Surprise victory: a Japanese woman living in Belgium becomes mayor of a Tokyo ward

In a huge upset victory, a Japanese woman, who lived in Belgium, was chosen as mayor of a Tokyo district after the election. The 47-year-old, known as Satoko Kishimoto, rose to popularity through her online campaign. For a decade, Kishimoto has lived in Leuven, Belgium with her husband and children. She worked as a project coordinator for the non-profit Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. Kishimoto has now become the mayor of Suginami Town. This city has a population of 500,000 and is over 5,800 miles from its current home. Kishimoto won by just 200 votes.

In recent weeks, Kishimoto has traveled to Japan to campaign in person. Olivier Hoedeman, Kishimoto’s husband, said the election result was a “huge surprise”.


“During the Covid crisis, when everything was happening online, Satoko participated a lot in online public debates in Japan from Leuven. Satoko is very interested in politics and, thanks to 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 of Suginami,” Hoedeman told Flemish Radio.

“Satoko lived the first 25 years of her life in Japan. After that 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 was a huge surprise. Satoko defeated the conservative mayor in office. Apparently, his political message appealed to many citizens. Satoko wants less privatization and more citizen participation,” Hoedeman added.

Hoedeman said: “Our youngest son is still in secondary school and has a few more years ahead of him. So moving to Japan is not going to be that easy. Still have to think about it. »

(With agency contributions)


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