The citizens of Kiyose, a quiet city located on the edge of Tokyo Metropolis, will get their chance to vote for a rather unusual candidate in the upcoming municipal assembly elections.
Takaya Shiomi, the founder and original leader of the Sekigun-ha (Red Army Faction) arrested in 1970 just days before his radical ultra-left group pulled off the Yodogō hijacking, is running in the April city assembly elections in Kiyose, where he now lives. Shiomi is campaigning on an anti-Abe platform and against the city’s policies which are “bullying” the elderly.
Image via @akame712
This is not the first time that a former radical has had a second life in politics in Japan by any means, but it would surely be the most high profile ex-political prisoner to enter the political arena. Shiomi, though, is no spring chicken. He’s now 73 and looks his age. Even for Japanese politicos, who tend to be on the silver side, this might be a step too far, regardless of Shiomi’s history.
He spent almost 20 years behind bars. After his release in 1989 he has kept a relatively low public profile, though has written books and appeared in the media. During his time in prison he witnessed the strange fate of his peers: murdered in purges, arrested and deported from far-flung corners of the globe. Shiomi published a new book last year, detailing his life after he left prison and started working as a lowly paid car park attendant in Kiyose, a humble role for a former revolutionary. In the book he mentioned his desire to enter local politics. The New Left has frequently been accused of aggrandising but this was one pledge he kept.
His post-prison career has also apparently informed his new tamer political views, which are based on labour issues with older workers and civic issues such as the controversial “my number” system set to be introduced later this year.
Shiomi’s campaign slogan is: “Silver generation, don’t throw away your pride. Youngsters, don’t throw away your hope.”
Image via @akame712
Images via Akame 2005
According to his canvassing materials (below), his supporters include New Right ideologue Kunio Suzuki, working poor campaigner Karin Amamiya, manga-ka Naoki Yamamoto (the author of two comics based on the Sekigun-ha), and popular sociologist Shinji Miyadai. His biography also doesn’t shy away from highlighting his radical and illegal past. Note the cute mascot of Shiomi.
Seemingly dancing in the face of the proverbial old dog and his ability to learn new tricks, Shiomi has also started tweeting, joining his former Sekigun-ha colleagues, the Yodogō Group, who now tweet from exile in North Korea.
Polling day is April 26th. Shiomi-san, ganbare!
Update (April 27th)
Unfortunately Shiomi came second to last, with 319 votes.
20 of the 23 candidates won places in the assembly. The elected assembly member with the lowest votes still won 827, over double Shiomi’s count.
Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.