Akemi's Anime World

Akemi’s Anime Blog AAW Blog

Tokyo Election Results Cost 11 Candidates 3 Million Yen Each

The 54% of Tokyo’s ten million registered voters who bothered to go to the polls have spoken: Shintarou Ishihara has been reelected as governor of Tokyo with 51% of the vote, about 2.8 million voters. Ishihara, an independent supported by Japan’s powerful Liberal Democratic Party, beat his nearest rival by a comfortable 20% of the vote.

The “revolutionary” candidate Kouichi Toyama (video), who used his official speech to advocate overthrow of the Japanese government, ended up in 8th place out of the 14 on the ballot, with 0.27% of the vote (given the size of Tokyo, that works out to a respectable 15,059 votes). Unfortunately for him, that also means that the election cost him (as well as every candidate other than the top three) a hefty 3 million yen.

How does this work?

To be listed on the ballot, each candidate must pay a fee to the election commission. If they are elected or at least manage to get a respectable percentage of the vote, the fee is returned to them. If not, tough luck.

It’s been said that England originated the idea for this sort of fee-based system as a way to control the proliferation of people using elections as a publicity stunt or other self-serving goals. The logic behind it is that if you’re serious about entering politics, you should put some money where your mouth is. Fees that aren’t returned end up in government coffers.

In Japan, getting on the ballot doesn’t come cheap, either. The fee to run for governor is a whopping 3 million yen (about US$25K), which you get back if you manage to garner at least 10% of the vote. Want to try out for the house of representatives? That can go as high as 6 million yen (US$50K), depending on the district. Mayor of a city is somewhat more affordable, at 500,000 yen (US$4,000).

The system is not without critics, however. As illustrated by the herd of candidates in this year’s race for Tokyo Governor, even these entry fees don’t work that well to stop fame-seekers. Further, these fees may well go against the Japanese constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, belief, gender, social standing, family origin, education, wealth, or income. Detractors of the fees argue that it is a form of discriminating on the basis of wealth.

Japan isn’t the only country to try this system; France, for example, required a fee of about US$200 to run for national office, but the unpopular fees were repealed in 1995. Other examples are England, in which some elections require a deposit of around US$900, Canada at around US$700, and Korea about US$13,000.

As for Toyama,he couldn’t come up with the 3 million yen himself, so he borrowed it from a friend. He never expected to get it back, so according to a ZakZak article (J) he figures that with his 2 million yen (US$17K) annual income as a street musician it’ll take him about six years to pay back the loan.

He’s apparently quite satisfied with the results, though—the publicity generated by his outrageous speech was easily worth the cost to him.

Video: Tokyo Gubenatorial Candidate Advocates Revolution

Kouichi Toyama is one of fourteen men running for Governor of Tokyo in an election this coming Sunday. The election is shaping up to be a bit like the free-for-all race for California governor a few years back that pitted career politicians against actors, businessmen, and a variety of oddballs. Unlike your average political candidate, Toyama used his widely televised speech as an opportunity to advocate destroying the country and replacing it with something more functional.

His speech, depending on your perspective, is somewhere between extreme activism and largely unintentional comedy, but at least for him it’s certainly not a joke—he was recently released from a two-year prison sentence for sedition. Toyama doesn’t have illusions (or delusions) of having any chance at winning, but his PR stunt has certainly raised his profile—in addition to television broadcasts his speech is all over the Japanese-language internet and dozens of mix-ups are available on YouTube.

See for yourself; below is the entire speech (taken from one of the YouTube postings) with English subtitles added by us.

Toyama also (of course) has a Japanese-language blog. He posted several videos there (also available on YouTube) of him at his day job—a street musician. He’s probably a better singer than he is a public speaker.

Uptade: According to a Yomiuri Online article (J), the board of elections is complaining that the massive response on YouTube and similar video clip sites violates election laws. There is a legal limit to the number of times an election speech can be broadcast, and they are claiming that the ability to re-watch a candidate’s speech over and over violates the laws and is unfair to the other candidates.

Sounds an awful lot like sour grapes just because their speeches weren’t as interesting.

Ninja Government

The Mayoral Shuriken contest
as seen in a TBS Newscast.

Located on the southern end of Japan’s main island in Mie Prefecture, Iga City was long ago the home of the Iga Ninja Clan who, along with the Kouga Clan of Shiga Prefecture to the north, were one of the two prominent ninja groups in the land.

TBS News is running a video report (click the buttons under the image for streaming Real or WMV) about a most unusual revival. On February 24th, the mayors of Iga and Kouga revived the ancient rivalry often depicted in action movies when they donned “official” ninja garb and competed against each other in a shuriken throwing contest. The mayor of Kouga emerged victorious in the less-than-serious contest of skill (or lack thereof).

This isn’t the only way that Iga has celebrated the area’s claim to international fame: Yesterday, April 2nd, the Iga City Council held a Ninja Council Meeting.

All of the 70 people in attendance, from the mayor and council members to the audience, came dressed in ninja costumes. Those who could brought costumes from home, while others took the rental ninja-wear route, and some went to far as to bring decorative swords, shuriken, or headbands.

The meeting was, of course, bloodless, although the mayor, Imaoka, proposed a bill by reading from a scroll. At least one council member made sure to open a question with the very ninja-like phrase “Mono moushimasu,” meaning something vaguely to the effect of “If I may, m’lord.”

A Ninja Councilmember
reads from a scroll as photographers hover.

This isn’t the first Ninja Council Meeting, either. In April 2001 and March 2002 similar meetings were held in Ueno City (which is now part of Iga City) to promote the “Iga Ueno Ninja Fest.”

Toward the end of this March the festival’s planning committee requested a revival of the Ninja Council Meeting, and while some people who apparently lack a good sense of humor objected on the basis that city council meetings are serious business, in the end everyone agreed to support the event.

Imagine how much fun C-SPAN would be if there were throwing stars and ninjas involved.