Reiwa Shinsengumi's disabled candidate for Japan's July 21 upper house election, Yasuhiko Funago, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), won a seat on Sunday. Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
politics

Two disabled candidates win seats in upper house election

32 Comments
By Kiyoshi Takenaka

Two wheelchair-bound candidates won seats in Japan's upper house vote on Sunday, media projections showed, a sign of changing attitudes towards disabled people in a country where they have long been encouraged to stay in the shadow.

Yasuhiko Funago, a vice president of a company that provides elderly and patient care, has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurological disease in which patients gradually lose control of most of their muscles.

Although a lower house lawmaker in the past was diagnosed with ALS after winning a seat, no one had previously begun a career in parliament after being diagnosed with the disease, according to the Japan ALS Association.

The other candidate is Eiko Kimura, who has cerebral palsy. Both of them were running from a small opposition group, the Reiwa Shinsengumi.

"We will of course have specialists accompany them and look after them," Taro Yamamoto, head of the Reiwa Shinsengumi, told a commercial broadcaster after polls closed on Sunday evening. "But primary responsibility to take care them falls on parliament, which will be called on to provide them with reasonable accommodation."

Besides Funago and Kimura, Rie Saito, who lost her hearing as an infant, was running from the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Media had not yet called her race, but if Saito wins, she will be the first deaf member of parliament in post-World War Two Japan.

Experts in disability issues said before Sunday's election that these rare candidacies were welcome developments but also were intended to signal greater change is needed, even as Japan prepares to host the Paralympic Games next year.

During the election campaign, Funago and Kimura said they would seek education reforms as lawmakers to help create a society where people with disabilities can lead better lives.

People with physical or intellectual disability as well as with mental disorder, account for about 8% of the Japanese population.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

32 Comments
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Awesome. It's about time Jaoan joined the late 20th century in how it treats disabled people.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

More power to them! And I hope that the rest of the Diet treats them with the dignity and respect they deserve, unlike they have with females in the past!

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I get everyone must have equal rights and all,but can they even do job at 100%? I hope this is not because voters pity them and allow them to win. Otherwise those who are capable and could do it better had a unfair chance. Ability is important too. This is not some kids part time job they are sighning up for. But I wish them good luck now they have won.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

Yoshie,

"Ability is important too."

Go tell that to Abe,Aso,Suga et al.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

This is all thanks to Reiwa Shinsengumi and Yamamoto Taro. What an excellent group. They’re very popular due to their excellent policies (revoke the 10% sales tax back to 0% to protect lower and middle classes, opposition to the militarization and possible dictatorship of Abe) Check them out!

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Well done...Taro Yamamoto is a good guy. Stands behind his principles unlike so many other politicians, despite being cast out of the entertainment industry for his nuclear power opposition post 3/11 / Fukushima he did not sell out and continues to speak out for the underdog. Agree with Ryan above, Reiwa Shinsengumi deserves to become more popular. Respect.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Hiro is right.

"We will of course have specialists accompany them and look after them," Taro Yamamoto, head of the Reiwa Shinsengumi, told a commercial broadcaster after polls closed on Sunday evening. "But primary responsibility to take care them falls on parliament, which will be called on to provide them with reasonable accommodation."

Take care of them!? It seems weird that the people who are charged with taking care of the citizens of the country need taking care of.

I predict ONE term only for these people - if they manage to complete even that!

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Good on them but will they be taken serious and listened to is what I wonder. Also I never heard about Reiwa Shinsengumi, sounds interesting.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The unique here is the leader of this new and very progressive party put himself 3rd in the list! Thus he couldn't make it but the disabled candidates are in!!! He wanted to make sure if his party is is above the line they to be in for sure!

And listening to what the party members were talking last night I really hope they get momentum and more people hear them! Crucial in this elections was the total mass-media lip sync to the LDP and ignoring the arguments and opinion of all that defer from them. There were even sacking of more outspoken analyst in TV stations, etc. - direct treat to the freedom of speech as well as self imposed censorship.

But I can see there might be a turning point and some Japanese may awake. Let's hope for it!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Take care of them!? It seems weird that the people who are charged with taking care of the citizens of the country need taking care of.

And here I though of the job was to represent the citizens and their interest, take care of the country matter, ...

Now I understand why they refused the report about retirement fund : it is because they consider that any citizen having trouble can just drop by. The people of the parliament will take care of them. Can we have the menu ?

Seriously, read until the end,

which will be called on to provide them with reasonable accommodation.

They are referring to stuff like making sure they can access any part of the building, vote, ...

