In Japan, efforts are underway to win the hearts and votes of alienated youth

Student activist and representative of No Youth No Japan, Momoko Nojo speaks during an interview in Tokyo, Japan, in this still image obtained from video on February 18, 2021. REUTERS TV / via REUTERS / Files

TOKYO, October 28 (Reuters) – Momoko Nojo’s campaign for the upcoming elections in Japan revolves around social media and T-shirts, but she is not running for office. Instead, the activist is waging a different battle – against the apathy that keeps young voters away from the polls.

It’s no wonder young people don’t vote, with many claiming that the candidates are predominantly male, old and out of touch with their concerns.

Only 10% of lawmakers in the recently dissolved lower house were women; the representation of women candidates in the ruling coalition is even lower. The average age of male and female applicants is 54, of whom more than a third are 60 and over. A handful are over 80 years old.

Women’s rights are not discussed and other issues such as gender equality, support for young families, severe labor shortage and dysfunctional immigration system are also barely on the table. agenda.

The disconnect means that in elections over the past decade only a third of young voters have participated, and some analysts fear that the turnout in the upcoming October 31 poll will be the lowest in post-election history. war.

“In this situation, the voice of young people will not be reflected in politics,” said Nojo, 23 and a graduate student.

“By not going to vote, life will become more difficult for this generation. Whether it is child rearing issues or other issues, for politics to look to our generation, you have to vote, you have to participate. “

The situation in Japan contrasts with that of the United States, where, according to the US Census Bureau, the turnout for 18-24 year olds was 51% in the 2020 presidential election.

Nojo, who developed an interest in activism while studying in Denmark, is not easily discouraged and has already triumphed through thick and thin. Earlier this year, she rose to fame with a campaign that ousted Tokyo Olympics’ octogenarian director Yoshiro Mori after making sexist remarks.

But apathy among young voters runs deep and reflects long-term systemic issues in Japanese politics, often dominated by families who have been elected over generations, analysts said.

The fact that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which is poised to suffer heavy losses in this election, has held power for a short time over the past six decades also creates a sense that change is coming. impossible.

“I’m not going to vote because I just don’t feel like it ties into my life,” said Takuto Nanga, 22 and comic book illustrator. “Even if the summit changes, there will still be problems like in the past.”


For women, things are particularly bad. Only 9.7% of PLD candidates are women, with 7.5% for coalition partner Komeito.

Even elected, women legislators have no chance of gaining access to important cabinet portfolios. There is only a handful in the cabinet, and there should be many more. Women would then feel. to participate, “said Airo. Hino, professor at Waseda University.

While focusing on issues such as climate change, lowering university fees and gender equality would help attract young voters, the process must also be attractive, argues Hino.

This means rejecting traditional newspaper campaigns, strained speeches and turgid political appeals on NHK public television for social media – which some politicians, such as Taro Kono, often cited in polls as the prime minister’s first choice. , have used it wisely.

“Hardly anyone reads these massive party campaign platforms, and for young people it’s impossible, a host is needed,” Hino added.

Voter correspondence apps, where people answer questions and find out which political party is closest, are also handy.

“It’s mostly a game, but it’s okay. In a light way, you find a party you like and then you go and vote,” Hino said.

Aside from its online campaigns for “No Youth No Japan”, Nojo has taken a similar approach, teaming up with a clothing company to produce a series of T-shirts with quirky designs emphasizing the issues. – life, peace, equality and the planet – and the vote.

“The clothes are worn daily, it is a form of expression of your opinion and of yourself,” Nojo said, hoping that they would become topics of conversation and encourage wearers to vote.

That something needs to be done is painfully clear.

“With a larger population and higher voting rates, the voice of the older generation is inevitably stronger,” said Ayumi Adachi, 20, and a student.

“To get what we want, we have to speak up. We have to vote.”

Additional reporting by Akira Tomoshige; Written by Elaine Lies; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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