The ruling Democratic Party of Japan announced Monday it will field women’s judo superstar Ryoko Tani for the proportional representation segment of the summer Upper House election.
Speaking to reporters at DPJ headquarters in the afternoon, the former two-time Olympic gold medalist said that while she intends to still pursue her judo career, she is willing to use her long years of experience as a top-class athlete to “build a nation everyone desires.”
“I’d like to give it all my best, with enough love to envelop the Earth,” Tani said, while also vowing to win another gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
The 34-year-old Tani, widely known by her nickname “Yawara-chan,” which comes from the title character of a popular judo “manga,” said she was initially approached by DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa in March about running for the Diet, but she didn’t decide on her candidacy until late last month.
“I’d like to work hard under the strong leadership of Mr. Ozawa,” she said, adding she has resigned from Toyota, with which she had been affiliated, as of March 31.
Ozawa said Tani’s decision is an incredible boost for the DPJ, and her self-discipline and strong willpower are lacking in modern Japanese society.
“There’s little time left before the election,” Ozawa said. “We plan on providing strong backup so that those who are familiar with Mrs. Tani, those who support her, will lend us a hand.”
It is unknown, however, whether fielding one of the world’s most famous judoka will be enough to deliver the DPJ a gold medal at the upcoming election.
The latest poll taken by the Yomiuri Shimbun indicates that support for the Cabinet has fallen to 24 percent, a drop of 50 percentage points from when the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was launched.
Hurt by money scandals involving both Hatoyama and Ozawa, the administration now faces an impasse over where to relocate the U.S. Futenma air base in Okinawa.
Tani won gold in the 48-kg division at the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games.
Her husband, Yoshitomo Tani, plays for the Yomiuri Giants.