National / Politics

Corruption a recurring theme in Tokyoites' picks for governor

The money scandals that felled Tokyo’s past two governors influenced the election Sunday as many voters interviewed by The Japan Times said they expected their new leader to put an end to corruption in the capital.

Masayuki Kimura, 67, who was born and raised in Shinagawa Ward, said he saw Yuriko Koike as the best choice.

“Maybe sometimes we should give a chance to a woman,” he said.

Kimura gave high marks to Koike’s child-rearing support program and her pledges to establish a more favorable tax system.

“As a woman she might perform her tasks with a more intricate understanding of issues, such as the nation’s chronic shortage of day care centers,” he said. “There are many issues that need to be resolved in Tokyo. But what needs to be a priority is the day care shortage and the growing poverty issues.”

He regretted, however, that since Koike ran against the wishes of her party, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, she probably would lose its support and be in a less advantageous position to put her pledges into practice.

Shizuo Yasaka, a 70-year-old man from Itabashi Ward, said he also voted for Koike.

“I feel she could be like a female version of (Junichiro) Koizumi,” he said, referring to the former prime minister who was immensely popular for his aggressive bid to reform Japan’s politics as usual.

“If Hillary Clinton is likely to become the president of the United States, why not a female leader in Tokyo?” he asked. “Tokyo has many difficult issues to overcome … If anyone can bring about change, I believe it’s Koike who will be the one to do it.”

Another Koike supporter, a 49-year-old man in the construction industry who requested anonymity, praised her determination.

“She was quick to announce she would run for Tokyo governor and her declaration speech was easy to grasp,” he said.

He said her rivalry with the other two major candidates resembled a struggle with the political parties.

An information technology worker from Itabashi Ward, 28, said he voted for Koike because he supports her intention to dissolve the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and combat pork-barrel politics.

“I want Koike to check carefully if our taxes are being used properly,” he said.

Sayaka Ogawa, a 27-year-old nursery teacher from Ota Ward, said she hopes Koike will provide public support from a broader perspective, such as by improving the working environment for women.

She said Koike seems to be the least likely of the candidates to be involved in money scandals.

“I’ve voted for Yuriko Koike. She was the most trustworthy candidate with a lot of experience. Her speeches made more sense to me than the other candidates’,” said a 31-year-old business owner in the western suburb of Mitaka who would only identify himself by his surname, Kaitani.

“I want a governor who keeps his or her pledge. Yoichi Masuzoe was good, but the citizens in Tokyo are strict about money-related scandals,” he said.

Yusuke Kobayashi, 69, of Itabashi Ward said he voted for Shuntaro Torigoe, the unified candidate of the Democratic Party, Japanese Communist Party, Social Democratic Party and Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party & Taro Yamamoto and Friends).

“I believe Torigoe is on the side of ordinary people like us,” he said, referring to his journalism career.

“He was on the side of investigating corruption of politics . . . I believe he’d get the job done without pandering to the ruling party,” he said.

A 57-year-old office worker who declined to give his name also said he voted for Torigoe.

“The former governors, Yoichi Masuzoe and Naoki Inose, were power-hungry figures. Koike, too, appears to be a similar breed of politician,” he said.

“On the other hand, Torigoe seems better at bringing out the abilities of public officials, and I demand such management ability from the next leader of the metropolitan government,” he said.

Among the outliers in the gubernatorial race, Kojiro Ichikawa, 41, said he voted for Takashi Uesugi, a 48-year-old former journalist who has vowed to serve without pay and who says that Tokyo residents deserve lower taxes.

“Compared with the ‘winged’ candidates, I thought he seemed the most reliable,” the service industry worker said, contrasting Uesugi with the more partisan candidates on the left and right.

After two consecutive resignations over money scandals, Tokyo needs someone who will steer clear of financial irregularities, Ichikawa said, adding that he believes Uesugi is the one who could bring better reforms to the metropolitan government.

“Also he’s young, compared with the major candidates over 60, so you can expect him to do more for the future of us Tokyoites,” he said.

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