A new allegation has surfaced against Akira Ishii, 65, a member of the Japan Restoration Association (JRA) House of Councilors. He was previously under fire for saying, “They chose me based on my face,” regarding candidates running for the upper house election.
Ishii allegedly distributes rice cakes and lotus root to his supporters in his hometown of Ibaraki every year.
A man in his sixties who is a member of Congressman Ishii’s supporters’ association testified to this.
After serving as a councilor of Fujishiro Town and Toride City in Ibaraki Prefecture, Ishii was elected to the House of Representatives in 2009, running for the Democratic Party of Japan. After being unsuccessful three times, he returned to national politics from the Restoration Association in the 2016 Upper House election. His office is located in Toride City, and every year at the end of the year, secretaries from his office visit the homes of local voters with “mochi” (rice cakes) and “renkon” (lotus root).
The man testified, “Every December, four to five secretaries and staff members from the office make the rounds to various areas in Ibaraki Prefecture. Before the New Year, we say, ‘Please take care of Akira Ishii again next year.’ They go door to door with a list of distribution sites. Some secretaries use the office car, while others go around in their own cars.”
The magazine obtained the distribution list of more than 150 names and addresses of people living not only in Toride City, where the office is located, but also in the neighboring cities of Koga and Ushiku.
“The renkon is purchased from farmers, and is packed in a cardboard box 80 cm long and 20 cm wide, with 3 to 4 pieces of lotus root. The mochi is about 1 to 2 kg. I think the price is about 2,000 yen for each of them. Of course, not all of those in the list accept them; there are some who refuse and some whose homes are unattended.”
This magazine actually visited the addresses on the list and asked them if they had ever received “Mochi” or “Renkon” from Akira Ishii and his office. Some of the residents replied,
“I don’t know. I can’t answer that.”
One resident said, “I got a call from a friend saying, ‘A reporter is going around asking if we received lotus root from Mr. Ishii. Even if you did, you can just say you didn’t.”
Some residents responded, “I don’t know,” while others stated clearly, “Everyone in this area is a member of Akira Ishii’s group.”
“They have been coming to greet him with ‘mochi’ (rice cakes) for a long time. That’s why we have always supported him.”
“Donations or bribes” to people in the electoral district are prohibited by the Public Offices Election Law. As evidenced by the case of former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kazuhide Sugawara, who resigned from office in 2019 after allegedly giving crab and melons to voters. Even food items are considered bribes. Hiroyuki Kamiwaki, a professor at Kobe Gakuin University Faculty of Law and an expert on public office election law, said,
“Mr. Ishii’s constituency is nationwide because of his nationwide proportional voting system. It would be a violation of the Public Offices Election Law if not only him but also his supporters’ organizations or constituency branches distribute the money. The key to whether it violates the Public Election Law is whether the recipient recognizes that he or she received it from Akira Ishii’s side.”
A member of the supporters’ association asserts,
“The secretary said, ‘Thank you very much for your help.’ The secretary greets the voters by saying, ‘Thank you very much, I came from Akira Ishii’s office,’ so the voters definitely know who gave it to them. More to the point, we sometimes give them Senator Ishii’s calendar along with it.”
This magazine directly interviewed Councilor Ishii himself after his street speech in Ushiku City on June 5 regarding the distribution of mochi and renkon.
–Is it true that you distribute mochi and “renkon” to your supporters at the end of the year?
–You, councilman Ishii and your secretary.
“I did not hand them out.”
–some of the people actually received them.
“Because that’s not true. In the past, we were a business family, so we used to make “mochi” and sell them to the peddling grandmothers. That was our job. That’s how it started.”
–You have never given out mochi at your office?
“In the countryside, for example, we receive rice cakes made at our neighbor’s house and share them with the others.”
–What do you mean by “in the countryside”?
“For example, people receive rice cakes from their neighbors’ houses and share them with each other.”
–You don’t give them out?
“I don’t do it, but, maybe it’s the people around me who support me, or my company, or people I know.”
After repeatedly giving vague answers, Mr. Ishii said, “If you have any questions, please e-mail me,” and walked away. The next day, we sent a written question to his office, to which he replied, “It is not true (about the distribution of mochi and renkon,” followed by,
“We were told that (a confectionery distributor associated with Councilor Ishii) was distributing rice cakes and lotus roots as a thank-you gift to those who made reservations for Christmas cakes, and (omission) we have confirmed that people associated with the office of Ishii Akira offered to help with that and actually helped distribute a few of them. However, we have also confirmed that no one from Ishii Akira’s office gave out Ishii Akira’s name or any other information at that time.”
Incidentally, the distribution list obtained by this magazine was also prepared by this confectionery distributor. The list contains the names and addresses of more than 150 people in 10 cities, towns, and villages. The majority of them are elderly people in their 70s or older. Is it possible that Christmas cake reservations were received from all of these people?
Councilor Ishii is also planning to run for the upper house in the next national proportional election. With this response, can he say that he has fulfilled his accountability to his constituents?
From the June 24 and July 1, 2022 issues of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Takayuki Ogawauchi (1st and 4th pictures)