The sleepy neighborhood of Araya in the city of Akita seemed like the perfect place for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to put a U.S. anti-missile system. The area has reliably backed the ruling party and has firsthand experience of a North Korean rocket flying overhead.

That is, until residents began to worry that Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Aegis Ashore system might make their pocket of homes nestled near rice fields and the sea a prime target for Pyongyang in any conflict. Opposition quickly rallied against the project, helping oust an Upper House lawmaker from Abe's Liberal Democratic Party in July and forcing the Defense Ministry to redo site surveys.

"I don't think Aegis Ashore is needed, but at least I want them not to put it right next to this residential area," said independent lawmaker Shizuka Terata, 44, who defeated the LDP incumbent in a district that had supported the party in 14 of the past 19 elections. "As the mother of a child, I hated the idea."