An unusual campaign by Mieko Yoshimura, the 63-year-old governor of Yamagata Prefecture, to promote a famous local product is drawing mixed reactions from local residents.
In April, Yoshimura stunned prefectural officials when she suddenly put on a huge red headdress shaped like a cherry, with a long green stem protruding from the top. She was delivering a speech in a large hall of the prefectural government building.
Cherries are one of Yamagata Prefecture’s most important agricultural products.
Yoshimura said she wore the outfit to emphasize her policy to make fiscal 2014 the year to strengthen the prefecture’s “power to send messages” to the public.
Since then, Yoshimura and her vice governors have worn the strange-looking headdress at many public occasions to promote the prefecture’s crop.
The campaign caused a big stir around Yamagata, with local cherry farmers enthusiastically welcoming her passion to build public attention.
“That’s great PR for consumers. I hope it will help increase consumption” of cherries, said a 53-year-old women in Higashine in central Yamagata Prefecture. The area boasts that it grows more cherries than any other Japanese municipality.
Some mayors in the prefecture have started copying Yoshimura’s campaign, wearing headdresses in the shape of their own local agricultural products.
For example, Masaki Enomoto, the 64-year-old mayor of Tsuruoka, has worn a headdress in the shape of an “edamame” green soybean. Mogami Mayor Shigemi Takahashi has taken to wearing a huge headdress modeled after a fat asparagus spear.
Some residents frown on the campaigns, saying the joke has gone too far and political leaders should behave more seriously.
In mid-April, Vice Gov. Tomoyuki Hosoya wore the cherry headgear when he attended an international conference on anti-disaster measures, drawing harsh criticism from many locals.
The prefectural government has received numerous complaints about the performance of the governor and vice governors.
“We don’t know yet if the (cherry) campaign will be a success or end up a failure,” said a prefectural official in charge of the governor’s campaign.