Tokyo Gubernatorial Election: A Review of the 6/17 Joint Press Conference

June 18th was the deadline to register as a candidate in the Tokyo governor race. For the next 17 days, 22 candidates (the highest number of candidates running for governor) will campaign to become Tokyo’s governor.

A day before the deadline, 5 candidates, including the incumbent governor Yuriko Koike, held a joint press conference. It was a new format, conducted online with several candidates answering the same questions.

Although very short (candidates had 1 minute to answer questions), it showed a glimpse of the message they would be campaigning on.

Today’s post will look back at the press conference and include my first impression of the candidates.

The Candidates

The online press conference was hosted by the Japan National Press Club.

The following 5 candidates participated:

  1. Yuriko Koike (incumbent)
  2. Kenji Utsunomiya (former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations; backed by the CDP, JCP, SDP)
  3. Taisuke Ono (former vice-governor of Kumamoto prefecture; supported by the Japan Innovation Party)
  4. Taro Yamamoto (Leader of the Reiwa Shinsengumi party)
  5. Takashi Tachibana (Leader of The Party to Protect the People From NHK)

Questions from the Candidates

The candidates were given an opportunity to ask each other questions.

① To what extent were you able to achieve your “seven zeroes” promised in the 2016 election?
Question from Ono to Koike

  • These policies put the focus on “people”
  • In 4 years, reduced the number of children on the waiting list for nurseries from 8,466 to 2,300
  • Increased the number of accepted children by 15,000 every year (in 3 years, increased by 45,000)
  • Didn’t expect to achieve all seven goals in 4 years; would like to achieve them by 2030

② It costs money to help citizens in need. How do you plan on funding these programs?
Koike to Utsunomiya

  • While there is 3 trillion yen (approx. $28 billion) that could be used for pandemic relief, it would require changing current regulations
  • Thinking of restructuring the budget and cutting out excesses (ex. do we need to improve this specific road?)

③ Do you have any concrete plans to achieve “zero crowded trains” (another one of the “seven zeroes” promised in 2016)?
Tachibana to Koike

  • Tachibana: Can raise peak train fares
  • Most people use commuter passes instead of train tickets, so raising peak fares wouldn’t do much
  • Will try to change how people work (ex. work from home) so they use the train less

④ News reports say postponing the Olympics will cost an additional 300 billion to 600 billion yen ($3bn~6bn). How much is Tokyo going to pay?
Yamamoto to Koike

  • We will focus on safety, minimizing costs, and streamlining the games
  • We don’t have a specific value at this point

⑤ Did your commitment to hosting the Olympic Games delay the initial response to the pandemic? What do you think about the standards set in the Tokyo Alert, especially considering that the number of cases increased after it was lifted? What are your thoughts on bringing a casino to Tokyo?
Utsunomiya to Koike

  • Casino
    • There are economic benefits from increased tourism
    • Will have to consider from all angles
  • There was no delay in the coronavirus response
  • The Olympic Games had nothing to do with the response

Questions Regarding Policy/Campaign Pledges

① How would you evaluate the Koike administration?


  • The results of the election will be the evaluation of my work

Utsunomiya – 30/100

  • Made efforts to reduce the number of children on the waiting list for nurseries
  • Deduct points for the handling of the Tsukiji fish market relocation to Toyosu and increasing cost of the Olympic Games

Ono – 30/100

  • Only achieved one of the “seven zeroes” (no pet exterminations)
  • The delay in relocating the Tsukiji fish market cut profit
  • While Tokyo metropolitan government bonds have decreased, cutting the Public Finance Adjustment Reserve Funds (use funds pooled in surplus years to compensate deficits in other years) leaves little for future budgets

Yamamoto – Can’t Evaluate

  • Question whether reducing the number of children on the waiting list for nurseries is accurate (as many as 18,000 children could be unaccounted for)
  • Didn’t achieve “no utility poles” and it’s questionable if “no pet exterminations” was achieved

Tachibana – 15/100

  • Only one of the “seven zeroes” was achieved (and Yamamoto says even that one may not have been achieved)
  • Achieving “no crowded trains” should not take that much time
  • The governor should lead by example and work from home

② Why did you not disclose information on the Tsukiji relocation issue and the casino issue even though you promised to be transparent in 2016? How transparent should the government be, and was the Koike administration transparent enough?


  • Stressed the need for transparency 4 years ago and made several changes to ensure that it happened (ex. information is downloadable and printing these costs less)
  • Did not redact anything that did not have to be in the casino case (information was redacted because the national government did not approve)
  • Made sure all necessary info was available for the Tsukiji case


  • Transparency is the currency of democracy
  • Altering/destroying public records defeats the purpose of full disclosure
  • Should negotiate with the government to release records for the casino case
  • Stressed the need for transparency while hiding own problems (I guess this refers to the Cairo University issue)


  • Tokyo should lead by example
  • Thoroughly disclosed information when working for Kumamoto prefecture
  • Should be able to disclose all available info, especially since data can be stored online


  • Governor Koike’s response to questions about the lack of records on how the Tsukiji relocation was approved was lackluster
  • The metropolitan government should not be able to proceed with plans (ex. supercity plan) without the people knowing


  • My party discloses everything
  • Need to change the idea that politicians hide everything

③ You said Tsukiji would be redeveloped, but has that plan changed?


