The trendy suburb of Kichijoji, often ranked as one of Tokyo’s most desirable places to live, seems like it should be an easy win for Japan’s main left-leaning opposition party in Sunday's general election.

The heavily populated area had been a part of a stronghold district for the predecessor of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, its relatively youthful population far removed from the rural regions that have long backed the more conservative ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Moreover, the CDP’s candidate is Naoto Kan, a former prime minister with lots of name recognition.

But polls show Kan, 75, locked in a tight race with the LDP’s Akihisa Nagashima, 59, a newcomer to the district known for his focus on security policy. And voters are clear about why: They have bad memories of when the opposition last ran the country nearly a decade ago, a three-year span that saw three different leaders and a devastating earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the northeast coastline.