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Hashimoto Wins Election, Goes from Governor to Mayor

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If you think politics are boring, you should tune into Japanese politics. The scenes at a typical meeting at the National Diet might familiar to someone from England: loud outbursts, interruptions, and sometimes jeering and booing. Different from the American system of Congress, the Japanese prime minister often puts on the gloves and enters the ring with other representatives.

Last night was a historic night for Osaka. In the first time in 40 years, both the city of Osaka and the prefecture of Osaka had their elections on the same day. Now a little background on the election. Osaka Mayor Hiramatsu and Governor Hashimoto where elected at nearly the same time in late 2007-early 2008. They started out friendly and pledged to work hard to build a better Osaka as a whole. Things turned sour the next year over construction of a water treatment plant, and their relationship gradually became worse over the next four years. In October of this year, Hashimoto formally stepped down from his job as Governor so he could run in the election for Osaka Mayor--hoping to effectively oust Hiramatsu from politics.

And the results of last night’s elections? Hashimoto won the mayor seat, and a member of Hashimoto’s reform party named Matsui won the governor position. Hashimoto promised at the press conference following the announcement to cut government spending and increase efficiency. A major part of his plan is to change Osaka-fu to Osaka-to (“fu” and “to” both translate in English as “prefecture”, but currently there is only one “to” in Japan: Tokyo-to). Besides the name change the goal is the reform the structure of Osaka’s government to a structure more like Tokyo’s.

Local politics are also fascinating for newcomers to watch. Candidates can often been seen traveling in retrofitted trucks with loud speakers for impromptu speeches in crowded areas. Sashes with the candidate’s name and white gloves are also popular. PBS aired a documentary in 2008 called “Campaign” by Kazuhiro Soda that accurately shows what Japan’s campaign season is all about on a local level. Check out the trailer of the film here.

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