National / Politics

TV star Ishida announces intention to run for Tokyo governor

by Tomohiro Osaki and Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writers

Popular TV personality Junichi Ishida on Friday expressed his intention to run for Tokyo governor — provided he receives the backing of opposition parties.

In the latest in a string of names being floated as possible candidates to be jointly put forward by an opposition bloc, including the Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party, Ishida told a packed a news conference that he wouldn’t go out of his way to seek endorsement from the opposition and would happily drop his candidacy if anyone else is deemed better suited.

“What I’m saying is that there has to be a unified candidate backed by the opposition. If anyone else is chosen, I’ll be happy to support that person,” Ishida said, adding he has not yet been approached by any political party.

Ishida, who has no political experience, said if he did end up running he would campaign on issues such as boosting support for child-rearing households, investing more in education and ensuring the well-being of retirees.

“I want to realize a Tokyo where people can lead their lives both peacefully and safely,” Ishida said.

Ishida described today’s Tokyo as an unfriendly place for mothers, citing the capital’s lowest birthrate of all 47 prefectures in Japan. He also condemned the problem of Tokyo’s burgeoning list of children unable to enter child care centers.

Ishida, a 62-year-old actor and TV personality, is known for his debonair, soft-spoken style. But he also gained notoriety after once saying “adultery is a culture” in response to his own infidelity, only to face a massive public backlash.

He recently revealed a different side by joining protests against contentious security legislation championed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

On Friday, he said he would stand against what he called Abe’s monolithic administration.

“If the opposition fails to field a joint candidate this time, it may further strengthen the power of the ruling coalition. We don’t want to see a repeat of what happened 80 or 90 years ago” when Japan waged a war of aggression on other countries, Ishida said. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is likely to announce the name of its candidate in the closely watched gubernatorial election race after Sunday’s Upper House poll.

Meanwhile, reports emerged Friday that lawyer and noted anti-poverty activist Kenji Utsunomiya, a former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, will officially declare his intention to run for Tokyo governor as early as Monday.

Democratic Party lawmaker and former Vice Defense Minister Akihisa Nagashima, former Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa and former trade ministry bureaucrat Shigeaki Koga are also considered to be among the leading candidates the opposition parties are likely to back.

Separately on Friday, former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike, who announced her candidacy for the election last week, pledged to set a vision for Tokyo “beyond the 2020 Olympics,” to make the capital an attractive place for residents and tourists alike.

“Tokyo is in need of leadership … it needs a visionary leader,” she said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

Among her other goals is to improve the working environment for women and help Tokyo regain its position as Asia’s first financial capital, she said.

The position of governor became vacant after Yoichi Masuzoe resigned last month in response to his improper use of taxpayer funds.

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