Experts, citizens join hands to create manga on participatory democracy

December 25, 2013

By JUN TAKAKU/ Staff Writer

A former nightclub hostess is elected mayor of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, and the 25-year-old Nana Himekawa quickly embarks on a mission to change the "youth town."

This is the plot of a yet-to-be-named online manga series being created by political experts and citizens about participatory democracy.

Online participants will discuss issues that Shibuya faces in real life and experience participatory democracy through the process of how the young fictional Mayor Himekawa resolves those issues in the manga.

The project is headed by the Japan School of Policy Making, a judicial foundation established to nurture next-generation politicians. The organization is encouraging visitors to a website for the Shibuya Ward policy discussion forum to list problems and discuss them. They are required to take on real life topics, such as Shibuya's shortage of kindergartens.

Former Nagano Governor Yasuo Tanaka, Yuto Yoshida, mayor of Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and other political experts have joined in the discussions.

About 200 participants who have attended lectures at JSPM take on research to work out solutions. JSPM plans to come up with actual measures that can be useful in real-life politics.

Manga creator Masato Naka, who is known for "Boryoku no Miyako" (City of violence) and other popular titles, is working on the manga series to show the entire process, from presenting problems to making policy proposals, through the eyes of the 25-year-old mayor. The series will start its run on the Nico Nico Seiga illustration-sharing website in January, with a manga volume planned for release next summer.

The goal of the project is to offer a simulated experience of participatory democracy.

Sakuichi Konno, head of JSPM, points out that a big issue concerning Japanese politics today is "the fact that there is a gap between voters and politics, and they can't get involved (with politicians) in their daily lives."

Under the current situation, young people cannot experience changing politics even if they take an interest in the subject.

So, Konno decided to offer young people a chance to experience success in changing a town in the manga.

"We want to come up with policies that real-life municipal governments would want to try," Konno said. "We can change politics a little bit in a way that differs from elections."

In addition to being well known, there was another reason Shibuya Ward was chosen as the setting for the story. The ward has many "faces." It is known not only for the busy Shibuya neighborhood that attracts young people, but also for its many residential areas and IT-related companies. Konno thought it would be easy for solutions presented in the manga to be adapted for other areas across Japan.

"Young people are faced with many issues, such as pension and nursing care," said Naka, the manga's creator. "I want them, especially those who are not interested in politics, but in manga production, to get involved (with the project).

"It's all right for each generation to take different political stances. There is also a politics that begins from making a manga."

To raise funds for the manga production and cover other costs, donations are being accepted at a funding website. Individuals and companies who donate a certain amount will have their names or characters modeled after them in the story.

By JUN TAKAKU/ Staff Writer
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Protagonist Nana Himekawa, 25, runs for mayor of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Courtesy of Masato Naka)

Protagonist Nana Himekawa, 25, runs for mayor of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Courtesy of Masato Naka)

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  • Protagonist Nana Himekawa, 25, runs for mayor of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Courtesy of Masato Naka)

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