In Japan, efforts afoot to win hearts, and votes, of the alienated young
29 October, 2021, 4:18 am
Momoko Nojo’s campaign for Japan’s upcoming election revolves around social media and T-shirts, but she’s not running for office. Instead, the activist is fighting a different battle – against the apathy that keeps young voters away from the polls.
It’s no wonder the young don’t vote, with many of them saying candidates are overwhelmingly male, old, and disconnected from their concerns.
Women’s rights are not debated, and other issues such as gender equality, support for young families, the dire labor shortage and dysfunctional immigration system are also barely on the agenda.
“In this situation, young peoples’ voices won’t be reflected in politics,” said Nojo, 23 and a graduate student.
Japan’s situation contrasts with that of the United States, where, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, voter turnout of those aged 18-24 was 51% in the 2020 Presidential election.
But apathy among young voters is deep-seated and reflects long-term systemic issues in Japanese politics, often dominated by families who have been elected through generations, analysts said.
“I don’t go to vote because there’s just no feeling it’s connected to my life,” said Takuto Nanga, 22 and a comic illustrator. “Even if the top changes, there’ll still be problems like in the past.”
For women, things are especially bad. Only 9.7% of LDP candidates are women, with 7.5% for coalition partner Komeito.
While emphasising issues such as climate change, cutting university fees and gender equality would help lure younger voters, the process also has to be appealing, Hino argues.
“Almost nobody reads those massive party campaign platforms, and for young people it’s impossible, a facilitator’s needed,” Hino added.
“It’s mainly a game, but that’s fine. In a lighthearted way you find a party you like, then you go vote,” said Hino.
“Clothes are worn daily, it’s a form of expressing your opinion and showing yourself,” Nojo said, with the hope being they’d become conversation starters and spur wearers to vote.
That something must be done is painfully clear.
“With a larger population and higher voting rates, inevitably the voice of the older generation is stronger,” said Ayumi Adachi, 20 and a student.
“To get what we want, we need to speak up. We need to vote.”