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Conservative Landslide in Unified Local Elections

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

Rolling Coverage: Unified Local Elections

—This is Election Day in many parts of country as part of the Unified Local Elections. There are 11 gubernatorial races and much more at stake. The results will come rolling in this evening and, of course, SNA will be here to cover it as it happens. The key races to watch tonight are the outcomes in Osaka and Hokkaido. In Osaka, the Osaka Restoration Association is fighting for its political life. If they lose one those contests, they may be mortally wounded. In Hokkaido, we will see if the opposition can beat the Liberal Democratic Party anywhere at all.

—The flip side of the coin is that the Liberal Democratic Party dominance of the nation could very well become even more extreme this month, with the opposition parties unable to win anywhere except Okinawa and even the rightwing alternatives in Osaka and Tokyo defeated.

—Hirofumi Yoshimura elected Governor of Osaka Prefecture.

—Ichiro Matsui elected Mayor of Osaka City.

—Naomichi Suzuki, the ruling party candidate, elected Governor of Hokkaido.

—Tomohiro Ishikawa, the only opposition party gubernatorial candidate with a significant chance, was defeated.

—Yuji Kuroiwa reelected Governor of Kanagawa Prefecture.

—Eikei Suzuki reelected Governor of Mie Prefecture.

—Tatsuji Sugimoto elected Governor of Fukui Prefecture, defeating incumbent Issei Nishikawa. The Liberal Democratic Party backed Sugimoto after withdrawing support from Nishikawa. Again, this was a clear-cut Liberal Democratic Party victory, showing how their endorsement makes or breaks candidates.

—Shogo Arai reelected Governor of Nara Prefecture.

—Shinji Hirai reelected Governor of Tottori Prefecture.

—Kamon Iizumi reelected Governor of Tokushima Prefecture.

—Katsusada Hirose reelected Governor of Oita Prefecture.

—Hiroshi Ogawa reelected Governor of Fukuoka Prefecture. Although he was supported by the Liberal Democratic Party, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso has become an enemy. Aso was supporting a rival candidate.

—Tatsuya Maruyama wins the Shimane gubernatorial race, which is a sort of win for the opposition. He defeated the official Liberal Democratic Party candidate and is backed by a mix of conservatives, centrists, and liberals from the prefectural assembly.

—In the only real head-to-head matchup between the ruling coalition and the united opposition, the left-leaning candidate was not just beaten, but stomped. Naomichi Suzuki defeated Tomohiro Ishikawa in the Hokkaido gubernatorial race 62.7% to 37.3%.

—If the Unified Local Elections really are a bellwether for the July House of Councillors elections, then the inescapable conclusion is that it will be another landslide in favor of Shinzo Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

—The Osaka Restoration Association’s victory was impressive, but not entirely complete. In the Osaka Prefectural Assembly they won their own majority, but in the Osaka City Council they gained seats but fell short of a majority, meaning that they still need some ally.

—Of the 1158 prefectural assembly seats up for grabs on March 7, more than 50% went to local Liberal Democratic Party politicians. This compares to the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s total of 5.2% of the seats. Female candidates won a record 10.4% of the available seats.

—As is usually the case when the Liberal Democratic Party wins in a landslide, voter turnout on March 7 was among the lowest rate ever: 47.7%. This has been a common theme throughout the Abe era. Most voters are demoralized and just stay home.

—As anticipated, elections are proving that the progressive Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is much stronger than the centrist Democratic Party For the People. In the March 7 round of the Unified Local Elections, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan went +31 assembly seats to reach 118 seats, while the Democratic Party For the People was -59 seats falling to only 83 assembly seats.

—Ayako Fuchigami, one of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s new Hokkaido Prefectural Assembly members, is the first known transgender prefectural assembly member in Japanese history. She vows to fight for LGBT rights.


—Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai suggests that the prime minister to follow Shinzo Abe might be Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, whom he calls “a powerful candidate” for the top post.

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denies that he has any intention of running as prime minister after Shinzo Abe steps down, rejecting the suggestion made by Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai.

—The hard right politician Kyoko Nakayama, former head of the tiny Party for Japanese Kokoro, will not be running for reelection for her House of Councillors seat in July. At age 79, she will be retiring.

—Taro Yamamoto to resign from the Liberal Party, of which he has been the co-leader together with Ichiro Ozawa. He has declared his desire to create a new political party, but at present no other incumbent lawmakers appear ready to join such a party.

—Taro Yamamoto’s proposed political party name will be “Reiwa Shinsengumi,” using the name of the new Imperial era combined with the name of a popular special police force at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate. He wants candidates in the July House of Councillors elections.

