Official campaigning for the Kobe and Kawasaki mayoral elections kicked off Sunday, with neither city's incumbents seeking re-election.

In Kobe, the five candidates include Yasuko Morishita, 48, a former member of the Kobe Municipal Assembly, and Yuna Nukina, 61, a civic group representative backed by the Japanese Communist Party.

The other three are Kizo Hisamoto, 59, a former deputy mayor backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan and New Komeito, and Takahito Kashino, 50, a company executive, and Shinya Hisamoto, 58, the manager of a building contractor's office. The two Hisamotos are not related.

All five are running as independents.

Incumbent Mayor Tatsuo Yada, 73, who is not seeking re-election, tapped Kizo Hisamoto, a former internal affairs ministry official, as his political heir. The race is seen as a two-man contest between Hisamoto and Kashino, who lost the previous election to Yada by 8,000 votes.

In the Kawasaki race, Yoshio Hideshima, 44, another former internal affairs bureaucrat, has secured the backing of the LDP, DPJ and the New Komeito, and is viewed as the front-runner. Chikako Kimishima, 63, a branch head of the New Japan Women's Association, a major nongovernment organization for women's rights, is backed by the JCP, while the third candidate is former Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly member Norihiko Fukuda, 41.

The focus of the election is whether to maintain the course of administrative and fiscal policy reform promoted by the incumbent mayor, Takao Abe, who served three four-year terms. Abe has said he will back Hideshima, a former head of the city's finance bureau, who would maintain Abe's policy of reform. Fukuda has emphasized the need for a leader picked from outside government circles, not a career official, while Kimishima has ran on a platform of enhancing public welfare.

The voting for the two elections will be held Oct. 27.