OSAKA – Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) officials were reeling with embarrassment and threatening to file a police complaint this week after a weekly tabloid magazine published the names of the 888 students studying at an academy set up by the local political group and its founder, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.
Osaka Ishin no Kai is expected to support up to 300 candidates in the next Lower House election, where Hashimoto has predicted they could win up to 200 seats. Local media polls in late July indicated Osaka Ishin no Kai-backed candidates would win somewhere between 80 and 150 seats, mostly in the Kansai region.
Many if not most of the 300 candidates will come from those who have attended the academy since June, listening to lectures on local government reforms, on merging the city of Osaka and the prefecture, on the regional block system, on tax and welfare issues, and on foreign and defense policy.
Citing privacy concerns, Osaka Ishin no Kai had refused to announce the names of the students.
But a list of all 888 students was recently leaked to the weekly Shukan Post. There are 785 male students, making up roughly 90 percent of the total, and 103 women. They range in age from 28 to 72, with the vast majority in their 30s and 40s, reflecting the popularity of the 43-year-old Hashimoto among his generation.
The article listed the professions of about 700 students. Among these are 65 local-level politicians, including five in Aichi Prefecture, where Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura and Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura have long been Hashimoto supporters.
Many of the students are listed as company employees, but about 40 are doctors, dentists and those in other medical professions. There are also about a dozen members of the media.
Included among the students are Kazushi Yamada, 33, a former NHK director who became a television comedian associated with a production company run by Shinsuke Shimada, a popular entertainer and close friend of Hashimoto who was forced off the air last year after admitting to ties to a high-level member of the Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate.
Among the female students is Yuki Ebisawa, 38, who is identified as a finalist in a beauty contest for women in their 30s and 40s.
The Shukan Post list also identifies several students as former secretaries of Democratic Party of Japan and Liberal Democratic Party Diet lawmakers.
Hashimoto apologized to students earlier this week and said Osaka Ishin no Kai would investigate the source of the leak.
He also said the party was discussing whether to file a complaint with police.
“We’ll be talking with school staff and checking the computers in our headquarters to try and pin down the source of the leak,” said Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, who serves as the group’s secretary general.
The leak occurred as the academy is accelerating preparations for the next Lower House poll. A dozen students will practice giving stump speeches in Osaka on Sept. 15. Originally, the plan was to have the academy’s best students hone their oratorical skills in public from mid-October. But recent political turmoil in the Diet led Hashimoto and Osaka Ishin no Kai officials to move the schedule up.
Cram school subsidy
The Osaka Municipal Government will start giving ¥10,000 in subsidies in September to low-income households with schoolchildren so they can go to “juku” cram schools, city officials said.
The program, pitched by Mayor Toru Hashimoto, will be launched in Nishinari Ward on a trial basis, the officials said.
But some have questioned the program’s efficacy because ¥10,000 a month falls short of the monthly tuition at most cram schools.