Campaigning for the July 31 Tokyo gubernatorial election officially kicked off Thursday, with candidates pledging in multiple appearances to make the city a better place for residents after a political funds scandal brought down former Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe.

As of close of nominations at 5 p.m. on Thursday, 21 people had put their names forward to become the capital's next governor and vie for the favor of its 11 million voters, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

The main contenders are former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike, who turns 64 on Friday, former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Hiroya Masuda, 64, and veteran journalist Shuntaro Torigoe, 76.