.

Mainly,  I plan to profile the candidates up for election in my district (Tokyo’s 13th) to give a worm’s-eye-view of the election from my perch in Adachi-ku, Tokyo. Some readers will recall my series of candidate profiles leading up to last month’s Tokyo prefectural assembly elections.

But first, some opening remarks:

What will this election decide?

On Sunday, August 30, Japanese voters will go to the polls to elect all 480 members of the House of Representatives, the more powerful house of the country’s bicameral legislative branch of government. After the election, the Diet (Japan’s word for its parliament) will be convened to choose a prime minister, who will then form a cabinet. The upper and lower house will each conduct a vote, but if the upper house vote differs from the lower house’s, the lower house’s choice will prevail. If one party has won an outright majority of seats in the lower house, it can elect a prime minister without the aid of any other party, but if not various parties will have to negotiate and form a coalition government.

The lower house is where most substantive legislative business is done. It controls the passage of the national budget, can override an upper house veto with a two-thirds vote, and most importantly decides the appointment of the prime minister. The DPJ currently controls the upper house, which is a less powerful but still significant part of the legislative process.

The party (or coalition of parties) that wins this election will ostensibly gain control over essentially the entire country — if the DPJ gains control it will preside over the executive branch, dominate both houses of the legislature, and possess the power to appoint Supreme Court and lower court justices.

In practice, however, the prime minister and cabinet’s power has been limited – to give a very broad outline, powerful ministries set the agenda on most important national issues, the legislature exists mainly to ratify that agenda and distract the public with loud but ineffectual drama and scandal (in exchange for funneling money back to their districts), and the judicial nominees are almost never decided by the elected officials themselves.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan are on track to make significant gains in this election, though it will be a tall order to increase their current standings (110) to exceed the LDP’s total of 303. The DPJ are campaigning on many issues, but perhaps first and foremost on a revolutionary vision of administrative reform. They believe that the bureaucrats in the country maintain power based on, in Secretary General Acting President Naoto Kan’s words, a “mistaken interpretation of the Constitution” that bureaucracy has the inherent right to control government administration, while it’s the job of the cabinet and legislature concentrate on passing laws. The DPJ would like to wrest control away from the “iron triangle” of unelected bureaucrats, powerful business interests, and their cronies in the Diet and place power squarely in the politicians’ hands. But more on that later.

How are members selected?

Since the law was changed in 1993 following a major LDP electoral defeat, members of Japan’s lower house have been chosen using two parallel systems – 300 are selected through single-member districts nationwide similar to the US House of Representatives, while the remaining 180 seats are allotted through a proportional representation system (or PR for short).

Under Japan’s PR system, the parties running in the election field candidates in each of 11 regions. On election day, voters write down two votes for the lower house – one for their preferred individual in their district, and the other to choose a party they’d like to receive the PR seats in their region. In the interest of counting as many votes as possible, votes will still count if a voter writes in the name of an individual running in the region or the party leader’s name instead of the party name.

For example of how this works, in 2005 the Tokyo PR district had 17 available seats. To win a seat, a party would have had to earn at least 5.88% of the vote, or 389,682 votes. Only one party that ran (Shinto Nippon with 290,027 votes) failed to gain a seat in this district.

The fact that relatively fewer votes are needed to win a PR seat has convinced smaller parties to try their luck. Most recently, the Happiness Realization Party, a newly formed political wing of new religion Happy Science, has decided to field more than 300 candidates in all single-member and PR districts (though as of this writing it is unclear whether they will actually go through with it). The religion’s leader Ryuho Okawa has announced his intention to run in the Kinki PR district with the top position. To do so he will need 3.45% of the vote, which would have been around 375,000 votes in 2005. His party would have to seriously improve its performance after winning a dismal 0.682% (13,401 votes in 10 districts) of votes in the Tokyo prefectural elections. Okawa had originally planned to run in Tokyo, but Tokyo has a higher 5.88% hurdle to overcome.

How does voting work in practice?

After entering the polling station, voters will be handed a paper ballot and a pencil (yes, a pencil, not a pen). They will be directed to a table with a list of candidates and instructions on how to vote. There they will write in the name of their preferred candidate along with their PR vote. To make it easier for voters to remember, many candidates spell their names using phonetic hiragana instead of kanji, which can be harder to write and have many different readings.