They have physical disability and got an intellectual position. How is there still people wondering if that is compatible ?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Take care of them!? It seems weird that the people who are charged with taking care of the citizens of the country need taking care of."

You should read up on the reasons Taro wanted to put these 2 candidates with disabilities into the parliament to bring attention of the bubble living politicians to the reality of Japan facing an explosion in number of elderly citizens with various levels of abilities, mobility issues etc. and the need to start building a more inclusive society. Nothing weird about giving voice to those who have been voiceless for far too long here.

Besides , on a lighter note , its not like a number of LDP MP,s don,t need people ( aides ) to " take care of them."  Priceless example of the infamous Olympics /Cybersecurity "minister" who never used a PC comes to mind.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There are so many disabled, even severely disabled who work for the BBC has presenters and reporters. You would never see that on NHK. Good at least some progress is being made in the national Diet.

In the uK about 16% working adults are disabled but only 1.5% or six members of parliament are disabled. In the congress?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I think Japan will elect a blind person before they allow any naturalized foreigners to hold seats in the diet. I dont see it as progress. I know there has been one or two naturalized gaijin in the past but its not a popular thing here at all.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I take my comment back. There have been some good arguments as to why they should be in an elected position. I was thinking about the extra costs that would be involved in accommodating them, but then realized that it couldn't be anywhere NEAR the waste that other politicians have caused.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The unique here is the leader of this new and very progressive party put himself 3rd in the list! Thus he couldn't make it but the disabled candidates are in!!! He wanted to make sure if his party is is above the line they to be in for sure!

This raises what I consider a rather interesting point.

Yamamoto personally received almost a million votes in the nation-wide constituency, the highest number by far (by comparison, nobody else got more than 600,000). Those million votes, together with another 1.2 million voters who nominated his party rather than an individual candidate, meant that his party won two seats. However, despite his personal popularity, he did not win a seat due to his party placing the two disabled candidates in a "special quota" which was a newly-introduced feature of this election.

For Yamamoto to get elected, he and his party needed another 530,000 more votes than what they received.

This makes me wonder how many of those million people who took the effort of writing "Taro Yamamoto" on the ballot form were aware of this new "special quota" system, and that their vote was likely to lead to a person other than Yamamoto being elected?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Aussie - many, my wife included!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think Japan will elect a blind person before they allow any naturalized foreigners to hold seats in the diet. I dont see it as progress. I know there has been one or two naturalized gaijin in the past but its not a popular thing here at all.

I disagree. I think as long as said foreigner can speak Japanese well and makes a good case for his/her election, Japanese would vote for him/her. The main hurdle may be getting party support and the network that that brings with it. Another issue is that there are complicated laws about what a candidate can and cannot do, and those may trip up a foreigner and even a Japanese with no background in politics.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I think Japan will elect a blind person before they allow any naturalized foreigners to hold seats in the diet.

Umm... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marutei_Tsurunen

Not sure if they've ever had any blind members of the Diet, and if they did, whether it was before or after Marutei was elected.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@AussiePete - interesting point indeed. I would guess however that as Yamamoto / Reiwa received almost zero mainstream media coverage in the lead up to the election , most people that voted for Reiwa would have done their own research into the group , their policies/ ideas before yesterdays vote and would have been aware of Taro putting the 2 disabled candidates abobe himself on the party,s list . I found it quite impressive that they achieved this result only 3 months after the party was founded. Obviously they resonate with a lot of people and I hope they go from strength to strength.

From other media today

"The group has proved popular, with Yamamoto campaigning in jeans and a T-shirt and encouraging his audience to ask him questions by passing a microphone.

Reiwa Shinsengumi raised around 300 million yen ($2,784,870) in campaign funds online within a matter of weeks and its volunteers numbered at least 15,000 by early July.

Six years ago, Yamamoto got more than 660,000 votes in the Tokyo constituency."

Refreshing news in the staleness that is J-politics.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@marcelito

I hope you are right.

But as you noted, he received 660,000 votes as an independent candidate 6 years ago. I dare say that a fair few of those people thought "I'll vote for him again" without looking into it too much.

Also, there is no mention of the special quota on his personal website, nor on the front page of the party's website.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My unemployed wife and son voted, for whom I have no idea. I, the breadwinner, could not vote.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I get everyone must have equal rights and all,but can they even do job at 100%?

Sure. I've worked with blind people, deaf people and people in wheelchairs. All experts in their field. It's great to see progress being made.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Stephen Hawking appeared to achieve a lot so I think that settles it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

. I know there has been one or two naturalized gaijin in the past but its not a popular thing here at all.