—Osaka Restoration Association leader Ichiro Matsui indicates that there will be no rush on his party’s signature Osaka unification plan, but there will be a second referendum on the plan within the next four years.

—Yuji Itano reinstated as executive director, the No. 3 post, at NHK. Itano is widely known as a particularly aggressive pro-Abe hatchet man, having played a key role in pushing out popular anchor Hiroko Kuniya and in suppressing news unfavorable to the rightwing government.

—Taro Aso resigns his position as Supreme Advisor to the Fukuoka Chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party after the chapter and the voters rejected his bid to topple Fukuoka Governor Hiroshi Ogawa in the April 7 elections. Aso’s challenger candidate lost by a wide margin.

—Yoshitaka Sakurada makes one gaffe too many and is forced to resign as Olympics Minister. The straw that broke the camel’s back was his declaration at a political party that reelecting an Liberal Democratic Party colleague from Iwate Prefecture “is more important than disaster reconstruction.”

—Shunichi Suzuki reappointed as Olympics Minister as an attempt to stabilize the situation after his successor and predecessor Yoshitaka Sakurada’s half-year tenure was marked by one gaffe after another. Sakurada had been foisted on Abe as a time-server by the Nikai Faction.

—New Kyodo News poll finds that the Japanese public opposes any revision of the Constitution while Shinzo Abe remains prime minister by a 54% to 42% margin. This strongly suggests that Abe will not be able to achieve his lifelong dream of formally trashing official pacifism.


—Confirmed that Tetsumi Takara will be an All-Okinawa candidate for the House of Councillors election in July. The Okinawa Social Mass Party selected Takara to run after they declined to back Keiko Itokazu for a 4th term.

—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya visits Miyakojima, Okinawa, which he calls “the front lines of our country’s defenses,” coming pretty close to declaring China a prospective threat. The GSDF has a new base on the island, part of the Abe military build-up.

—Official campaigning period has begun for the April 21 House of Representatives Okinawa No. 3 district by-election (Denny Tamaki’s former seat). It will be another straight battle between the Abe government and All-Okinawa forces, Aiko Shimajiri vs. Tomohiro Yara.

—While infrastructure on the Southern Kurils has improved, Russian locals still rely on equipment supplied by Japan, including the diesel power plant provided to Shikotan in 1999, and two ships supplied in 1998 and 2001, which serve as transport between Shikotan and Kunashir.

—Russian military has deployed unmanned aerial vehicles to Iturup and Kunashir. The small drones are same type that Russia has used in Syria. Equipped with night vision cameras, they will help protect the islands’ anti-ship missiles, monitor illegal fishing.

—Russia and Japan reach agreement on fishing catch quotas in each other’s EEZs for 2019. There will be an increase of 19% compared with 2018. The Japanese boats mainly seek saury, squid, and cod in Russian waters. The Russian boats prioritize mackerel and sardines.

—Foreign Minister Taro Kono was asked about the expected 2+2 meeting with Russia. He emphasized the importance of the format to build trust between Japan and Russia but said a detailed decision about the meeting had not yet been taken. Some suggest it may be held on April 25.

—Following media reports that the Russian military has deployed drones on Iturup and Kunashir, Japan’s Foreign Ministry issued a protest, saying “This is inconsistent with our country’s position regarding the four northern islands and unacceptable.”

—On April 10, with restrictions lifted until July 7, Japanese driftnet fishing boats set out from Nemuro to catch salmon and trout in Japan’s EEZ. The boats previously fished in Russia’s EEZ but, in 2016, Russia banned the use of driftnets in its waters.

—For the second time, Japan’s Foreign Ministry sent a representative to Russia’s International Arctic Forum. Kansuke Nagaoka of the Foreign Policy Bureau stresses the government’s eagerness to support Japanese firms investing in the Russian Arctic. Nagaoka notes the MOU signed between JOGMEC and Novatek in September 2018 regarding Arctic LNG-2. A feasibility study is now underway. He says that firms will make the final decision themselves but that, if they are facing problems, it is the government’s job to help them.

—The webcam at the observation tower in Rausu, Hokkaido, has been broken for last two years. The camera is operated by the Northern Territories Issue Association and is intended to keep a constant watch on nearby Kunashir. The association lacks the funds to make the repairs.

—Russian President Vladimir Putin promotes the Northern Sea Route: ”32 days are needed to travel from Yokohama to Rotterdam via the Indian Ocean; via the Arctic it’s 20 days. It’s a huge savings of fuel and time, and will be very attractive, not only for China, but also for Japan and Korea.”

—Less than a month after forming its first F-35 stealth fighter squadron at Misawa Air Base, one of the thirteen jets crashed into the sea during a training exercise. The pilot is missing.

