No joke: Higashikokubaru to run as independent for Tokyo governor


Former Miyazaki Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru ended months of speculation by formally announcing Tuesday his intention to run as an independent for governor of Tokyo in the April 10 election, promising to devote his energies to revitalizing Japan and decentralizing power.

“I want to change the structure of Japan from Tokyo,” Higashikokubaru told a news conference. “I want to achieve decentralization of power to local governments from the metropolitan area.”

To do this, Higashikokubaru said it is essential to aggressively wrest authority from financially powerful municipalities — such as Tokyo.

“Local governments and the central government should cooperate to realize decentralization,” he said.

The former comedian said he had intended to toss his hat in the ring a bit earlier but decided against it following the earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region.

Asked how he stands out from the other candidates, including the 78-year-old incumbent, Shintaro Ishihara, Higashikokubaru said he is fit and can move fast.

“I can move, I can run from field to field . . . I’m young. I have vitality, physical strength and energy,” the avid marathon runner stressed. “I will go to sites, talk with people who work at the sites and I will make decisions. Although it will be case by case, I think I am going to run Tokyo with a more bottom-up approach.”

Higashikokubaru said he didn’t support the metropolitan government’s attempt to host the 2020 Olympic Games, saying he intends to channel the ¥400 billion already earmarked for the bid toward economic recovery.

Asked about the controversial relocation of the Tsukiji fish market, Higashikokubaru said he would formulate a policy after studying all the possibilities.

The campaign officially kicks off Thursday.

Also in the running are Ishihara, businessman Miki Watanabe, former Upper House lawmaker Akira Koike and inventor Yoshiro Nakamatsu.