Not all that many have tried to run, it costs money here to even "sign up" for the election, something like 1 Million yen which is non-refundable if the person running does not collect enough of a percentage of the votes.

This monetary requirement is for national (diet) elections.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

With all this talk of disabled candidates, I haven't seen any mention of another much-maligned minority - women. Women accounted for 28% of candidates (the highest ever) and won 22% of the seats in this election. The 28 seats won by women tied the record set at the previous election, but with four more seats available than last time, the percentage is down a bit.

In my local district, one woman was competing against five men, with three seats up for grabs. As the only female candidate and with a public profile as a TV presenter, plus belonging to the only centre-left party, I was pretty sure she would be a shoe-in. Yet she managed to come fourth behind three conservative blokes, with 19.8% of the vote.

Of course I do not expect people to vote for a candidate solely on the basis of gender, but I thought she would have garnered enough support to win a seat.

If it important to get disabled people into parliament in order to represent disabled people, then what about getting women there? Do the women of Japan believe Abe's "womenomics" spiel? Are they satisfied with there being a sole token woman in Abe's cabinet?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Politicians should be elected for their political prowess and not for their disability.

Where are you seeing that they weren’t? I don’t believe they got any “handicap” bonus votes or anything.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What's the point of an upper house? It doesn't give equal representation by prefecture, it just copies the population-based lower house. Constitutional revisions still protected by referendum of the people. Abolish upper house to save some money. No reason for it, especially since Japan isn't even a Federation. Hegg, even Micronesia (federation) is unicameral, they just use double majority (one vote all, one vote just the senators).

"If the upper house agrees with the lower house, it is superfluous; if it disagrees with the lower house, it is mischievious." - unknown

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I get everyone must have equal rights and all,but can they even do job at 100%?

How many of the " able" LDP oyajis , photos of whom sleeping in their chairs during parliamentary sessions are too numerous to count , do their jobs 100%? They only get fired up for a couple of seats during the election to protect their cushy jobs and go back to coast/ sleep mode as soon as they are elected ...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a group of rare neurological diseases that mainly involve the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. Voluntary muscles produce movements like chewing, walking, and talking. The disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms get worse over time. Currently, there is no cure for ALS and no effective treatment to halt, or reverse, the progression of the disease.

They have been elected to the upper house, but I don't think they can do their job properly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I haven't seen any mention of another much-maligned minority - women.

Women are not a minority in Japan. There are roughly three million more females than males in the Japanese population. The difference is even larger in the voting age population.

In the Tokyo electoral district three of the six elected were women. One of those women belongs to the Japan Communist Party.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yamamoto personally received almost a million votes in the nation-wide constituency, the highest number by far (by comparison, nobody else got more than 600,000). Those million votes, together with another 1.2 million voters who nominated his party rather than an individual candidate, meant that his party won two seats. However, despite his personal popularity, he did not win a seat due to his party placing the two disabled candidates in a "special quota" which was a newly-introduced feature of this election.

He could not have received a million votes "personally", his party received the votes, that is what the proportional representation is all about. He put himself up for the proportional representation only, and not as a local candidate. Other parties ran their candidates in the single constituencies and placed the same candidate in the proportional representation lot as well, in case they lost their single constituency race, they still could get elected in the proportional representation.

You place TWO votes, one for your local candidate and one for your party of choice, that's it.

I know, I did it!

For Yamamoto to get elected, he and his party needed another 530,000 more votes than what they received.

This makes me wonder how many of those million people who took the effort of writing "Taro Yamamoto" on the ballot form were aware of this new "special quota" system, and that their vote was likely to lead to a person other than Yamamoto being elected?

They didnt, as his party didnt receive enough votes, not him personally. He placed the other two candidates before him and he was third in line, if his party had received another half-million votes, he would have been elected in the proportional representation.

Personally speaking I did not vote for "shinsengumi", while they have altruistic goals and want to raise awareness among the people, I do not agree with them putting up a severely disabled person as a candidate. ALS is a debilitating disease, and I have lost a loved one to it, and while they deserve the best quality of life that they can have while they are alive, I do not agree with them being elected to the Diet, for a host of reasons. He can support the candidates, and work with the party, however in the Diet, more power to him, but as a full diet member, I have serious reservations, hence me not placing my vote for them!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Let me add that my last comment here seemingly goes against what I wrote in a previous comment at the beginning of the article.

I am just sharing a few reasons why I personally did not vote for the party. However, since he was elected I do believe that he is deserving of the position he was elected to and should be given all the opportunities to succeed.

I do not agree with his being elected, but since he was elected, I wish him the best!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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