Tokyo Gubernatorial Election 2020: Winners and Losers of the 6/27 Online Debate

We are officially 9 days away from the Tokyo governor election. Candidates began their last full weekend campaigning to become the nation’s most powerful governor.

While many candidates were out making stump speeches, 4 of the “main” candidates participated in an online debate on June 27.

The participants were: Governor Yuriko Koike, Kenji Utsunomiya, Taisuke Ono, and Taro Yamamoto.

You can watch the full debate here (Japanese only)

Here’s where the candidates stand on 10 issues/questions posed by viewers.

QuestionYuriko KoikeKenji UtsunomiyaTaisuke OnoTaro Yamamoto
Has the pandemic respond been successful?YesNoNoNo
Will you provide housing for those who have lost their homes due to COVID-19?YesYesYesYes
Should Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games be held?YesNoYesNo
Support implementing the same-sex partnership system?YesYesYes
Support the bid to bring a casino to Tokyo?NoYesNo
Is Tsukiji’s local economy being protected? YesNoNoNo
Support the semi-privatization (incorporated administrative agency) of public hospitals?YesNoYesNo
Will you enact regulation banning hate speech?NoYesNoYes
Is nuclear power a necessary base load power supply?NoYesNo
Will you privatize water utility services (suido)?NoNoYesNo

Winners & losers of the debate:


Taro Yamamoto

  • The one clear winner of the debate. Like the joint press conference on June 17, Yamamoto stuck to his talking points and presented the most detailed policies. His ability to talk in front of a camera is a clear strength.
  • A Tokyo where everyone lives freely” is an attractive vision for voters. Now, Yamamoto will need to prove his promises are attainable.

Kenji Utsunomiya

  • Utsunomiya left the debate unscathed, probably because he barely got the chance to talk. However, whenever he did get a chance, he made sure to make the best of it (ex. discussed the need to expand the PCR/antibody testing system)
  • Left an impression by talking about the flaws of the same-sex partnership system only implemented by some districts. By addressing an issue the governor did not talk about, Utsunomiya may be able to sway parts of the LGBT community to his side.


Governor Koike

  • Let’s start by saying that Koike won’t lose the election just because of a poor debate performance. Multiple polls still put her firmly in the lead, but mediocre performances like these could pull her numbers down.
  • Koike’s hazy answers, often dragging on over the 1 minute time limit, did not in any way answer the questions being posed. She was the only candidate who answered questions with a △, which showed how vague her positions are on certain issues.
  • Talked about working on women’s issues at an unprecedented pace. It reminded me of PM Abe’s talk of unprecedented measures to deal with the pandemic. Must be a technique they teach you for times when there are no achievements to show.

Taisuke Ono

  • Wasn’t really able to use the debate to gain name recognition. In fact, the only recognition he’ll get from this debate is allegedly being a racist. If proven, this could be a fatal blow to his campaign.
  • Showed he was more pro-privatization than Koike is (not that this is a bad thing)
  • Asked Yamamoto about the plan to issue 15 trillion yen in municipal bonds and made his position known (fiscal management is necessary). This plan needs to be discussed in depth whether or not Yamamoto becomes governor.

The debate format

  • One of the biggest losers was the debate itself. Not only was it sorely lacking a debate (where candidates try to show how better they are than others), it was too short.
  • While it was nice to have the candidates asking each other questions, the 1 minute response time was way too short. It was like watching the CNN Democratic Debate. Candidates should get at least 5-10 minutes to get their point across. No issue position can be explained in a minute.
  • Having multiple debates on different issues (ex. education, administrative reform, environment) will allow candidates to flesh out their ideas.
  • Finally, we need a TV debate! Elderly voters are much more likely to watch a TV debate than one on YouTube. They’ve got as much of a say in this election as younger voters.

Image: Morio (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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