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Candidate, 94, taps funeral fund, runs

China war vet slams tone of hawks Abe, Ishihara

AFP-JIJI

A 94-year-old man who cashed in his funeral savings to use as an election deposit was out canvassing for votes Friday as the oldest candidate in Sunday’s Lower House poll.

Running as an independent, Ryokichi Kawashima says he felt he had to get involved in politics to stop the younger generation making such a mess of things.

“I’m running on behalf of the weak,” Kawashima, one of 1,504 candidates vying for 480 seats, said Friday in Hanyu, Saitama Prefecture.

He said he was motivated to come out of retirement by worries over right-leaning candidates like former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who is 80.

“The words ‘armed forces’ pop out of their mouths freely,” he told the Sports Hochi newspaper last week.

“We surrendered unconditionally in the war. I was worried about what has become of Japan,” said the war veteran, who spent seven years on the frontline in China, where he saw fellow soldiers killed.

“I didn’t die in the war and I’ve had a lot of good times since. If I’d just gone on this way, I would feel guilty toward my comrades who died,” said Kawashima, who worked as an oven seller, a dealer in securities and bonds and held many other jobs before his retirement.

He says his eyesight and mind are both still sharp for his battle against five candidates from established political parties.

He withdrew ¥3 million from his savings for the required deposit for candidates in national elections.

“I’ve saved my pension money as expenses for my own funeral,” said Kawashima, who lives alone. “Honestly speaking, I may not (be) able to win, but I want to state my case.”

The youngest candidate in Sunday’s election poll is Kazuya Aoki, 24, a former aide to a Diet member.