Bunkyo Ward Ranks First in Voter Turnout: The First Five Elected Ward Council Members Have Postgraduate Degrees
Journalist Mitsutoshi Abe's "Cutting through Local Politics!
Journalist Mitsutoshi Abe’s “Cutting through Local Politics!
Located in the center of Tokyo’s 23 wards, Bunkyo-ku is dotted with national universities such as the University of Tokyo and Ochanomizu University. Named after the ward’s unique character of being the “prefectural government of learning,” Bunkyo Ward has made a name for itself as a highly unique municipality with the nation’s highest voter turnout rate.
In the House of Councillors election held in July of this year, Bunkyo Ward had the highest voter turnout in the country by far, at 65.3%. The national average was 52.05%, while Tokyo ranked third by prefecture, with 56.55%, led by Bunkyo Ward.
Yamagata Prefecture ranked first with 61.87%, followed by Nagano Prefecture in second place with 57.70%. Both are known as educational prefectures.
The ward assembly of Bunkyo Ward is also unique. To our surprise, the first five elected ward assembly members have completed graduate school.
First of all, let us look at the ranking of the elected council members and the universities they graduated from.
No. 1: Toshishu Tanaka (Graduate School of Humanities, University of Tokyo, M.A.)
2nd : Taizo Takayama (Waseda University, Graduate School of Public Management, M.A.)
No. 3: Keiko Ebisawa (B.A. in Political Science, Waseda University)
Keiji Sawada (M.S., Agricultural Science, The University of Tokyo)
Yukiko Ueda (Ochanomizu University, M.A., Humanities)
There are three graduates from national graduate schools in the top five. The other two are also from Waseda University, which is known as a “leading private university.
We asked Toshikane Tanaka, who was elected as the top candidate in the 2007 local elections and is currently the chairman of the Bunkyo Ward Council, how he perceives the fact that the first five positions in the council are occupied by people who have completed master’s programs.
He replied, “The Bunkyo Ward Council has 34 seats, but I think the voting behavior is blatantly evident. It is a sign that voters in Bunkyo Ward are looking at the expertise of the council members.
It is also a sign that the floating voters are not choosing by wind or party, but by profile and policy. So there is a sense of tension.”
In these days when the number of amateurish Diet members who cannot even explain themselves in their own words is increasing, there are local governments that are being evaluated on the basis of their profiles and policies.
Furthermore, when asked about the fact that Bunkyo Ward has the highest voter turnout rate in Japan, he replied, “Frankly speaking, it seems to be Bunkyo Ward.
When asked about the fact that Bunkyo Ward has the highest voter turnout in Japan, he replied, “Frankly speaking, I think it is typical of Bunkyo Ward. I don’t think Bunkyo Ward residents have the sense that it doesn’t matter who they vote for. For example, in other electoral districts, there is a clear difference in voter turnout between national and local elections, which are of great interest, but in Bunkyo Ward, there is not such a difference.
Mr. Tanaka analyzed the situation in this way.
I think there is a high level of interest among households raising children in their 30s and 40s, the busiest age bracket. Bunkyo Ward has by far the highest rate of junior high school entrance examinations.
The election questions are asked in the junior high school entrance examinations. For example, “the election system” and “the difference between election bulletins and election publicity. Families in Bunkyo Ward take their children to the elections for educational purposes as well.
It seems that families in Bunkyo Ward are indeed educating their children about sovereignty from the time they are elementary school students. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which presented the “Sovereign Education,” states
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which has proposed “Sovereignty Education,” has set forth the following vision of “a sovereign person who sees national and social problems as his or her own problems, thinks, judges, and acts on his or her own.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which proposed “Sovereignty Education,” has set forth the following
Furthermore, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s “Study Team on the Promotion of Sovereignty Education” has stated in its final summary that “Sovereignty education should
“It is not limited to merely providing students with the necessary knowledge of the political system, but also aims to help them acquire the ability to survive in society and the ability to proactively take responsibility for solving local problems as a member of society.
The school is located in the heart of the city.
Bunkyo Ward, located in the center of Tokyo, naturally has a large influx of voters. How is it possible to maintain such a high voter turnout? Mr. Tanaka analyzes it as follows.
In Bunkyo Ward, there has been a change in the inflow of family households. Until now, there has been a certain pattern of families that went to elementary school in Bunkyo Ward, where there are many famous kindergartens and national and public elementary schools, and then moved to a house in the suburbs after passing the junior high school entrance exam. Recently, however, the number of family-type condominiums has been increasing, and when they are sold, they are sold out immediately. This is a sign that more and more family households are settling in the area.
We also asked the head of the administrative office, Mayor Hiromu Narisawa, why the district boasts such a high voter turnout.
He replied, “I don’t think there is a single reason. The voter turnout is always high in national elections, and I think it is because there are many residents in the ward who have a high level of political awareness.
When I was a secretary for a member of the House of Representatives whose constituency is in Tokyo’s 2nd district (Minato, Chuo, Taito, and Bunkyo wards), I visited the representative door-to-door to survey his needs.
What are your views on nuclear power?
What about Article 9 of the Constitution?
I had an experience of being asked in rapid succession such questions as “What is your opinion on nuclear power? I have not experienced this in other wards. I have indeed experienced firsthand the high level of political awareness among the residents of my ward.
Furthermore, Mayor Narisawa said, “Like the voter turnout, the tax payment rate is also high.
I believe that many of the ward residents are willing to pay taxes to see how their tax money is used. One of the reasons for this is that many young people are choosing their local government when purchasing condominiums.
On August 19, Bunkyo Ward announced that it would provide a temporary subsidy of 30,000 yen per child to all households raising children, whose household budgets have been burdened by soaring prices. While the national government and other local governments draw the line for such benefits based on income, Bunkyo Ward has decided to provide uniform benefits without differentiating by household income or other factors. This is a wise decision on the part of the administration and the council, which has taken into account the needs of the ward residents.
It seems that Bunkyo Ward has taken into account the awareness of the child-rearing generation, which underpins the high voter turnout.
In closing, Council Chair Tanaka said, “Look at Bunkyo Ward.
Look at Bunkyo Ward. Newcomers and veterans alike are able to voice their opinions. That is an awareness that the ward residents are watching us.
His words remain in my mind.
It is said that if voters’ awareness changes, politicians’ awareness will change, leading to an improvement in the quality of politicians and influencing administrative policies, and this virtuous cycle is exactly what is happening in Bunkyo Ward.
In the ’19 election, the first to fifth places were occupied by those with postgraduate degrees, but it is clear that the people of Bunkyo Ward are not only looking at the careers of those with postgraduate degrees, but also at the policies of the ward.
Interview and text： Mitsutoshi Abe (Local political journalist, former TV reporter)
Born in 1956. He has appeared on Time 3, Ohayo! Nice Day," "Tokudane! (Fuji Television Network) and eight other programs as a reporter. After managing an advertising agency, he served as a member of the Taito Ward Assembly in Tokyo from 1999 to 2007. After that, he became the first public secretary of a member of the House of Representatives. Currently, he continues to report and write about various administrative and social issues from his unique perspective.
Photo： Naomi Nishimura/Afro