A man approaching two meters in height was making a speech in the sweltering heat. A little further away, a mysterious beautiful woman, her light blue polo shirt drenched in sweat, handed out fan-shaped policy leaflets.
I am Asahi. My name is Kentaro Asahi.”
Kentaro Asahi, 46, of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), is leading in the Tokyo upper house election, according to various newspapers. A mysterious beautiful woman was handing out leaflets at one of Mr. Asahi’s street speeches. She entered the gathered audience, smiled, and handed out policy leaflets, which were then dispersed one by one.
This beautiful woman is Mika Matsuno, 26, former grand prix winner of the 2016 Miss Japan Contest. Her father is Yorihisa Matsuno, former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary. Her grandfather is Yorizo Matsuno, former Director General of the Defense Agency, who was described as a “political mentor” of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
In September 2008, Mika and her mother consulted with former Prime Minister Koizumi, with whom she had a close relationship, about running for office. On the day he accepted the offer, former Prime Minister Koizumi took Mika to the party headquarters for a meeting with then Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai. With a smooth transition, Sueyoshi was placed in the custody of the Tokyo Metropolitan Federation of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He ran in last year’s lower house election as the sole Tokyo proportional candidate, but failed to reach the 24th place. Currently, as an election staff member of Asahi’s campaign, I am doing such simple tasks as pasting certificates and distributing leaflets without complaining,” said an LDP staffer.
Asahi also spoke highly of her , saying, “As a staff member in my office, she works just as hard as everyone else and is a dependable presence.
With the support of the former “Miss Japan,” Asahi has been running alone in the early stages of the election campaign.
Thirty-four people are running for the six seats in the Tokyo electoral district for the upper house, the most in the nation. Another LDP candidate, Akiko Ikuina, 54, a former member of the idol group Onyanko Club, Taro Yamamoto, 47, a representative of the Reiwa Shin-Sen-Gumi, and Yoko Ototake, 46, author of “Go-Tai Dissatisfaction,” are also running, making it the most heavily contested district in Japan.
I hope Asahi doesn’t end up like Mr. Hosaka,” said a senior official of the LDP’s Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.
A senior official of the Tokyo Metropolitan Federation of the Liberal Democratic Party expressed his concern.
The “Hosaka-like eyes” refers to an incident that occurred during the 2007 Upper House election. At that time, the LDP’s Tokyo Metropolitan Federation fielded two candidates, incumbent Sanzo Hosaka and newcomer Tamayo Marukawa, a former announcer for TV Asahi. Hosaka’s camp turned the support group’s votes to Marukawa, whose name recognition did not translate into a large increase in the number of votes. As a result, Marukawa was elected in fourth place, and Hosaka was eliminated from the race.
With the support of former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, Asahi organized support groups in the construction industry and other sectors to gain an early advantage.
The polls show that Ikuina, who made her “election debut” with a bang, is trailing behind Renho, 54, of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Until just prior to the election, Ikuina had the full support of the Seiwa-kai (Abe faction), the largest faction in the Diet with close to 100 members, and was well known, and was considered to be “in danger of winning the top position” and “over 1 million votes.
The Upper House election has become a proxy war. Kazuteru Yamazaki, Anri Komiya, and Satoshi Udagawa, all members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly who are against the mainstream, are following the Asahi camp to check the mainstream. The Abe faction, including Kōichi Hagiuda, president of the Tokyo Metropolitan Federation of Trade Unions, and Tamayo Marukawa, acting president of the Ikume camp, want to do something about the fact that the Tokyo Metropolitan Federation of Trade Unions is controlled by the Abe faction, and they are using the Upper House election as a political battleground within the federation.
In addition, Chiho Araki, 40, a representative of the Tomin First Association, is running for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, hoping to capture the 1.5 million votes that are said to be cast by the organization.
Araki is one of Governor Koike Yuriko’s closest aides, having lived with the governor at his home in Ekoda, Nerima Ward. Koike, who has a penchant for national politics, wants Araki, whom she describes as ‘my daughter,’ to wear the badge as a foothold for her to advance in national politics.
According to opinion polls, Araki is facing an uphill battle. In the absence of Governor Koike, Mr. Araki’s solo speeches were sparsely attended. Among the major candidates, Araki is now in tenth place.
For the various organizations in Tokyo, the governor has the authority to decide whether or not to allocate funds to them. Araki has negotiated with various organizations in Koike’s stead. There have been direct calls from Governor Koike to the heads of various organizations, and some of them have even asked for help, saying, ‘We can’t have all of the LDP’s budgets.
In the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election of July 2009, when it was said that the Liberal Democratic Party would “overwhelmingly win” the election, Governor Koike pushed through her illness in the final stages of the election and visited the offices of the candidates of the Tomin First Association.
On June 26, in Asakusa, I asked Naoki Takashima, secretary general of the LDP’s Tokyo Metropolitan Federation of Trade Unions, about the election situation in his favor.
He answered in a loud voice, “You can never be too careful.
He continued, “Many of the support groups are in favor of the LDP and its old allies.
Many of the support groups have long-standing relationships with the LDP. Some of them have gone to the governor’s side, but many of them have established relationships. My role is to get them to put their badges on. I don’t care about the order or the number of votes. They both win together. If they don’t win, the candidates can’t embody their policies. Both of them are working hard. It has nothing to do with whether Ms. Koike wins or not.
With the Asahi campaign, backed by the “Miss Japan” campaign, leading the pack, will the fateful July 10 election day be a “landslide victory for the Liberal Democratic Party”? Will the “Koike magic” produce an upset in the final stages of the election?
The other 34 candidates include Akihiro Matsuo (47) of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Taku Yamazoe (37) of the Communist Party, Toshiko Takeya (52) of the New Komeito Party, and Yuki Ebisawa (48) of the Japan Innovation Party.
Interview and text by： Daisuke Iwasaki