Tokyo mayoral win a ‘huge surprise’ for candidate living in Belgium

A Japanese woman living in Bélgica has been elected as mayor of a district in Tokyo after coming to prominence through her online campaigning during the Covid pandemic.

Satoko Kishimoto, 47, who has lived in the Belgian city of Leuven with her husband and children for a decade, is now mayor of Suginami city, a ward of 500,000 gente, más que 5,800 miles away from her home.

Kishimoto works as a project coordinator for the not-for-profit Transnational Institute in Amsterdam but had travelled to Japón to campaign in person in recent weeks.

Kishimoto’s husband, Olivier Hoedeman, said the election result had nevertheless come as a “huge surprise” and they were not yet committed to moving to Japan as their youngest son is still in secondary school.

He told Flemish radio: “During the Covid-19 crisis, when everything happened online, Satoko participated a lot in online public debates in Japan from Leuven.

“Satoko is very interested in politics and through her work for the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, she knows a lot about it too. She became very popular with the progressive movement in Japan and was asked to run for mayor in Suginami.

“Satoko lived the first 25 years of her life in Japan. Después, she moved to the Netherlands and then to Leuven, where we have lived together for more than 10 years and now have two children.

“The election result came as a huge surprise. Satoko defeated the conservative mayor in office. Aparentemente, her political message appealed to many citizens. Satoko wants less privatisation and more citizen participation.”

Kishimoto, who has edited a book on the alternatives to water privatisation, won by just 200 votes after managing to swerve her opponents’ criticisms over her Belgian residency.

Under one option being discussed by the family, Kishimoto will return to live in Japan and the rest of the family will join her at a later date.

Hoedeman said: “Our youngest son is still in secondary school and still has a few years to go. So moving to Japan is not going to be so easy. We still have to think about it.”

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