Leaders of all the political parties vying for a seat in the April 23 House of Representatives by-election in the Chiba No. 7 district hit the stump Saturday.

Ichiro Ozawa, president of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, spoke before some 200 people in Noda, Chiba Prefecture.

“It’s only one seat that is up for grabs in the by-election, but that seat will determine Japanese politics and the current of politics in the future. This is the election to determine the course of Japan,” Ozawa said.

“I left the Liberal Democratic Party and formed a coalition government led by Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, but that government collapsed in a short period of time,” he said. “Learning from that lesson, we must achieve a change in power and let democracy take root in Japan. This is the final task of my 36-year political career.”

Ozawa has rarely reflected in public on the 1994 collapse of the Hosokawa government. Following his speech, he shook hands with the audience to ask for support.

In one of his appearances, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi attracted some 6,000 people on a street in Matsudo.

“This will probably be my last speech on the street. Not only Mr. Ozawa, but DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama and DPJ Diet affairs chief Kozo Watanabe are also old faces of the LDP,” said Koizumi, taking a shot at the new faces in the DPJ’s leadership.

The DPJ’s popularity has been increasing gradually since Ozawa took the helm of the party on April 7.

Along with Koizumi, New Komeito leader Takenori Kanzaki appeared in support of the LDP candidate.

Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii meanwhile delivered a speech in Nagareyama.

Soka Gakkai meeting

Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa has met with the head of Soka Gakkai, a major lay Buddhist organization that is the main support base of ruling coalition member New Komeito, sources said Saturday.

The 10-minute meeting Tuesday with Einosuke Akiya at a Soka Gakkai facility in Tokyo took place at Ozawa’s request as an apparent gesture of courtesy, the sources said. Ozawa has made courtesy calls on other groups supporting the ruling bloc since he was elected head of the main opposition party April 7. The contents of the Akiya meeting have not been disclosed.

Ozawa, formerly an LDP heavyweight, has met leaders of such groups as the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) and a nationwide association of small post offices, both major lobbies and supporters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, since becoming DPJ head.

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