Since this election will also include a people’s review of nine of Japan’s 15 Supreme Court justices, voters will be required to mark an X next to the names of justices they would like to see dismissed. Blank votes will be counted as in favor of keeping them on.

In my next post, I’ll talk about the issues and outlook for this specific election before getting into the more provincial task of profiling my local candidates.

Japan’s impromptu commuter lines: Kita-Ayase and Hakata-Minami

The mass transit oddity in my backyard

I live almost right next to one of the oddest pieces of the Tokyo subway network: the tail end of the Chiyoda Line between Ayase and Kita-Ayase. On a map, it looks like a normal green line, but in reality, it’s anything but normal.

by dhchen on flickrThe north end of the Chiyoda Line is practically located at Ayase. From Ayase, the trains continue through onto the Joban Line toward Chiba and Ibaraki. To get to the last station on the Chiyoda Line, you have to walk to “Track 0” at the end of the southbound platform, then board a three-car 5000 series train (an older Tokyo Metro model which now populates the railways of Indonesia), which might not come for 20 minutes. When it does come, you’ll be treated to a mind-numbingly slow ride, such that the folks at Chakuwiki say “it’s like a tourist train” and “you might as well have walked.”

As is the case with most public transit oddities in Japan, there are political factors which led to this situation.

Kita-Ayase is located just south of the railway yard which services all the Chiyoda Line trains, as well as Yurakucho and Namboku Line trains (which can access the Chiyoda Line through tunnels near Kasumigaseki and Ichigaya). The yard opened along with the Chiyoda Line in 1969; at that time, the only passenger stops were between Kita-Senju and Otemachi, but the line to Kita-Ayase was being used to shuttle trains back and forth. Ayase opened for business as a passenger station in 1971, but the branch to Kita-Ayase remained for servicing only.

The people living around the rail yard saw all these trains passing right before their eyes, and so they petitioned the Teito Rapid Transit Authority to build a station at Kita-Ayase, which opened for business in 1979. Because of limitations on available space, the station has a very small platform which can only accommodate a three-car train–hence the use of special sets made of otherwise retired rolling stock. Also unlike the rest of the Chiyoda Line, the Kita-Ayase branch has platform doors due to the fact that its trains have only one conductor.

Following precedent

Ten years later, something very similar happened in Fukuoka. The Sanyo Shinkansen “bullet train” route, which began service to Fukuoka in 1975, terminates at a large rail yard in Nakagawa, a town about eight kilometers from Hakata Station (the main station in Fukuoka). The surrounding area was a quiet and bucolic zone when the line was planned, but doubled in population between 1960 and 1970, then doubled again between 1970 and 1980.

At some point in the late seventies or early eighties, the locals got fed up with the shoddy state of public transport to central Fukuoka. Back then, the only option was to take a bus, despite the fact that there was a beautiful high-speed rail line running straight from their backyard. So they petitioned the train company to build a new station, just like the good citizens of Ayase did, and got their wish for commuter trains in 1990.

There was one big administrative issue which held up the planning of the new passenger service. Japan’s national railway company had just been broken up, and the new service was uncomfortably on the edge of two new companies’ jurisdictions. JR Kyushu had been given authority to operate all local JR service in Kyushu, but JR West had been given authority over the Sanyo Shinkansen. The ultimate solution was to keep the station property and the line under JR West control, but subcontract operation of the new station to JR Kyushu.

by kamoda on flickrUntil 2008, the Hakata-Minami Line was operated by old 0-series Shinkansen trains, the same airplane-styled model that plied the Tokaido route in the 60s and 70s. These were retired, and now the line is mainly plied by current-series Shinkansen trains which continue directly to Shinkansen operation after dropping people off at Hakata. The trains are treated as limited expresses, even though the trip is only ten minutes long and costs 290 yen (190 base fare and 100 yen surcharge).

Although the Hakata-Minami Line is much nicer and much more convenient than the Kita-Ayase spur, it shares one common inconvenience: a short platform. Hakata-Minami Station can only handle eight-car trains, whereas Sanyo Shinkansen train sets run up to sixteen cars.

