Many new adults polled Monday morning by The Japan Times said they would exercise their just-acquired right to vote in this year’s Lower House election, but their comments also revealed mixed feelings toward politics and even outright distrust in lawmakers. “I’m going (to the polls), though I don’t expect much from politics,” a female college student from Yokohama’s Asahi Ward said before attending the city’s Coming-of-Age Day ceremony. Many others at the ceremony said they intend to vote in the Lower House election, which must be held no later than October when the four-year term of the incumbents expires, but few could specify what they wanted to vote for, besides economic recovery. “I’ll go if I have time,” said Takahiro Sakamoto, a vocational school student. “I don’t know about details, but overall, I get this feeling Japan is going in the wrong direction.” Convenience store worker Yuichi Tokuda of the city’s Kohoku Ward said he had no intention of voting. “I don’t care. It makes no difference who gets elected,” he said. “I’m not particularly dissatisfied with politics anyway.” Ceremonies commemorating Coming-of-Age Day took place across Japan on Monday, the first time the holiday has been held since being moved to the second Monday of January. Under a new national holidays law, Coming-of-Age Day has been moved from Jan. 15 to the second Monday of the month, and the Oct. 10 Health-Sports Day has been moved to the second Monday of October. Dubbed the “Happy Monday” law, the move is designed to increase consumer spending by creating three-day weekends. According to the Management and Coordination Agency, about 1.64 million people turned 20, the age at which adulthood legally starts in Japan, during the past year. In front of the civic cultural hall in Musashino, western Tokyo, Hideaki Katayama said, “I will vote because I want to choose a person with views similar to mine. I also feel that if I don’t vote, I can’t criticize the government.” “I’m happy to be able to vote,” Hirofumi Miyamoto said. “Since I’ve acquired the right, I feel I should use it.” But Maki Shinoda said voting was not a priority for her this year. “I just don’t have the time,” she said when asked if she would go to the polls. In a public hall in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward, Hiroko Tomiyama said she wants the government to reform the national pension system. “We have to pay the premium now, but I’m worried that we won’t receive pension payments when we get older,” Tomiyama said. “I want the government to create a system that guarantees repayment for what we pay now.” Erika Ando, who is studying social welfare and intends to work in the field, said she wants the government to spend more money on welfare and improving elderly care. “I go to nursing homes as part of my school’s curriculum, and I see there is a lot of room for improvement … in the quality of service and the number of staff,” she said. Jun Toyoshima said he would not vote because he does not trust politicians. “I don’t like politicians because they tell lies all the time. I wouldn’t vote for any of them.” Such apathy was shared by many of those polled in front of Asakusa Kokaido hall in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. All talk and no action has turned off Akiko, who would only give her first name. “All parties make many promises but none of them carry out their pledges,” she said. “They should be more realistic.” Or at least stay awake, said a male student who declined to be named. “I don’t want to pay taxes for those who fall asleep during Diet sessions,” he said. Yet isn’t politics a reflection of voter participation? “There should be more young politicians,” said Yoshiyuki Ishii, a male college student, who declared he would not go to the polls. However, when asked if he thought young people such as himself should vote to realize their wish, he said, “Well, yes.” In Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, Kaori Teramae said she would not cast a ballot in the coming election because she does not trust politicians. “They talk nice in front of the public, but we don’t know what they are doing behind our backs,” she said, referring to political corruption scandals that often make headlines. “But if there is a person I could trust, I would cast about 10 votes for that person.” Among women and men in kimono and suits who flocked to Meiji Shrine in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward to mark their coming of age, Naoko Ariyoshi from Chiba said she will go to the polls. “I want something done about the lack of jobs,” she said. Uiri Ozaki, a sociology student, said she didn’t expect her vote to have an immediate impact but meant to vote anyway. “I don’t think I can hope for anything specific from politics,” she said. “But I want to help make a system that integrates the opinions of the people more, like in the U.S.” While campaigners for the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party made speeches in front of Shibuya’s civic center, a student majoring in computer science said he would go to the election if he could find a candidate he could agree with.”But I don’t hear anything concrete in these people’s speeches,” he said, adding that he would vote “if there is someone with clear and concrete ideas that I can understand.” Opinions were also mixed at a ceremony held at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku Ward. “I don’t understand the words politicians use, anyway,” Masahiro Shiozawa said. “I’m just not interested.” Motomichi Ueda was more enthusiastic. “It’s time for a generation change,” he said. “I want to vote for someone young, which of course means voting for one of the minority parties, since there are a lot of old people in the Liberal Democratic Party.” “I definitely don’t want to vote for the ruling coalition,” Asami Momo said. “They pass weird legislation such as the wiretapping bill, the national anthem bill and the resident numbering system. Even if it doesn’t make a difference, a vote is a statement.” For many of those who celebrated their Coming-of-Age Day in Osaka Prefecture, the upcoming Osaka gubernatorial election, to fill the vacancy left by “Knock” Yokoyama, will be the first opportunity to exercise their right to vote. “I’m pretty sure I’ll vote. I think it’s important that people of my generation let older politicians know that we’re not happy with the way things are going,” said Megumi Okuda of Osaka’s Joto Ward. Several of those interviewed said they didn’t know if they would vote or not, but said they felt awed by the events of the past month. “It’s just amazing. A 21-year-old girl (who sued Yokoyama for sexual harassment) brought down the governor,” said Keiko Ashitani of Fukushima Ward. “I know that people in the entertainment industry (from which Yokoyama hailed as a comedian) have different morals than normal people. But I admire her for her courage,” she said. Others meanwhile said they would only vote if they found a candidate they liked. “I know I should vote so we don’t get another Yokoyama,” said Tetsuyuki Sawada, also of Joto Ward. “But there aren’t really any suitable candidates, are there?”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.