Tokyo Election Candidate Shinji Ishimaru Receives Youth Vote Through Grassroots Social Media Campaign Efforts

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shinji Ishimaru speaks to his supporters in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on Sunday.

Shinji Ishimaru, a former mayor of Akitakata, Hiroshima Prefecture, put up a good fight in the Tokyo gubernatorial election on Sunday despite not receiving support from any of the political parties. Having quickly become known through social media, he is believed to have received many votes from nonaffiliated, including many young people, amid a backdrop of distrust in the existing political parties.

Ishimaru is from Akitakata. After working in a major bank’s U.S. branch office, he was elected mayor of Akitakata in 2020. After accusing one of the city’s assembly members of falling asleep during a meeting on social media, he often came into conflict with the assembly and videos of raucous exchanges between him and the assembly as well as his press conferences drew public attention.

During the Tokyo gubernatorial election campaign, he gave stump speeches at more than 10 locations every day. He did not get into talking about specific policies but said, “Politics will change if someone not belonging to a political party becomes the governor.”

“We did not let him talk about complicated things and tried to limit his speech time to within around 20 minutes each time,” said a member of his camp, revealing their campaign strategy.

Videos of his speeches were strategically proliferated by campaign volunteers. His campaign was led by the “online campaign headquarters.” Those who had seen the videos offered support, and about 5,000 people registered as volunteers, according to his camp. Volunteers were sent to distribute flyers, and the campaign formed a system to distribute 150,000 flyers per day. The audience of his speeches increased every day, and donations from individuals surpassed the ¥200 million mark.

“We managed to merge online and real life activities to raise interest in politics in a wide age group,” said a senior staff member of his camp.