There is one other line on the boundary between Shinkansen and regular lines: the branch line between Echigo-Yuzawa and Gala-Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture. This line is served by Joetsu Shinkansen trains from Tokyo during the winter ski season, but it is not treated as part of the Shinkansen; rather, it is treated as a limited express, carrying a 100 yen surcharge just like the Hakata-Minami Line. (The Gala-Yuzawa ski resort itself is incidentally owned by JR East, which is why you see ski packages advertised so heavily on JR trains in Tokyo during the winter.)

Ayase to start fining smokers starting in October

In my last post about bicycle parking, I noted that the enforcers didn’t seem to be making much of an impact on illegal bike parking, except maybe at the margins (I’d be tempted to park there more often if I didn’t have a reliable space at my apt. building).

Another rule in Adachi-ku that’s only effective at the margins is the ban on smoking on the streets. In a reverse of the common American rule, in Japan smokers are often allowed to smoke in designated areas of public buildings but banned from smoking on the street. This makes for some smoky izakaya, but to me it makes sense because Japan’s narrow streets and urban lifestyle mean you are affected more by street smokers than you would be in a big American city.

Unfortunately, the bans tend to be ignored by whoever is insensitive enough to light up. They obviously know it’s against the rules but wear a “screw you” scowl on their faces and no one does anything.

One effort to combat these scowlers has been to enhance enforcement in high-traffic areas by dispatching workers who enforce the rules by collecting small fines on the spot. Adachi-ku has imposed such a ban since October 2006 starting with a 1,000 yen fine in the Kitasenju Station area. Ever since I have been in the area I have seen elderly people (volunteers I presume) asking some very surprised and incredulous smokers to pay 1,000 yen on the spot.

Similar exchanges are expected to come to my neighborhood this October as the fine is set to be expanded to include the Ayase Station area:

From Adachi-ku bicycle parking enforcers

The details of anti-smoking ordinances vary from place to place, but most appear to follow similar guidelines – ban smoking on the street everywhere (except some small smoking areas) but only enforce in areas of major foot traffic such as train stations. Many places such as Tokyo’s Chiyoda-ku post their enforcement stats online. Since beginning its policy in November 2002, Chiyoda-ku has fined a total of 42,230 people. Though I could not find figures on whether these people are actually paying the fines, if everyone has paid they have collected a total of 84.5 million yen, which adds up to something like 11.3 million yen a year.We also don’t know how many people the enforcers tried to stop but couldn’t.

For its part, Adachi-ku claims to have issued 3,498 fines in the Kitasenju area. As noted above, the preferred collection method is to demand payment on the spot. Enforcers are required to show proper ID upon request, and you are allowed to appeal if you don’t think you deserve the fine. However, there appears to be nothing the enforcers can do if you simply ignore them or refuse to take possession of the ticket.

In the initial period of enforcement, Ayase can probably expect a similar reaction that was documented when Kobe expanded its enforcement in 2007 – refusals by people who claim ignorance of the rule, people tossing out cigarettes just before entering the restricted area, and lots of people simply refusing to acknowledge the existence of the enforcers. Seeing the jerks who light up even when they know the smoke bothers everyone is one of my pet peeves, so here’s hoping our friends the elderly enforcers can get the job done.

Meet the bicycle parking enforcers

Yesterday evening on the way home I caught Adachi-ku’s bicycle parking enforcers in action:

From Adachi-ku bicycle parking enforcers

The open area outside Ayase Station’s east exit is normally filled with illegally parked bikes (because it basically serves no other function). As in most areas, Adachi-ku bans bike parking near stations except in designated parking lots (there is one that’s free of charge on the south side and several fee-based ones). But in reality, most of the time the only thing stopping people from parking in this area are some old men in yellow vests (apparently officially sanctioned volunteers) who verbally warn people not to park there (even as 5 others are parking their bikes directly behind them).

But about once a week the enforcers come around, and it’s on these days that the park becomes oddly bike-free. On this Saturday in particular I was walking in an area that’s usually so flooded with bikes it’s impossible to walk through comfortably, but when the enforcers came around there were only two or three bikes to be found. Somehow everyone seems to know what day the enforcers will be there.

According to the Adachi-ku homepage, the district only enforces bicycle parking within a 300-meter radius of train stations, as those are the places where offenders concentrate.

