OSAKA – Bowing to long-standing criticism that it must change its name in order to win over more voters, Osaka Ishin no Kai will select a new party name next month.
For an organization based in Japan’s traditional business capital, Osaka Ishin officials showed a remarkable lack of marketing savvy, salesmanship and consumer knowledge when it created the national party last year and attempted to sell it to skeptical voters outside the region by rendering Osaka in hiragana instead of kanji. This was intended to differentiate it from the local political group, which has the same name but spells Osaka in kanji.
This version of Osaka Ishin, they insisted, was not a place but a new brand name signifying a political philosophy that emphasized more regional autonomy, more efficient local government and a more prosperous local economy.
As the Upper House election made clear, almost nobody outside Osaka bought that message. The party won only three single-seat districts, two of which were in Osaka.
The other was in neighboring Hyogo, which is filled with former Osaka residents who commute there daily. In the end, Osaka Ishin remained fixed in the minds of voters elsewhere as a group of Osaka-based politicians promoting an Osaka-focused agenda in the Diet.
The party’s new name will be formally decided in late August and various suggestions are being discussed.
While some Osaka Ishin members worry that removing Osaka from the name will turn it into just another small party voters will ignore, others hope the new moniker will offer a new start and appeal to a broader range of people who might otherwise turn their noses up at the thought of casting a ballot for something named after “Osaka.”
Osaka Ishin leaders have rejected various combinations of words and phrases that sound pretentious, pompous or strange when translated into English. The favored candidate is Nippon Ishin no Kai, or Japan Restoration Party.
But that’s the just same name Osaka Ishin no Kai used before splitting last year with its Tokyo-centered faction.
Osaka Ishin officials thus face the unenviable task of convincing voters that a new (but actually old) brand name represents a fresh new party that is still Osaka-based but still aspires to go nationwide.
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