National / Politics

Cosplaying eccentric Mac Akasaka of the Smile Party snags seat in Tokyo ward assembly

by Sakura Murakami

Staff Writer

He clambers out from under the table, wearing a pink Hooter’s tank top while sporting fluffy angel wings and a halo, before bowing deeply toward the camera and taking a seat.

“People of Tokyo — have you been smiling lately!?” he says suddenly, breaking into a wide grin and striking a pose.

This is Makoto Tonami, 70, better known as Mac Akasaka of the Smile Party, at a campaign broadcast shown on public broadcaster NHK ahead of the 2014 Tokyo gubernatorial election.

Mac Akasaka
Mac Akasaka | KYODO

On Sunday, after years of campaigning in national and local elections, Akasaka finally won an assembly seat on the assembly for Minato Ward in Tokyo.

Akasaka is known for his eccentric campaign broadcasts that have captured viral attention, in which he has dressed up as a variety of colorful characters — including Mohandas Gandhi, an angel and “Superman” — all while promising to bring smiles to people’s faces through his policies.

The campaign broadcasts are punctuated with his signature calls for people to “smile!”

“Smile therapy is my lifework,” said Akasaka during an interview with the Japan Times after the Tokyo gubernatorial race in 2012.

In his manifesto for this year’s vote, his campaign promises included tripling the number of elderly care facilities as well as paying a monthly allowance of ¥30,000 to Minato residents aged 65 and over, as well as young people who have not yet completed their final year of junior high school.

Mac Akasaka (second from left) walks in the Nanba district of Osaka in March 2014 to support Toru Hashimoto, who was running in the Osaka mayoral election.
Mac Akasaka (second from left) walks in the Nanba district of Osaka in March 2014 to support Toru Hashimoto, who was running in the Osaka mayoral election. | KYODO

Responses to Akasaka’s win have been varied, with some taking to Twitter to post stills from Akasaka’s past election broadcasts and congratulating him on his win while one Twitter user, going by the handle @mtkfmtkf, jokingly tweeted “This guy really won a seat? Minato residents — what are you even thinking.”

Despite the goofy costumes and his eccentric campaign speeches, Akasaka graduated from the prestigious Kyoto University before working at major trading company Itochu Corp. for over 20 years according to his website. After his stint at Itochu, he set up his own trading business specializing in rare metals — experience he has promised he would apply to his career as a politician.