If your bicycle is caught by the enforcer’s net outside Ayase Station, you must make your way to the Kita-Ayase relocation center (on foot, presumably). To retrieve a bike that’s been confiscated will cost you 2,000 yen and require you to produce proof that you own the bike along with a working key. Act fast, though – bikes in custody for two months will be “disposed with.” While I don’t know exactly what Adachi-ku does with the orphaned bikes, many abandoned bicycles nationwide end up exported to North Korea,  so if you don’t want to fund Kim Jong Il’s regime, you need to retrieve your bike as soon as possible!


A Yomiuri photo of bicycles slated for export.

The Wikipedia article on this issue makes an interesting point – in most cases, there are more people who benefit from illegal bike parking than who are adversely affected by it. No one might be explicitly advocating that bikes should be permitted to park wherever they want, but the fact remains that the fee-based parking lots are expensive and often inconvenient. This means that politicians have a hard time taking decisive action as it would upset the population.

Liveblogging Tokyo prefectural election results

(Scroll to the bottom for updates)

From Tokyo Prefectural Assembly Election

Join me as I watch the results pour in from NHK and the Adachi-ku government site!

10:10pm – DPJ set to become top party in the assembly, with LDP and Komeito 2nd and 3rd. Not sure if this means the Komeito will defect and actually govern with DPJ.

10:11pm – As of 9:45pm with 7% of the votes tallied, it looks like my picks for Adachi-ku are on target so far

10:13pm – DPJ has so far picked up 8 seats from previous election. Things will get messy if the LDP/Komeito coalition cannot hold a majority together.

10:25pm – The secretary general (幹事長) of the LDP’s prefectural chapter loses his assembly seat! Shigeru Uchida of Chiyoda-ku. First time LDP has lost a seat there since 1959. Tokyo Shimbun blames higher turnout for his demise. Also it’s easier to kick him out since Chiyoda is a single member district.

10:29 – Final turnout 54%, 10 points higher than last election. Adachi-ku turnout 55.76%.

10:32 – While we are waiting you can check out these pics of the Adachi-ku polling station (I took them before a dude told me to stop – apparently that is not allowed)

From Tokyo Prefectural Assembly Election

10:34 – Things are not looking good for former porn star “gravure idol” (read: soft-core porn star) Mai Goto who was running from Shinjuku. Here’s her campaign poster courtesy Ken Worsley:

10:40 – New preliminary results for Adachi-ku – DPJ’s Satoru Onishi in the lead with other credible candidates holding steady. Still a nailbiter to see if DPJ or LDP will come out with two seats.

10:42 – There was another election today, for mayor of Nara city. And the DPJ candidate won there too! Check Tokyo Shimbun for a gleeful Gen Nakagawa.

10:49 – Sankei is reporting that DPJ won six of the seven single member districts.

10:51 – Adachi-ku is way behind schedule. But it’s kind of understandable. While it’s clear DPJ’s Onishi won a seat, there are six other candidates who appear about even. Since there are only six seats total, one of those six will have to lose. My bet is it’ll be Asako the “samurai conservative” independent

10:55 – NHK is calling another winner in Adachi-ku: DPJ’s Katsuhiro Suzuki! That means both DPJ candidates nabbed seats from Adachi.

10:57 – Current standings: LDP – 25
DPJ – 50
Komeito – 17
JCP – 4

Too bad the DPJ didn’t run more candidates – they might have been able to win an outright majority by themselves!

11:00 – NHK is reporting more Adachi-ku results: LDP’s Masatsugu Mihara won a seat. He was someone I predicted would lose. Oops!

11:02 – Tokyo Shimbun has great pic of the local LDP leader who lost his seat in Chiyoda-ku:

11:07 – According to NHK, ex-porn star Mai Goto is officially a loser in Shinjuku-ku.

11:10 – On the national scene, DPJ is gearing up to file a no-confidence motion against Aso, and LDP members are leaning toward kicking Aso out rather than an early election. Aso is sticking to the line that this election does not matter and that the party should keep him on through the election, whenever it might be.

11:15 – DPJ now 5 seats away from an outright majority. (Correction – that’s DPJ plus other opposition parties)

In Adachi-ku, Nobuyuki Nakayama of Komeito won a seat.

11:19 – Final two Adachi-ku seats announced: Yoshie Oshima from the commies and Haruhisa Tomotoshi from Komeito. My predictions were 5 for 6 – not too shabby!

