AMAGASAKI, Hyogo Pref. — Yasuo Tanaka, the leader of New Party Nippon and former governor of Nagano, is attempting to unseat New Komeito heavyweight Tetsuzo Fuyushiba in a race widely seen as a test of Tanaka's popularity in a region where his volunteer activities after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake are still remembered.

Their head-on battle in the Hyogo No. 8 district is also a test of the ability of New Komeito's supporters to get out the vote. This test is especially true for members of Soka Gakkai, Japan's largest lay Buddhist organization and New Komeito's main support group.

For the 53-year-old Tanaka, the decision to run in Hyogo Prefecture is something of a homecoming.