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Parties lining up celebrities for Upper House race

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Former prosecutor Masaru Wakasa, 56, a frequent commentator on news programs and talk shows who once worked in the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office, said Thursday he will run in this summer’s Upper House election as a Liberal Democratic Party candidate.

“The Diet is a place to establish legislation. As a legal professional, I am determined to serve as an Upper House lawmaker,” Wakasa said after getting a candidate certificate from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who heads the LDP.

Among other prominent people expected to run, actor Daisuke Shima, whose retirement from entertainment was revealed Wednesday, said on his Facebook page that “the news is already out on the Internet.”

The former punk rocker, a recent fixture on variety programs, was expected to announce his candidacy Thursday night.

Shima, 48, is a close friend of LDP member and former actress Junko Mihara and has been involved in charity work, including sending clothes to children in Indonesia. He’s expected to be endorsed by the LDP.

The approval of online campaigning has given parties a stronger incentive than ever to recruit celebrities to their causes.

Another celebrity rumored to be seeking the LDP’s endorsement is former K-1 kickboxer Masaaki Satake. The former national karate champion is 47 now and manages a human resources development company in Kyoto.

Meanwhile, the Sankei Shimbun reported Wednesday that former newscaster Jun Ogura, 55, a professor at Edogawa University’s media communications department, will run as a candidate for Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party).

The paper reported that Nippon Ishin President Shintaro Ishihara, after meeting with Ogura, said he “already has an established name and is capable of gathering votes.”

Olympic gymnast Mitsuo Tsukahara, who won gold medals in the 1972 and 1976 Summer Games, has announced he will run as an LDP proportional-representation candidate.

Tsukahara, 65, has said he wants to “fulfill Japanese people’s hopes.” Reportedly friends with Abe’s wife, Akie, Tsukahara says he will try to bring the 2020 Summer Olympics to Tokyo and establish a sports ministry.