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Japan’s Noisy but Entertaining Local Elections Are Finally Over

Campaign vans have ended their 12-day reign of megaphone terror but that means no more naked politician posters.

By 2 min read

Local elections for mayors and municipal assemblies in Japan just wrapped up on Sunday, and thank goodness for that.

This means there will be no more would-be politicians riding around town in campaign vans, yelling out their names repeatedly over megaphones. No more soapboxing outside train stations. And no more tissue marketing. Well, at least not until 12 days before the next local election.

You see, local elections in Japan are a bit different from other countries. What politician hopefuls can and cannot do is extremely regulated, including rules such no door-to-door campaigning, as well as no campaigning until 12 days before election day. The result is Japan’s modern-day campaign style, which can be both a blessing and a curse — and also, pretty hilarious.

The blessing is that there are no smear campaigns, no flashy billboards, and no television adverts to interrupt your favorite programming. The curse? Those blaring and annoying vans, mostly. So much so that if you make a quick Google search for 選挙せんきょカー, or “election van,” the first autocomplete search result that comes up with it is 迷惑めいわく which means “annoyance.”

And as for the hilarity, it mostly comes in the form of bizarre campaign posters. These are heavily regulated too, having to fit inside a 297 cm by 420 cm rectangle on a poster board to show who is running for a seat in the municipal assembly.

This year, a particularly ballsy poster for Hachioji Ward assemblywoman hopeful Shoko Hirota showed her completely naked and doing the splits.

Twitter user @japonistan posted the picture, saying, “This poster for the Hachioji Ward candidate makes quite an impact…”

Hirota’s campaign, as shown on the poster, is “A future for each and every life.” Despite all the attention that she gained on social media, in the end, she was 1,541 votes shy of getting elected.

Another gutsy poster was made by Yasushi Sonoda, who paid the ¥3 million (around $27,000) it costs to run for office to try finding the love of his life. That’s one super expensive personal ad.

@onda3simai4 wrote, “Btw, what is this Shibuya campaign poster? It says he’s looking for a wife…” While Sonoda didn’t make the cut for the local assembly, we’ve all got our fingers crossed he’ll make the cut for a special someone.

It was a hectic and loud couple of weeks, but now with the election over hopefully, there will be a little more peace around town before summer matsuri (festival) season begins.

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