AOMORI — Perched on the upper tip of Honshu, Aomori Prefecture is tired of being left behind.

The region of 1.4 million people spends half the year covered in snow. Its people are old. Unemployment hit a nationwide high of 7.9 percent this spring. People in the prefecture call themselves the "forgotten north," a land where the promise of prosperity seems out of reach.

The Liberal Democratic Party has held a virtual monopoly on power for much of the last 54 years, relying on the dogged loyalty of Aomori and other hinterlands, which became known as the "LDP Kingdom." With rural voters now clamoring for change, the party finds itself struggling to defend its traditional home turf, considered a key battleground in Sunday's Lower House election.