In Key Japanese Vote Today, A List of Unlikely Job Seekers

An elderly woman, assisted by a companion, casts her ballot in Tokyo in an election for the upper house of parliament. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government is fighting to maintain its slim majority.
An elderly woman, assisted by a companion, casts her ballot in Tokyo in an election for the upper house of parliament. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government is fighting to maintain its slim majority. (By Junji Kurokawa -- Associated Press)
By Hiroko Tabuchi
Associated Press
Sunday, July 29, 2007

TOKYO, July 29 -- There's Peru's former president, Alberto Fujimori; and Yuko Tojo, whose grandfather ordered Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor; and the inventor who calls himself Dr. Nakamats and claims he knows how to turn North Korean missiles around in midair.

Japan's national elections, which began Sunday morning, feature some unlikely candidates.

It's not that the ballot is in any way a frivolous affair. Battered by funding scandals and a huge pensions blunder, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government will be fighting to hold on to its slim majority in parliament's upper house. Defeat could prompt calls for Abe to resign.

But plenty of characters are sharing the campaign spotlight with Abe. ZAKI -- a wandering musician and peace activist who writes his name that way in Latin letters -- has resorted to unconventional tactics to woo voters: impromptu rock performances on the streets of Tokyo.

"I've long campaigned against evil government policies from outside the system. Now I want in!" a guitar-wielding ZAKI, whose real name is Masatoshi Nozaki, shouted to a crowd in the shopping district of Shibuya last week.

In part, the shift toward more outlandish candidates is due to the media savvy of then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who drew celebrity candidates from entertainment, academia and business to push his agenda in the 2005 elections.

Disappointed by Abe's much duller style of politics -- and incensed by a series of scandals enveloping his cabinet -- celebrities are coming forward to push for change.

Dr. Nakamats says Japan should draw on its technological prowess to better protect itself from missile-wielding North Korea. "North Korea is one day going to launch a missile attack. But Japan has no plan for when that happens," he warned in Tokyo this month. "I have an idea for a device that could turn missiles round 180 degrees in midair."

Yuko Tojo, the granddaughter of wartime leader Gen. Hideki Tojo, has an equally ambitious plan for defending Japan: scrapping its pacifist constitution and developing a full-fledged military. She says she often prays at a Tokyo war shrine for Japan's fallen soldiers, including her grandfather.

Fujimori, who is of Japanese descent and citizenship, is under house arrest in Chile, wanted by Peru on human rights and corruption charges. He is campaigning through his wife, Satomi Kataoka.

"He is trying something new," she said. "I think we can create a new history."


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