Wacky inventor, comedian join race to rule Tokyo
TOKYO (Reuters) - An eccentric inventor, a comedian and an expert in the Chinese practice of feng shui were among those who launched campaigns on Thursday in the race to become the next governor of Japan's crowded capital of Tokyo.
The dark horse contenders are adding spice to a race that analysts say is likely to boil down to one between incumbent Shintaro Ishihara and his main reformist challenger, Shiro Asano.
Yoshiro Nakamatsu, the self-proclaimed inventor of the floppy disk and more than 3,000 other gadgets including a golf putter with a "sonic dynamism mechanism" that his Web site says improves your score and your health, is making his fourth run for the job.
At a news conference this week, Nakamatsu, 78, promised not only to lower taxes but to safeguard Tokyo's 12.6 million residents from missile attacks with a new invention.
"I'm the only candidate who can protect the people of Tokyo with an invention that would make North Korean missiles do a U-turn," Nakamatsu said in a campaign speech on Thursday.
North Korea shocked Tokyo by test-firing a ballistic missile over Japanese territory in 1998, and last year Pyongyang's barrage of missile tests and its first nuclear test jolted the region.
Perhaps inspired by another comedian's recent election as a governor in rural Japan, 50-year-old Kinzo Sakura, a former member of a comedy duo, also threw his hat in the ring with a pledge to ensure Tokyoites' "right to live and pursue happiness".
Kumiko Uchikawa, an expert in feng shui, a traditional Chinese practice that tries to improve people's lives by arranging space to achieve harmony, was also among the 12 candidates who had registered to run in the April 8 poll by midday. Registration closed at 5 p.m. (0800 GMT).
The 49-year-old Uchikawa has said she wants to improve the environment in Tokyo for working mums, Kyodo said.
Besides the less conventional candidates, Communist-backed ex-ward mayor Manzo Yoshida and well-known architect Kisho Kurokawa are also challenging Ishihara, who is seeking a third term.
Ishihara, 74, is admired by some as a forceful leader but disliked by others for his rants against China, foreigners, women past child-bearing age and homosexuals.
"I'm supporting him because he can get things done and is reliable," said a 60-year-old housewife who was listening to Ishihara's first campaign speech in western Tokyo.
A prize-winning novelist once seen as prime ministerial material, Ishihara has the backing of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and media polls have given him an early lead.
But analysts say Asano just might give him a run for his money with the support of the main opposition Democratic Party.
Among the policies the two are clashing over are Ishihara's planned bid for the 2016 Olympics and his policy of forcing high school teachers to stand and sing the national anthem -- seen by some as a symbol of past Japanese militarism -- at school ceremonies or face punishment if they do not.
(Additional reporting by Toshiyuki Aizawa)
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