A 14-year-old boy voted in front of a railway station on a rainy Sunday in February in a mock mayoral election in Tokyo’s Machida city organized by the Junior Chamber of Commerce.
The third-year middle school student said he cast his ballot after comparing the candidates’ “manifestos.”
The Machida JCC carried out the voting simultaneously with the mayoral contest held in the city in an effort to arouse interest in municipal affairs among people aged 19 and younger.
Munetaka Soai, a 34-year-old social science teacher at Tamagawa Gakuen high school, also cooperated with the JCC by holding a mock poll in his classroom.
The moves took place while a decline in Japan’s population and aging of society will inevitably lead to rises in taxes and social insurance payments.
About 70 percent of public social-security benefits are for the elderly, while less than 4 percent are targeted at children and households.
Critics say conflict between generations could become serious if the current system of lesser burdens and more hospital benefits for elderly people remains untouched.
A professor of economic policy in the graduate school at Hosei University, Takao Komine, said fresh ideas are necessary to ease possible confrontations between generations, such as the establishment of electoral districts according to age to allocate Diet seats in proportion to age groups and offering a week’s latitude to working voters to cast ballots in elections.
Seventeen-year-old Miyuki Enta served as the third “juvenile mayor” of Yuza town in Yamagata Prefecture for six months until the end of last year.
Candidates for mayor, deputy mayor and six town assembly members were picked from middle and high school students in the town of more than 17,000 people.
Town office employees collected votes, and turnout among some 1,200 students was 80 percent.
The town office entrusted the juvenile mayor with a budget of 500,000 yen.
Enta held 13 meetings with the elected students and proposed that the town assembly set up outdoor security lights and coverings against rain at bus stops.
She said she had a hard time keeping up with extracurricular activities at school during the short period she served as juvenile mayor. “But in the future I’d like to engage in work that will be useful to people,” she added.
“Young people are always dissatisfied with adults and society,” said Mayor Kiichiro Onodera, 59, who came up with the idea of the juvenile mayor. “And if they are, then I want them to get involved themselves in town building and changing society.”
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