Campaigning for Sunday’s second wave of quadrennial unified local elections has highlighted a legal loophole that allows candidates to go to extremes — including nudity — to gain votes.
In contrast with the ubiquitous portrait shots preferred by most candidates, the campaign poster for Teruki Goto, an independent running for the Chiyoda Ward Assembly in Tokyo, went viral after it showed him posing nude against a Rising Sun flag motif while raising a katana over the Imperial Seal, his genitals covered by his name.
According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the use of nudity is not banned because there are no restrictions on poster design in the Public Offices Election Law. All posters are legal as long they bear the name of the candidate and are posted on the designated boards.
The election law bans campaigning for commercial interests and regulates both the size and number of posters allowed per candidate, but that’s it, a ministry official explained.
“Campaign posters are aimed at introducing candidates and their activities. (The content is) not regulated by law,” the official said, explaining the ministry has no authority to evaluate content.
But political activities can be subject to penalties under other laws, and candidates should be aware of the limitations imposed by such laws when campaigning, the official pointed out.
Lawyer Takashi Yamaguchi, who has seen the right-winger’s poster near his office, said it doesn’t violate the criminal code either because his genitalia are covered.
“Japan’s law on obscenity is relatively simple. The law may be applied only in cases where genitals are exposed,” he said. “At this level, it’s within the scope of the right to freedom of expression.”
According to Goto’s official website, it is not the first time the 34-year-old has run for office. So far, he has made unsuccessful bids for mayor of Meguro, Minato and Chiyoda wards, and tried to win seats in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly.
It is also not his first unusual poster. For the June 2013 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly race, he posed in a tight white suit with a hoodie while riding a panda.
In his poster for the February 2013 Chiyoda mayoral race, Goto used his portrait accompanied by a slogan in English that said: “I make Chiyoda-ku the best town. I worship the Imperial Household. . . . I defend and maintain Yasukuni Shrine. . . . I love Japan.”
Goto’s attention-grabbing tactics have drawn attention on Twitter.
Sports writer Hirotada Ototake said: “If this is a move to amend the Public Offices Election Law, which is full of loopholes, that’s something, but that may not be the case.”
Another Twitter user registered as hiroki_tominaga said: “Most of the posters include a candidate’s face, name and a short slogan, which is nonsense. I guess someone like a guy from Chiyoda Ward who poses nude will gain more votes.”
On his website, Goto derides politics as boring and urges people to make a difference in society.
“It’s not necessarily someone in a high position, someone smart, a politician or a government official . . . who will change (the nation); it’s you who should stand up,” he says in a post.