On a recent chilly November morning, aspiring politician Maiko Takahashi was undergoing a trial by fire as she stumped for just the second time in her life, addressing an ebb and flow of commuters near Oita Station.

The temperature had plummeted that day in Oita Prefecture on the island of Kyushu, with gusty winds mercilessly blowing Takahashi’s hair and at times drowning out her voice despite a loudspeaker.

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