National / Politics

'Dear young people, don't vote!' say Japan's senior citizens in campaign viral video

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

As the nation readies for the upcoming Upper House election set for this Sunday, a video targeted at Japan’s youths is going viral owing to its controversial message delivered by a group of senior citizens: “Dear young people, don’t vote!”

In the video message, a group of senior citizens seemingly try to discourage young voters from going to the polls by telling them: “Don’t vote, you don’t need to; Japan is a peaceful place.”

But later in the video message three elderly actors address issues that have attracted attention ahead of the vote such as the country’s pension system, which has in recent years made headlines for poor management of its funds.

“Climate change? This won’t bother us for another 20 or 30 years, so I don’t care,” another elderly actor says in the video.

The seniors highlight youths’ activity on social media, where young people are often seen complaining anonymously about social problems they face. “But you don’t vote,” the actors say, while hinting that low voter turnout among youngsters is why senior citizens steer the political stage.

The video was created by Shokasonjuku, a company founded by comedian Nana Takamatsu. Her project isn’t the first such campaign to target young voters since Japan lowered its minimum voting age to 18 from 20 in June 2016. But Takamatsu has taken a different approach to raising young people’s awareness of current issues in Japan, and encouraging them to take an interest in politics, according to Takamatsu’s office.

“I want everyone to become more familiar with politics,” Takamatsu has written on her blog.

Takamatsu launched her initiative because she was alarmed by the lack of political educational programs that would provide young voters with basic information, to prepare them for election participation, in a fun, yet comprehensive, way.

Her group runs several projects aimed at boosting voter turnout among young people. As part of the program Takamatsu’s group organizes comedy shows that touch on Japan’s social problems, to encourage youths to vote in areas with the lowest youths’ voter turnout.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the video had attracted some 274,000 views.

Addressing criticism of the video’s ambiguous message, Takamatsu said; “Young people won’t listen when you just tell them to vote.” She wants the video to serve as food for thought, she said.

A similar video made the rounds a year earlier in the U.S., featuring a group of senior citizens portrayed as supporters of President Donald Trump who tried to convince their younger audience that their votes weren’t needed. The American video, which was created by an organization that campaigned for Democratic candidates in last year’s midterm election, was intended to educate young people that by shying away from casting ballots they were letting senior citizens shape the world in which they lived.