  • Would like to keep the Tsukiji brand because it has the ability to attract people to Tokyo
  • Will leave it up to the businesses to decide whether they would like to continue using Tsukiji as a marketplace

④ What are your thoughts on the mixed reviews regarding the casino (integrated resort) issue?


  • Good for the economy since more tourists will visit
  • Need to debate the pros/cons (gambling addiction) and see how the national government proceeds with the plan


  • No need for a casino since tourism is thriving (Japanese culture/tradition is popular abroad)
  • Ethically, politicians should not be trying to grow the economy through a casino
  • Oppose this as a lawyer who worked on debt issues
  • The costs outweigh the benefits: in Korea, the only profitable casino was the one open to Koreans


  • In favor of the casino plan
  • Good for the economy: increase inbound tourism & cements the Tokyo brand
  • Need to consider addiction as a problem
  • The selection process must be transparent (referring to the IR scandal last year)


  • Should not proceed with this plan
  • Gambling is good for winners but devastates losers
  • Casinos will take money away from Japanese people and give it to foreign companies


  • Should not treat casinos the same way as pachinko, horse-racing, or bicycle racing (other major methods of gambling)
  • Addiction should not be such a big problem since casinos are for richer people
  • Necessary to keep Japanese millionaires’ wealth in the country

⑤ Why will you not submit your college diploma from the University of Cairo to the Tokyo assembly when you have shared it with the media?


  • The Committee on Rules and Administration (responsible for deciding what is deliberated on) voted against it
  • Already sent it to the media so no need to do it again
  • The focus of the election should not be on the diploma issue (people questioned whether she actually graduated)

⑥ You promised to distribute 10,000 yen (approx. $100) to every citizen in Tokyo, but is that the same as a universal basic income? How would you fund it?


  • There will come a time when the government requests people to stay home without any financial assistance/handouts
  • Everyone will need money, so 10,000 should be handed out
  • Should provide danger/hazard pay for essential workers
  • If the national government will not pay 291 billion yen a month to help these essential workers, the Tokyo government should
  • Will pay by issuing metropolitan government bonds

⑦ How much money will the government need? Is it realistic to issue bonds to finance this plan?


  • If the national government isn’t paying, the Tokyo government has to use its own resources
  • Since the current budget is insufficient, would have to issue municipal bonds to make money
  • Tokyo has more borrowing power than other prefectures
  • Tokyo’s real debt service ratio (cash available to pay for debts) is 1.5, compared to the national average of 10.9
  • Making 20 trillion yen will not require the approval of the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications (if the rate is above 18% you need the minister’s approval)
  • Tokyo’s relative reliability to pay for debts will make it relatively safe for financial institutions to buy the bonds


  • Not sure if Yamamoto understands the rules in the Local Government Finance Act
  • To issue municipal bonds, there are several conditions that must be met (ex. the reason for issuing bonds must be acceptable)
  • Not realistic since paying back 20 trillion yen will be difficult
  • Losing 1.5 trillion yen every year from the 7 trillion yen budget would mean cutting funding for other programs

⑧ How do you plan on helping citizens in need? How are your policies different from Yamamoto’s plans?


  • Need to protect jobs, housing, and businesses
  • Need to guarantee these while also preventing lay-offs and subsiding rent
  • Should conduct more PCR/antigen/antibody tests to effectively isolate those with the virus

⑨ Who will you choose to be your 4 vice-governors?


  • Current vice-governors will remain


  • Haven’t decided, but there should be a woman vice-governor


  • Someone who is well respected in the Tokyo government
  • Someone with expertise on urban development
  • Someone who has IT skills


  • Would like Utsunomiya and Ono to be vice-governors
  • Would like to include a disabled person who can advocate for people with disabilities


  • Will choose Takafumi Horie (Japanese entrepreneur who founded Livedoor)

Questions Regarding COVID-19

① What are your immediate plans for dealing with COVID-19? You mentioned moving from “self-restraint to self-defense,” but does that mean people will be responsible for their own response? If a second-wave comes, do you plan on another subsidy program for those who comply with temporary business closure requests?


  • In times of disaster, there is self-help, mutual assistance, and public assistance. The government will continue to provide public assistance
  • We have subsidized 500,000 yen for businesses with 1 shop, 1,000,000 yen for those with more than 2 shops
  • The second phase of subsidies began on June 16th
  • Self-defense = efforts made by people/businesses
  • Will continue to provide aid

② You said there was “too much self-restraint,” but do you believe a second-wave of cases can be prevented?