11:30 – I am very saddened to hear that the anko factory owner Naoki Takashima lost his seat! Maybe he can dedicate his free time to perfecting his bean paste recipe and finally mastering how to type Japanese using romaji.

11:33 – Final vote tallies for Adachi-ku (in order of vote totals):

  1. Suzuki Katsuhiro (DPJ) – 47,245
  2. Satoru Onishi (DPJ) – 45,208
  3. Masatsugu Mihara (LDP) – 37,612
  4. Nobuyuki Nakayama (Komeito) – 34,200
  5. Haruhisa Tomotoshi (Komeito) – 34,159
  6. Yoshie Oshima (JCP) – 34,130
  7. Naoki Takashima (LDP) – 32,895
  8. Osato Ichikawa (Independent) – 12,579
  9. Mitsuhisa Asako – 9,213
  10. Sachiko Miyamoto – 2,115

Only the top six won seats. The rest will have to find real jobs.

PS: over 2000 people voted for the Happy party! I’ll have to watch my back in Adachi-ku from now on…

11:40 – NHK is calling it – the DPJ and other opposition parties will end the night with a majority in the assembly.

Impressions: The people in Tokyo have just about had it with the LDP name. Not only has the LDP-Komeito coalition’s performance in national policymaking done little to inspire confidence, in Tokyo they’ve become synonymous with wanting to destroy Tsukiji Market, a world-famous landmark, and move it to a potentially unsafe location. They’re also the ones behind the bailout of the disastrous Singinko Tokyo, a bank that was set up using mostly taxpayer money and became a haven for bad loans. Those factors combined with heightened interest in this election thanks to the media’s description of the  race as a major political landmark leading into the general election. As DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama took pleasure in repeating, this was the perfect chance for Tokyo voters to cast a vote against the status quo.

I am going to bed now, but I will leave you with the music that was playing when Mrs. Adamu cast her ballot.

(for some reason they were playing music box オルゴール music at the polling station)

Tokyo assembly election: Meet the candidates (Part 10 of 10) – Sachiko Miyamoto (Happiness Realization Party)

I am wrapping up this profile series on the final night of campaigning. All ten candidates have had their vans drive by my apartment at least once. Since the average time someone can listen to a passing van is about 3 seconds, the candidates’ strategy seems to be “forget about policy, just repeat your name again and again.”

Last but not least is Sachiko Miyamoto, the candidate sponsored by the infamous Happiness Realization Party:

From Tokyo Prefectural Assembly Election

The Happiness Realization Party was formed in May of this year as the political wing of Buddhism-based new religion Happy Science, which claims to have somewhere around 10 million followers (compared to between 12-20 million for Soka Gakkai), an enormous rate of growth for a faith that only started in 1986. I am not sure exactly why Happy Science decided now is the time to enter politics, but they seem to be very well-funded and serious about trying to get elected (their resources quite obviously outstrip someone like Osato Ichikawa).I have probably gotten more literature from HRP than anyone else during this election cycle. Also, they make no attempt to hide their affiliation with Happy Science – it says so right there on the literature.

Whatever else the HRP might have wrong with it (and there’s a lot), you cannot accuse them of thinking small. Every proposal they have is radical and sweeping. This video from their official Youtube channel makes it look like they are prepared to conquer the earth just to install a high-speed rail network:

As you can see from the video, the HRP is promising to build nothing less than a utopia in Japan – prosperous, safe, and above all happy. Unfortunately they are light on details on how they could bring this about.

Among their chief policy proposals:

  • Revise the constitution to allow a pre-emptive strike on North Korea if necessary.
  • Eliminate inheritance taxes and consumption taxes.
  • In the cities, “bring work and home closer together” by building offices and residences in the same building.
  • Build an enormous monorail around the entire city of Tokyo.
  • Allow massive immigration and promote reproduction to increase Japan’s population to 300 million by 2050

Some of their most radical proposals can be found in their draft constitution:

  • Make a directly elected president the head of state. The president would have the right to issue presidential orders apart from parliamentary legislation. If an order and legislation contradict each other, the chief justice of the supreme court would decide which to follow. But if there is no decision in two weeks, the presidential order will take precedence.
  • The emperor “and other traditions” would be kept on but with their power limited by law.
  • The chief justice of the supreme court would be directly elected.
  • Payment for public bureaucrats would be based on performance (this would be in their constitution!)
  • “Equal opportunity” and total freedom within the law.
  • The state must always aim to have a small government with low taxes.
  • “The mass media must not abuse their power and must act responsibly to the people.”

