Tokyo goes to the polls today. I have to say that there doesn’t seem to be much excitement, although it is widely expected that the almost permanently-in-power Liberal Democratic Party (who, as is the way of these things, are neither particularly liberal nor overly democratic!) will be given a severe kicking by the electorate. This may even cause the Prime Minister, Aso Taro, to step down. Aso is perhaps the most unpopular leader in the democratic world, with personal approval ratings that threaten to drop into single figures. He makes Gordon Brown looks charismatic, and has been best known overseas (although not so much within Japan) for making silly, often verging on the racist, remarks.
However, while these elections may be nationally very significant, they will have no bearing on the real power in Tokyo itself, Governor Ishihara Shintaro, an independent populist. He’s tough on crime, tough on the supposed causes of crime (foreigners, of course) (who has also pushed CCTV quite hard) and seems to have been Governor forever. The main reason he got elected originally was connected to the fact that he had a more famous brother, Yujiro, who was a very well-known film star, but it’s Shintaro who’s been the leading man for over a decade.