Woman in Belgium elected mayor of Tokyo district more than 9,000km away in ‘huge surprise’ victory

Despite not having lived in Japan for several years, Suginami residents say Satoko Kishimoto is ‘a real Japanese person’

Sravasti Dasgupta
Wednesday 22 June 2022 12:15 BST
<p>Satoko Kishimoto, who lives in Belgium has been elected mayor of a district in Tokyo</p>

Satoko Kishimoto, who lives in Belgium has been elected mayor of a district in Tokyo

A 47-year-old woman living in Belgium for over a decade has become the mayor of a Tokyo district, more than 9,000km away, after she rose to prominence primarily with the help of a social media campaign during the Covid pandemic.

Satoko Kishimoto, 47, has been living in Belgium’s Leuven city with her husband and two children and is set to become the mayor of Tokyo’s Suginami district after winning polls with a narrow margin of just 200 votes.

“During the Covid-19 crisis, when everything happened online, Satoko participated a lot in online public debates in Japan from Leuven,” husband Olivier Hoedeman said in an interview with a local Flemish radio station on Monday.

“Satoko is very interested in politics and through her work for the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, she knows a lot about it too,” he added.

“She became very popular with the progressive movement in Japan and was asked to run for mayor in Suginami.”

Ms Kishimoto had lived in Japan for the first 25 years of her life and then moved to the Netherlands and subsequently to Leuven where she lives now, her husband said.

“But Satoko has always kept the connection with Japan, so when the invitation came to run for mayor, she was immediately very enthusiastic,” he said, adding that they never expected that she would be elected.

“The election result came as a huge surprise. Satoko defeated the conservative mayor in office. Apparently, her political message appealed to many citizens,” Mr Hoedeman explained.

“Satoko wants less privatisation and more citizen participation.”

She has edited a book on the alternatives to water privatisation, reported The Guardian.

Despite not having lived in Japan for several years, Suginami’s residents consider her “a real Japanese person,” her husband said.

He added that her victory has also become big news across Japan, where it is seen as “the beginning of a fresh wind” in the country’s politics, reported The Brussels Times.

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