Idol Turned Politician Uses Former Girl Group “SPEED” Name for Campaign | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Idol Turned Politician Uses Former Girl Group “SPEED” Name for Campaign

"Is this an idol photo shoot? Some audience members were indignant...

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The “Iku-Ima duo” together.

When a brown-haired woman with crutches and wearing loose-fitting black pants and a light blue T-shirt took the stage, the audience started cheering. 

Eriko Imai, 38, a former member of “SPEED” who is seeking the LDP’s official nomination for a second term as a proportional representative, using sign language said, “Please say ‘iku ima’”

“Please cheer for ‘iku-ima’. On the first ballot is Akiko Ikuina, and on the second ballot is me, Eriko Imai. We will work together as Iku-Ima.”

On June 30, Takenotsuka Hall at the Takenotsuka Community Learning Center, which can accommodate 300 people, was filled to standing room only. On that day, a private speech was given by Akiko Ikuina, 54, a former member of the idol group “Onyanko Club,” who has been officially nominated by the Liberal Democratic Party for the Tokyo House of Councilors. Imai, who took the podium as a cheering orator, began her speech with an ironclad story.

“Is there anyone here from the SPEED generation?”

She asked the audience to raise their hands, but not many hands went up, mainly from the elderly.


“I’m Eriko Imai, I once appeared in the Kohaku Red and White Music Festival,” she said.

While speaking of the deteriorating performance of the live entertainment industry damaged by the COVID-19 crisis, she said, “I debuted with SPEED at the age of 12 and have lived with music ever since.”

When she reports that she and Ms. Ikuina has received endorsements from four music organizations, including the Japan Music Industry Association, she also stated her aspirations as follows.

“I will do my best to bring smiles and energy to the people not only through my singing voice but also in the world of politics.”

When it comes to the politics part, she said, “I have been shining a light on areas that have not been illuminated. I would like you all to read the leaflets I have distributed today and learn about Eriko Imai’s achievements over the past six years,” she said.

The moderator called Ms. Ikina and Ms. Imai to the center of the room and said, “Please take lots of pictures and spread the word on social networking sites,” the sound of flashing cameras continued for a while.

A senior official of the Tokyo Metropolitan Federation of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) recounted the secret story behind the formation of the “Iku-Ima” duo.

“When the election campaign started, Ikuina did not grow as much as expected. According to some polls, she was in fourth place, and the election committee felt a sense of crisis. There was a discussion about what should be done to capture the independents, and a suggestion was made to try teaming up with Eriko Imai. It was not a bad idea for Imai, a national proportional candidate, and when the two teamed up for the first time on June 26, four days before this event, in front of the Kaminarimon gate in Asakusa, an audience of about 2,000 people gathered. The crowd was more enthusiastic than at any other venue, and this was a great way to reach out to the nonpartisans. The two were more enthusiastic than at any other venue, and they decided to go with this duo. Incidentally, when we approached Junko Mihara’s camp, they flatly refused, saying, ‘We are from the Kan faction.’”

After the speech and photo session, Imai got into a one-box driven by Ken Hashimoto, 42, a former Kobe City Council member. Hashimoto was reported to have had a “Shinkansen holding-hands scandal” with Imai in 2017, and the two are said to be remarrying this fall. Since the date of the election announcement, he has been working as a driver. When the magazine’s reporter approached him on occasion, he only gave a smile.

Imai making a speech in front of Ueno Station

At the next speech venue, the Hirokoji exit of Ueno Station, Imai uttered the same phrase.

“Is there anyone here from the SPEED generation?”

Men and women in their 30s in the vicinity of Ueno Station raised their hands one after another. Perhaps buoyed by the positive response from the audience, unlike in Takenotsuka, she began to talk about her accomplishments, saying, “I would like to talk about what I have been doing for the past six years.”




“I have revised textbooks for special-needs schools, which had not been revised for 30 years. Telephones were difficult to use for the hearing impaired. With the enactment of the Telephone Relay Service Act, telephone calls can now be used through sign language and text interpretation. In the COVID-19 crisis, the number of DV consultations in 20 years reached a record high of 190,030 cases, and we have played a role in protecting women by opening DV Consultation Plus, which offers consultations via social networking services and 24-hour email consultation.”

However, when it came to the reasons for seeking a second term, she stated,

“I have been criticized for being in politics. But if you give it a second thought, you will know and reach me. I want to help and make people happy. That is why I will not give up. It is easy to give up. I want to go forward even if it is difficult. I want children to see that. If that thought has reached you all, please vote for ‘Eriko Imai’ on the second ballot.”

After the 5-minute speech, the photo session began at the plaza in front of Ueno Station.

“An idol photo session, huh? I don’t get it.”

Some people applauded her and left, but many others formed a queue of about 200 people. Ms. Imai settled into the screen of her phone with each person, smiling and repeatedly goofing off. She said, “I am Eriko Imai, formerly of SPEED. I am having a photo session right now. Please spread the word on SNS.

After more than 30 minutes of the photo session, we directly interviewed Ms. Imai

–Is the photo session more important than your policies?

“Thank you. Thanks for your time.”

–Mr. Hashimoto is a driver, isn’t he?


While waving her hand to those around her and expressing her gratitude, she silenced the reporter of the magazine as if it was not there. She then got into the car driven by Mr. Hashimoto and drove away. If she is going to continue to be a member of the Diet, she should explain her relationship with Mr. Hashimoto and, above all, talk more about her policies, instead of just pushing “ex-SPEED” around.

Since her “fall from grace,” she has been using a wheelchair and crutches.
  • Interview and text by Daisuke Iwasaki

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