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Other issues getting overlooked

Tokyo voters unhappy with nuclear focus

by Atsushi Kodera, Magdalena Osumi, and Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writers

As campaigning for the Tokyo gubernatorial race got under way Thursday, just a little more than a month since Naoki Inose resigned over a money scandal, voters expressed bewilderment over how fast the focus seems to have turned to nuclear energy.

A 50-year-old construction company employee from Itabashi Ward said he was disappointed.

“It’s completely wrong (for nuclear power to become a key issue),” he said. “I think the (2020 Tokyo) Olympics is a big subject. Inose’s resignation came so unexpectedly it has clouded what the real issues are.”

The man, who did not want his name used, added that none of the 16 candidates has earned his vote yet in the Feb. 9 race.

According to pre-campaign polls conducted by media organizations, the strongest contenders are former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe and former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, followed by lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya and nationalist Toshio Tamogami.

Hosokawa, after spending the last 15 years away from politics, has enlisted support from another former prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, to push his anti-nuclear agenda.

The Hosokawa-Koizumi duo has quickly become a favorite among those who consider nuclear power the most important issue.

But Yoshitaka Shimoda, a 20-year-old university student, said his vote will go to Masuzoe.

While admitting that none of Masuzoe’s pledges resonate with him, Shimoda said he finds the former health minister the most affable candidate, citing his telegenic smile.

“Plus he’s the only one (of the candidates) I can recognize by name,” he said.

Meanwhile, foreign residents expressed what they want the next Tokyo leader to do.

Pole Piotr Grzywacz, 38, who works for a major U.S. company specializing in Internet-related services, said his natural interest in politics has weakened somewhat, influenced by what he described as Japan’s general political apathy.

Grzywacz said that during his 13 years in Japan he hasn’t noticed any major changes in his daily life despite many changes on the political stage.

He added, however, that the tourism infrastructure in Tokyo should be made more convenient for foreigners, especially those who can’t speak Japanese.

While refraining from commenting about the candidates, 36-year-old German Stephan Matthiesen said he expects some changes in economic policies.

“The economy is growing now,” said Matthiesen, a financial controller at a firm in Tokyo. “The question is how you can stimulate the domestic economy sustainably, and deregulating and opening the country more towards foreign investors is one of the key issues.”

Asked his opinion about nuclear energy, Matthiesen said that the country is not ready to build the infrastructure for a grid in which nuclear power plays no role.

“You need to build the whole infrastructure and you can’t do it over one night. It takes a couple of decades,” he said.

Besides nuclear energy and the Olympics, preparing for a major earthquake and child-rearing support have climbed to the top of the election agenda.

Candidates are also expected to be scrutinized for corruption because of Inose’s resignation.

But Japan’s strained relations with South Korea and China appear to have strengthened support for Tamogami, a nationalist whose platform features building disaster preparedness through use of the Self-Defense Forces.

Tamogami is said to enjoy strong support from the Internet crowd in particular, making him a wild card in the race.

A 24-year-old university student who came to listen to Tamogami deliver a speech Thursday morning in front of Shibuya Station expressed support to the nationalist candidate.

The student, who only gave his family name, Miura, said he supports Tamogami because he finds the former top Air Self-Defense Force officer most ideologically consistent and agrees with his hawkish stance.

Miura, a self-acknowledged frequent Internet user, also said he supports Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

  • Loyd Marlow

    This is a joke right? How could anyone in Japan be thinking of anything other than nuclear power and the on going nuclear disaster happening in Fukishima? Why would anyone be focusing on the Olympics when the probability of that happening is very slim considering the ever increasing radiation danger.

    • Starviking

      Perhaps they don’t agree or see that there is an ever increasing radiation danger?

    • Steve Novosel

      There is no “ever increasing radiation danger”. In fact, there is no radiation danger in Tokyo.

  • Peter

    This article, at least its title, is obviously biased. How can someone draw such a broad conclusion without doing any poll or survey. Just a few people’s opinions cannot represent “Tokyo voters”. This article did nothing but let me wonder the true intention of it. Because media have the ability to influence people’s thoughts and sometimes is used by political purpose( may be not in Japan), we should be critical of information we learned from media. Plus, Mr. Abe’s administration is rushing to restart nuclear plants despite the Fukushima is still in a mess and widespread public oppositions. Tokyo mayor election is incontrovertibly a good chance for people to express their attitudes towards nuclear power and stop Abe’s administration’s arrogant attitude toward public voices( just look at the passage of secret bill and relocation of US’s military base).

  • Ben Snyder

    “It’s completely wrong (for nuclear power to become a key issue),” he said. “I think the (2020 Tokyo) Olympics is a big subject. Inose’s resignation came so unexpectedly it has clouded what the real issues are.”

    ….Um, right. Only in ostrich-land can one delude themselves into thinking that nuclear energy isn’t the primary issue upon which all other future policy decisions in Japan will be derived from. I’m really not sure what the Tokyo electorate is thinking right now, but a random construction worker, two students and a couple expats, while useful for portraying the range of opinions, hardly forms the recipe for the headline’s assertion.

    Where are the women in this interview? Or more importantly, the seniors who make up the vast majority of Japanese voter turnouts?

  • Adam Randolph

    Japan is hopeless as long as affable smiles get the vote. The Fukushima situation is about 1,000 times more important than the Olympics.

  • jimhopf

    Your point of view is joke. Fukushima caused no deaths and is projected to have no measurable public health impacts. Ongoing releases are negligible compared to the main release (3 years ago). radiation levels, and the land.area with radiation levels above the natural range are shrinking rapidly.

    The real health threat resulting from Fukushima is Japan’s decision to use fossil fuels instead of nuclear, which will result in thousands of annual deaths, and a huge increase in CO2 emissions. The notion that Fukushima could affect the Olympics in Tokyo is absurd.

  • Akira Kurebayashi

    The title “Tokyo voters unhappy with nuclear focus” is quite misleading, considering that the reason why Hosokawa, who insists on the abandonment of nuclear energy, was criticised from media was not because he raised anti-nuclear policy as his agenda; but instead, it was mainly because of his lack of policy other than about nuclear issues. Tokyo is such a huge city with the population of 37,126,000, which means there’re lots of issues going on in it; despite the fact of that, he couldn’t answer to the journalist’s question like “what do you think of the policies other than anti-nuclear plan?” and he was just silenced at least two weeks ago. This is exactly the same way which Hosokawa’s major supporter and former PM, Junichiro Koizumi used in his election a decade ago: he just manipulates voters to be polarized, saying like “do you support pro-nuclear lawmakers or con-nuclear ones?” Politics shouldn’t be like that! By simplifying the point, candidates would be able to earn more votes but they shouldn’t leave other issues unmentioned. As far as I’m concerned, I want to vote for candidates who insist on anti-nuclear policy, but I don’t want anyone without any concrete policy other than that.

  • stevek9

    Japan has a hard road ahead no matter what, given the demographic collapse they are experiencing. Without nuclear power they will really be in trouble. What they should be doing is building new plants as fast as possible while there are still a few young people in the country to build them.

  • Steve Novosel

    Thanks for your complete and total lack of contribution to the discussion at hand. Why did you even bother to hit the post button on that comment?