On a recent Wednesday morning, Rie Saito wasn't giving a lengthy, energetic speech about her campaign pledges through a loudspeaker, unlike most of her competitors on the stump.

Instead, Saito was seen happily approaching voters on the street one by one, offering them a handshake and mouthing the words that have partly defined her campaign ahead of the July 21 Upper House election: "I am deaf."

"Depending on who she's speaking to, she changes her method of conversation from sign language to lip-reading and writing," said Makiko Shimizu, her communication assistant.