Actor-turned-anti-nuclear activist wins Upper House seat

July 22, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Actor Taro Yamamoto, an independent newcomer who campaigned on a platform of abandoning nuclear power generation, was elected to the Upper House on July 21 from the Tokyo five-seat district for the first time.

"This is where the real fight begins," said Yamamoto, 38, after pumping his fist in the air before supporters. "I want to continue to call for the abolition of nuclear power."

Yamamoto, who started his anti-nuclear power activities immediately after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, left his talent agency the same year to avoid controversy over his opinions.

He ran for the Lower House election in December from the Tokyo No. 8 district, but failed to win a seat in the chamber.

Although some political parties proposed supporting Yamamoto in the Upper House election, the anti-nuclear activist refused their offers, saying, "I will win using civilian power alone."

More than 1,200 volunteers from across Japan, whom Yamamoto had recruited through his Twitter feed and Facebook page, campaigned for Yamamoto. The number of Yamamoto's Twitter followers is 200,000, compared to 150,000 followers of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Aggressively exploiting the Internet to gain a larger following, his supporters broadcast live interviews of Yamamoto from inside a car.

In addition to volunteers, Yamamoto hired veteran campaign staff members, which largely contributed to the victory. He focused the argument on the nuclear issue to win the hearts of voters who are concerned about the government's nuclear policy.

"Those who do not have high hopes for the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan, as well as do not like the Japanese Communist Party, have voted for Yamamoto," said the chief of Yamamoto's campaign office. "In addition, all our strategies have worked out as we expected."

"Thanks to the power of volunteers, I have won the election without depending on any political parties," Yamamoto said. "I think this shows the potential of the Internet for election campaigns."

Yamamoto, who formed a party named Shinto Ima wa Hitori (New party, I am alone right now) before the December Lower House election, told his supporters after his win, "I am no longer alone."

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Taro Yamamoto, an actor-turned-anti-nuclear power activist, shouts, “I am no longer alone” in front of supporters on July 21 in Tokyo after securing a seat in the Upper House. (Takaharu Yagi)

Taro Yamamoto, an actor-turned-anti-nuclear power activist, shouts, “I am no longer alone” in front of supporters on July 21 in Tokyo after securing a seat in the Upper House. (Takaharu Yagi)

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  • Taro Yamamoto, an actor-turned-anti-nuclear power activist, shouts, “I am no longer alone” in front of supporters on July 21 in Tokyo after securing a seat in the Upper House. (Takaharu Yagi)

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