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Unified Local Election Campaigns Begin

SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported recently by the Shingetsu News Agency.

Rolling Coverage: Unified Local Elections

—Official election campaign periods have begun in 41 (of the 47) prefectures and 17 (of the 20) designated cities. April 7 is Election Day in the first round of the Unified Local Elections.

—The prefectural assembly races are once again witnessing a very low proportion of female candidates, only 12.7%. As miserable as this figure is, it actually represents a record high for Japan, 1.1% higher than the 2015 Unified Local Elections.

—Japan’s Dying Democracy: In the April 7 local elections, there is only one candidate for 26.9% of the seats up for grabs. This is a record high figure for seats that will be won automatically simply by filing one’s candidacy.

—Prefectural Assembly Candidate Numbers by Party: LDP 1,302 candidates; Independents 902 candidates; JCP 243 candidates; CDPJ 177 candidates; Komeito 166 candidates; DPFP 113 candidates; Ishin 83 candidates; SDP 25 candidates, etc.

—Most recent polls suggest that Hirofumi Yoshimura is on course to win his election as Osaka governor, but Ichiro Matsui could be in trouble in the Osaka mayoral race, as he and Akira Yanagimoto are running neck-and-neck.


—Worried that they might be losing LGBT voters, the Liberal Democratic Party working on a “LGBT Understanding Promotion Bill” that will urge more acceptance of LGBT citizens, though without any punishments for those who violate its precepts. Truly a classic Liberal Democratic Party move. Knowing that the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is now pushing LGBT rights strongly, they try to symbolically co-opt the movement without really making any fundamental reform. Its the same strategy they have regarding women’s rights.

—Osaka No. 1 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, an independent panel of citizens, describes it as “unjust” that prosecutors have failed to indict former Finance Ministry official Nobuhisa Sagawa over the Moritomo Gakuen case.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is asked about the possibility of a double election being called in July: “I can’t say that it is 100% off the table, but the chances against it are about 99%.”


—Speaking on March 27, Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin dismissed the idea that Russia could make territorial concessions in exchange for Japanese investment saying, “we are not taking a bartering approach.”

—Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin complains about the use of the term “inherent territory” to describe the disputed Northern Territories in newly-approved Japanese primary school textbooks: “It is an incorrect signal and cannot be accepted.”

—Speaking at Japan National Press Club, Russian Ambassador Mikhail Galuzin states “no matter in which part of Japan they are stationed, the US military is still a threat to Russia’s security interests”; i.e. a guarantee of no US facility on any transferred islands is insufficient.

—Japan scrambled fighter jets to intercept a Russian Navy Ilyushin Il-38N Dolphin maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft over the Sea of Japan on March 27. Japanese airspace was reportedly not violated.

—International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach says that he wants another Japanese member to join the committee quickly to replace Tsunekazu Takeda, especially as Tokyo hosts the Olympics next year.

—Instead of the prosecution as a war criminal that he richly deserves, US Vice-President Dick Cheney is honored by the Abe government in Washington, presenting him with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun. Who says crime doesn’t pay? Imperial crimes do.

—The proposal in Gyeonggi Province to officially label some Japanese firms as a “War Crime Company” if they used wartime forced labor and have not offered compensation is shelved for the time being as the Moon administration is putting pressure on them to drop this idea.

—Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama: “I hope that the new Emperor, who will be enthroned in May, will have an opportunity to visit Korea amid a welcome from the people of Korea.” No Japanese Emperor has ever before visited Korea.

—Toshitsugu Uesawa, Japan’s ambassador to Kenya, given a one-year disciplinary suspension over a sexual harassment case. As he is 63 years old, this will also be the end of his diplomatic career. It must have been a very serious case for the government to act so strongly.

—Ministry of Defense declares that its first squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35A jet fighters is now operational. It is based at Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture.

—Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido claims in a speech that the Abe government has assured him of aid in restoring the nation’s electricity services after the US-backed coup against the regime of President Nicolas Maduro has been successfully carried out.

—Japanese whaling fleet returns to port in Shimonoseki, marking the end to so-called “research whaling” in the Antarctic Ocean, which had begun in 1987. Commercial whaling in waters nearer Japan scheduled to begin in July.


—Hooters is Bust? Yes, it’s true. HJ, the operating company for Hooters Japan has filed for bankruptcy protection this week. It’s not clear at this point if this means its six locations (four in Tokyo, plus Nagoya and Osaka) will actually be closing.

—Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada announces that “in principle” the Japanese government will not authorize the construction of new coal-fired power plants nor an expansion of current ones. Some doubts remain about how strictly this principle will be observed.

—Kazuo Hirai will be stepping down as chairman of Sony after a seven-year run in the top spot. His tenure has generally been regarded as a successful one, leaving the company in a much stronger position than it had been when he took over.

—Since the effectuation of the new Japan-European Union trade deal on February 1, the initial figures are confirming a major boost in the amount of European pork, wine, and cheese being imported into Japan.

—Japan Atomic Energy Agency confirms that material sold on Yahoo Japan’s auction site in November 2017 was indeed, as advertised, depleted and yellowcake uranium. The original source of the uranium is yet to be discovered.


—Toyota Motor admits that its customer database in Tokyo was hacked and that personal information on about three million of its customers was stolen. This includes customer names, birthdays, and employment information.

—Former Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange head Mark Karpeles will appeal his conviction for data manipulation, which apparently he was only found guilty of to save the face of prosecutors who failed to prove their charges of embezzlement and breach of trust.

—JR East planning to create a cryptocurrency payment option for the Suica card by this summer. In this connection, JR East might create its own cryptocurrency company.

—Itochu Corporation is working with domestic and overseas construction companies to create a new business model whereby solar panels would be installed on the roofs of factories and stores with no initial cost. The installer would then be obligated to buy the electricity.


—Hard times continue for the yakuza, hit by police crackdowns and economic exclusion policies. The National Police Agency reports there are now just over 30,000 yakuza across the nation, with about 4,000 leaving the gangs in just the past year or so.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono says his ministry is reopening the question of what order Japanese names should be rendered in English. Should it be “Shinzo Abe” or “Abe Shinzo,” for example. China and Korea use family names first, while Japanese adopted the Western order.

—Meiji Yasuda Life survey finds that in the Heisei era “Hiroto” was the most popular name that parents gave to their boys and that “Misaki” was the most popular girls’ name.

—New government estimates are that a major earthquake in the Nankai Trough might create a massive tsunami that could kill up to 323,000 people in the worst case. They have issued preparation and evacuation guidelines to local governments and businesses.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between March 28 and March 30.

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