Media outlets at home and abroad are playing up the Tokyo gubernatorial election as an effective public referendum on whether Japan should ditch its atomic plants, focusing on the battle between anti-nuclear candidate Morihiro Hosokawa and ex-health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, who is backed by pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party.

But some 40 voters interviewed by The Japan Times at polling stations Sunday said they took multiple factors into account when casting their ballots. For them, the issues ranged from welfare, nuclear power and disaster preparedness to the candidates' political experience and credibility.

Indeed, a Nikkei Shimbun poll published Feb. 2 said that health care and welfare were the top issues, at 25 percent, followed by the economy and jobs at 22 percent. Energy and the environment came in third at 9 percent.