I am not sure how exactly this is related to the Happy Science teachings, and frankly I don’t care. Their mythology is complicated to the point that it’s just about impenetrable. All anyone needs to remember is that Happy Science is that it is a personality cult above all else. They believe that the founder Ryuho Okawa had a vision in the 80s that he is essentially the savior of mankind. If you’re interested in learning more I am sure they’d be happy to talk to you.

Career: Miyamoto’s website offers precious little information. She apparently moved around a lot as a kid – born in Itabashi-ku, then moved to Wako-shi in Saitama through middle school followed by Koshigaya for high school. After studying French in college, she worked for the Palace Hotel company for two years until she got married in 1981. From then until deciding to run for office, she has apparently held no job or responsibility besides raising her two boys to adulthood.

Policy: The main point of her candidacy is to spread the message of the national HRP. To do that, in her speeches she constantly repeats that the HRP is “the party of zero consumption taxes.”

In her more detailed campaign literature, she says Tokyo needs a “transportation revolution” with the following main policies: build another highway on top of the most crowded sections of the Shuto Expressway; make intersections and rail crossings “three-dimensional”; and install double-decker train cars for use at rush hour.

Something interesting: Miyamoto is a mysterious blank slate, so I don’t know what to say here.

From Tokyo Prefectural Assembly Election


And so ends my attempt to humanize these people! Once the election is over I will be back with some reflections on voting and analysis of the results. Just for the record, here is my projection of the winners, in descending order of votes:

  1. Satoru Onishi (DPJ)
  2. Haruhisa Tomotoshi (New Komeito)
  3. Nobuyuki Nakayama (New Komeito)
  4. Yoshie Oshima (JCP)
  5. Naoki Takashima (LDP)
  6. Katsuhiro Suzuki (DPJ)

That’s right, I am predicting the LDP will walk away with just one seat. One anonymous Adachi-ku assembly member put the chances of this happening at “around 70-80%” and I am inclined to agree.

Tokyo assembly election: Meet the candidates (Part 9 of 10) – Osato Ichikawa (Independent)

Next up is Osato Ichikawa (41) another conservative former Adachi-ku assemblyman who is betting on an electoral upset to put him back in the game.

From Tokyo Prefectural Assembly Election

Career: Another native Adachian (Adachiite?), Ichikawa (pictured with his campaign manager Hayate)  is confined to a wheelchair due to an accident from his middle school days. The accident did not keep him from becoming living a full life, however – he married his high school sweetheart and is a graduate of Waseda University’s law faculty.


After a stint working for Fukuoka-based real estate firm I-Bic, with LDP backing Ichikawa ran and won a seat in the Adachi-ku assembly in 2003 and won re-election in 2007. He appears to be in the middle of his second term, but if Tokyo Shimbun is to be believed he resigned his post to contest this election.

Policy: Amazingly, web sources reveal precious little about what he stands for. His web presence consists of a sparse site designed for mobile phones and an apparently discontinued Livedoor blog.

An official election notice that came in the mail provides more detail. According to the flier, his emphasis is on handicapped access and kid-safe facilities. He also wants to build more infrastructure, shut down Shin Ginko Tokyo, and reduce the number of prefectural representatives (that I agree with – why does Adachi-ku need six?).

He is the only candidate in Adachi-ku to place the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens on his agenda. He wants to get to the bottom of the so-called “Nishi-Arai incident” in which a North Korean spy was living in Adachi-ku under the stolen identity of a man from Hokkaido from 1968-1983. The spy subsequently left the country but is suspected of involvement in the kidnapping scheme.

Chances of winning: As another ex-LDP Adachi-ku assemblyman without official party backing, he does not seem to stand much of a chance. His effect on the election may be to take more of the conservative vote from LDP members. To help distinguish himself he’s prominently featured his wheelchair and pet dog in just about every photograph.

Something interesting: There might be something interesting about this guy, but if so it’s not on the Internet. Ichikawa seems to have a hard time maintaining any sort of web presence. His old site on Blogger promised to chronicle his “powerful” daily life as an assemblyman, but he never got past the test post. His Livedoor blog is also pretty sporadic.