Satoko Kishimoto, a 47-year-old woman living in Belgium, elected mayor By Suginami, a neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan. Kishimoto is of Japanese descent but has lived for more than ten years with her family in Leuven, east of Brussels: thanks to an election campaign conducted exclusively online, she was able to beat the other candidate, albeit with very few votes, and ended up being elected to mayor of a place more than 9 thousand kilometers from his home, it was a huge surprise for everyone.
constituency (in Japanese”Tokoptsuko‘) is one of the administrative subdivisions into which Japanese prefectures can be divided: they have a certain regional autonomy and their own local government, but they still have to coordinate with the higher governmental body.
Although Japanese law allows such areas to exist in other prefectures as well, the only area in which they are found is Tokyo metropolitan city, which is the administrative body similar to prefectures, which controls the Japanese capital and includes 23 electoral districts as well as 39 smaller administrative divisions. The city of Tokyo has a population of nearly 14 million and the metropolitan area, the most populous in the world, is more than 37 million: it is estimated that about 500,000 people live in Suginami.
He said the election of a person living abroad as mayor of a constituency in Tokyo received harsh comments in Japanese newspapers, as it was seen as the beginning of a new period in local politics. Interview with Flemish Radio Kishimoto’s husband, Olivier Houdemann.
Kishimoto is an environmental activist and has lived in Japan for up to 25 years; She moved first to the Netherlands and then to Leuven, where she currently lives with her husband and two children. She works as a project coordinator at the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, a non-profit organization where she deals primarily with alternatives to privatizing water and other public services.
Although he lives thousands of kilometers from his native country, Kishimoto continued to be very interested in what was happening in Japan, participated in many meetings and conferences online and began to be appreciated among Japanese progressives. Hodiman said she was thrilled when she was asked to run for mayor of the constituency. However, Kishimoto was not really expecting to be elected.
For a few weeks, Kishimoto was in Suginami, where she campaigned for her own: she proposed limiting privatization and encouraging the participation of citizens in public life, and managed to overcome the criticism of those who objected to the fact that she lives abroad. He got very little, deviating by about 200 votes from the other candidate, the former constituency mayor, and the governor. At the moment, it is not known whether he will move to Tokyo with his family: “Our youngest son is still in middle school and he still has a few years left, so moving to Japan will not be so easy. “We still have to think about it,” Hodiman concluded.
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