Yoichi Masuzoe is the frontrunner for now. Morihiro Hosokawa, his main rival, has stumbled badly before reaching the gate by postponing the announcement of his policy platform initially scheduled for today (Jan. 17) to “Monday or later next week” in order to figure out a way to stop his nuclear power referendum campaign from turning into a two-issue one because of his earlier comments urging the Abe administration to give up hosting the highly popular 2020 Tokyo Olympics.* He probably still has a fighting chance of winning over a plurality of the Tokyo vote if Masuzoe makes a major gaffe or two and a third, hardline anti-nuclear candidate, Kenji Utsunomiya, opts out.** There is a fourth, perennial fringe candidate that the media always mention along with the other three because of his clown/celebrity status as the self-proclaimed inventor of the floppy disk and other gadgets useful or fanciful.
What do they have in common? Well, first, they are old…like the two governors that came before the eventual winner. Masuzoe is 65, the age at which people become eligible to collect under the Japanese public pension system. He also happens to be the youngest of the four. His immediate predecessor, Naoki Inose, was 67 when he resigned under disgrace after bare a year in office. Inose in turn had succeeded Shintaro Ishihara, who was 66 when he assumed office and 80 when he resigned to return to national politics.
But second, on what most people will consider a more positive note, none of the four or the two previous governors (or any other predecessors that come to mind) inherited Tokyo fiefdoms to launch their political careers. They areself-made men, at least in the political world.
These two points are related and, in my view, reflect Japanese politics and more broadly society. I’ll try to remember to come back to this later.
* He also appears to be buying time to search for a way to avoid disclosing details about the money scandal that brought his administration down after less than nine months. This is looking increasing like the most ill-prepared political campaign by a candidate of substance in recent memory.
** Increasingly unlikely, given Hosokawa’s missteps.