Campaigning has kicked off for the second round of unified local elections next Sunday, prompting many candidates to fire up megaphone-armed vans to holler their names and slogans through each neighborhood in their constituency.
It’s a familiar sight in Japan, but one 30-year-old Chiyoda Ward candidate, Takeori Yamashita, thoroughly rejects.
Yamashita, an information technology employee vying for a seat in the Chiyoda Ward Assembly in Tokyo, is promoting policies he says will better fit today’s society — starting with a “No Campaign Car” policy.
“For me, it seems dubious whether candidates can change the city in a better way without changing their own campaign strategy,” Yamashita said.
Campaign cars are a notorious symbol of Japanese politics as they are also regarded as an unneeded source of noise by many voters, he said.
“Especially for those with babies, night time workers trying to sleep during the daytime, and hospital patients . . . the noise produced by campaign cars is just a nuisance,” he said.
This traditional but obtrusive campaign strategy is an unreasonable way to spend taxpayers’ money, he said.
“Studies show voters don’t place an emphasis on whether they hear candidates’ names from campaign cars when they vote,” he said.
But many do it anyway, believing repeating their names in a booming voice will subliminally coax swing voters to back them at the ballot box, he said.
Yamashita has taken to the Internet to generate publicity.
“Nowadays, many people rely on a smartphone to communicate . . . from mothers who use (the messaging app) Line to connect with other moms, to members of a neighborhood community who use Facebook,” he said, adding he hopes those people will share information about him online.
Yamashita’s anti-campaign car policy is finding success. One person going by the screen name bluesjazz69 left a positive comment on his blog, saying: “I fully agree with your (no-car) policy . . . I think this is a completely decent opinion.”
Japan legalized online campaigning in April 2013, allowing the use of websites, blogs and social networking services to get the message out. But it didn’t have much impact.
As a younger candidate, Yamashita said he wants to convey young people’s perspectives to the assembly, whose members are 60.8 years old on average, by taking advantage of smartphones and IT technology to make its services more accessible.