—South Korea revokes permit to build new Japanese Embassy building in Seoul. This is mainly because the construction had already been delayed several years and there did not seem to be any prospect Japan would begin construction soon.

—Many South Koreans unhappy with the choice of Eiichi Shibusawa to be on the new 10,000 yen bills. Shibusawa played a role in the economic exploitation of the Korean Peninsula after the Japanese government annexed Korea in 1910.


—The latest charges against Carlos Ghosn effectively amount to accusing him of embezzlement. The prosecutors’ case appears to be a very complicated one, alleging that money was shifted from account to account until it arrived at a company that Ghosn controls.

—Tokyo prosecutors are showing signs of going after Carlos Ghosn’s wife, Carole Ghosn, perhaps as a means to break him and force him to “confess” to the crimes they are charging him with.

—Carole Ghosn flees Japan, headed for France. Prosecutors seized her Lebanese passport and were making moves against her in order to pressure Carlos Ghosn, but Carole also has a US passport that the prosecutors did not discover during their raid, so she left while she could. It appears that Carole Ghosn was only hours ahead of the prosecutors. By tomorrow, it probably would have been too late for her to get out of Japan. Prosecutors were arranging for her to face mandatory questioning, and presumably she would have been jailed if she refused.

—Another thing about Carlos Ghosn’s rearrest is that, if it continues for a long time, his detention will make it difficult for him to work on his defense with his lawyers, since all communications with them will be short and monitored by prosecutors.

—Nissan Motors shareholders have voted to remove Carlos Ghosn and Greg Kelly as members of the Board of Directors.

—Carlos Ghosn finally speaks, and is unequivocal about his stance on how the Nissan leaders led by Hiroto Saikawa have been acting: “This is about a plot. This is about conspiracy. This is about backstabbing. That’s what we’re talking about.”

—Carole Ghosn has reportedly agreed to return to Japan to answer questions from Japanese prosecutors. It is not clear what factors changed her mind so quickly. Perhaps it was concern that her flight might hurt Carlos Ghosn’s case.

—Yukichi Fukuzawa to be replaced by Eiichi Shibusawa on the 10,000 Yen Bill. Sayonara, Fukuzawa-sensei!

—The new bills featuring Eiichi Shibusawa (10,000 yen), Umeko Tsuda (5,000 yen), and Shibasaburo Kitasato (1,000 yen) are to be circulated from the first half of 2024. Arabic numerals will also be larger to help foreign tourists, etc., quickly understand their value.

—About 40% of the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, has had its radiation evacuation order lifted, though few residents are expected to rush back after more than eight years. Okuma is a host town to the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi plant.

—The Hong Kong Stock Exchange has overtaken the Tokyo Stock Exchange to become the world’s third largest stock market, behind the New York Stock Exchange and the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

—The country’s largest convenience store chain, Seven Eleven Japan, to expand into Okinawa Prefecture from this summer, aiming to go from no presence in the prefecture to a large presence in just a few years.

—The Abe Cabinet agrees that it should provide support to non-regular workers, though the precise policy measures that they have in mind is not clear at this juncture.

—Forbes survey finds there are now 45 billionaires in Japan. The richest five are Tadashi Yanai (Uniqlo), Masayoshi Son (Softbank), Takemitsu Takizaki (Keyence), Nobutada Saji (Suntory), and Hiroshi Mikitani (Rakuten).

—Amazon Japan nixes its plan to introduce a “reward points” system after the Fair Trade Commission begins an investigation on whether or not it constitutes illegal monopolistic behavior.


—Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group to launch its own cryptocurrency in the near future, which they are calling “Coin.” They will also be launching a smartphone app this summer that will manage credit cards, etc.

—The Radio Regulatory Council, embarrassed that South Korea has already rolled out 5G services while Japan, as usual, is lagging, is coordinating with the major telecoms companies to begin trials from this summer and begin commercial services sometime next year.

—The Radio Regulatory Council makes clear, without stating it directly, that major Japanese telecoms companies are banned from using technology provided by China’s Huawei and ZTE in their 5G services once they are up and running next year.

—Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Masatoshi Ishida grants frequency bands for 5G services to four telecoms companies: NTT Docomo, KDDI, Softbank, and Rakuten.

—Chiba University / Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies study finds that more than 100 local municipalities in Japan now produce more renewable energy than the total of their household energy consumption.

—Hyogo College of Medicine becomes the first in Japan to begin using facial recognition technology to track whether or not students are attending class.


—Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan to investigate whether or not the global problem of sexual abuse of children by priests and others has also been occurring in Japan, where there are 16 dioceses.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between April 7 and April 11.

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