  • No
  • We should focus more on the number of deaths
  • Only 1 person under the age of 40 died, while a majority of deaths have been those over the age of 60
  • Should request those over 60 years old to stay at home, not all the citizens in the city

③ How do you plan on balancing the economy and the pandemic response?


  • Should use data to predict which areas have an increased number of cases and request people there to stay home
  • No need to ask everybody to stay home if we can identify specific areas

④ Do you plan on establishing a Tokyo-version of the CDC? Why did you send protective gear to China?


  • Would like to create a division that specializes in dealing with infectious diseases
  • We are currently stocking protective equipment
  • Sent old equipment to China, stocked the new equipment

Questions Regarding the Olympic Games

① What is your position regarding the Olympic Games? What do you think about the additional costs?


  • Another postponement would not be in the interest of the athletes, but cancellation would be worse
  • Will streamline the games, cut costs, and gain the approval of the people
  • While there are many safety/sanitary issues, we hope to create a new format for Olympic Games


  • If experts believe it to be difficult, will cancel
  • Funds that become available due to cancellation will be allocated to help those who have been affected by the pandemic
  • Need to consider the number of cases worldwide since people will be visiting from abroad


  • Should try and postpone until 2024
  • Heard that France is behind in their preparation for the 2024 Games, so there might be room for negotiation
  • Would be difficult to plan for next year when we don’t know how the situation with the pandemic will unfold
  • Like Utsunomiya, believe it is important to monitor cases worldwide


  • Since safety can’t be assured, the Games should be cancelled
  • It may be difficult to postpone the Games until 2024
  • Would be difficult to host without a vaccine
  • Should notify the IOC immediately about the decision to cancel
  • Should not be required to pay cancellation fees since the pandemic was an unintended event


  • Should try and move the 2022 Beijing and/or 2024 Paris Games back
  • Should let the IOC choose and pay for the additional costs

Concluding Remarks

① What kind of Tokyo do you envision for life after the coronavirus pandemic?


  • A Tokyo where people can achieve/strive for what they want
  • As one of the centers of the world economy, need to develop a strategy for growth
  • Work on 5G and online businesses/medical treatment
  • Want Tokyo to be a place where people can make money, that value lives and the wellbeing of citizens, and is full of hope for the future


  • Japan has focused on economic efficiency in a “self-responsible” society
  • Need to shift the focus to the lives, livelihood, and rights of the people and Tokyo should be at the forefront of this change


  • The last election was more about who had the best catchphrase
  • Gained experience in public service working as vice-governor of Kumamoto
  • Would like people to determine which candidate will achieve the goals set out during the campaign


  • Need to focus on helping those in need
  • Want to raise living standards by issuing municipal bonds
  • Governor Koike mentioned that issuing more bonds would increase the burden on future generations, but if the current generation suffers, it will end up hurting future generations


  • Policies need to be implemented not just proposed
  • Stressed that he has proven he is a man of his word by propelling his party to the national stage

First Impressions


  • As the incumbent and favorite to win, was able to get through the press conference without much damage
  • Needs to show voters what she has achieved since there were a lot of questions asking about the “seven zeroes” she failed to achieve


  • Responses to the questions were that of a lawyer – very organized
  • Since his focus is on soft policies (welfare), would like to hear more about how he intends to help the economy


  • Policies are focused on implementing new technologies and updating the traditional, old-fashioned bureaucratic system
  • As a relatively unknown candidate, it will be interesting to see how he differentiates himself from other candidates


  • A populist candidate; came out of this press conference a winner since he seemed like the only candidate who came prepared
  • Provided the most detailed policy proposals, but it remains to be seen whether voters will see them as realistic plans


  • Had an interesting take on several issues (esp. the casino issue) but vague on a lot of other topics
  • In order to be taken seriously, he will need to prove he has actual plans to address issues

Campaign season starts now. For the next 17 days, candidates will be trying to get voters to vote for them. I hope to provide as much information I can on this race on this website.

Understanding candidate positions on issues will help readers find a candidate they like. It’s important to compare and see whether these policies are achievable.

Good policy is realistic. However nice it may sound, if it isn’t realistic, it’s practically meaningless. Candidates who can commit to a plan and provide a timetable can be trusted more.

It’s important to remain attentive throughout the next 2 weeks because there’ll be developments by the hour. Be sure to check the candidate’s official websites, Twitter accounts, and YouTube channels for more information.

Image: Morio (CC BY-SA 3.0)

3 thoughts on “Tokyo Gubernatorial Election: A Review of the 6/17 Joint Press Conference

  1. I really like the idea of candidates just asking each other questions. It opens up a ton of interesting possibilities that American debates don’t always provide


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