SATOKO KISHIMOTO'S OFFICIAL WEBSITE
Dear friends,the city council elections that happened this weekend in Suginami show the way towards a new political landscape in Japan. Women won 24 out of 48 seats in the new city council, so the gender balance is now 50-50. 15 new candidates were elected while 12 incumbent politicians lost their seats, and the top 4 candidates with most votes are all newly elected female candidates.Citizens of Suginami, including myself, had made a huge effort to increase voter turnout, and as a result the vote rate went up with 4.19 points (from 39.47% to 43.66%). Japanese local politics is typically characterised by heavily top-down organised elections, low voter turnout, and little chance for new women and minority candidates to be elected. Suginami has demonstrated that the times are changing: people demand change, in order for politics to reflect the diversity of oursociety.I am convinced that important issues such as gender equality and diversity, climate justice, children rights and human rights, and the care society will now be taken forward with real momentum in Suginami. I am so proud of the tireless work done by grassroots people in Suginami. We won't stop, we'll continue moving forward!In solidarity,Satoko Kishimoto, Mayor of Suginami ward, Tokyo.
25 April 2023
The female mayor in Tokyo fighting Japan's sexist attitudes/BBC NEWS 07/03/2023
No backpedaling for Suginami Ward’s bicycling mayor/The japantimes 18/08/2022
‘Dominated by old men’: Tokyo ward’s first female mayor takes on status quo /The Gurdian 21/07/2022
Thank you for your attention. Earlier this week, I won the Suginami City mayoral election. Against all odds, I received more than 76000 votes and defeated the current mayor by a margin of 187 votes. Suginami is a district in Tokyo with 570,000 inhabitants. I will be the first female mayor of Suginami City, an important development in a country where women are heavily under-represented in politics.
I will assume office on 11 July. At this moment, I need to understand and study the current administration and dialogue with many local people. Especially I would like to dialogue with and listen to people who did not vote for me. It is essential for me to work with all, beyond political differences. I believe in the beauty of local politics; we can share a vision to make a better future for Suginami for people and the planet.
I prioritise local dialogues and preparation; thus, I have decided not to receive interviews from Japanese and international media until 11 July.
I appreciate your understanding. Please refer to the background reading.
Feel free to utilise existing resources;Link to photos: https://www.kishimotosatoko.net/albumYouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ9vQwbreBbBGWkuIjiaJRQ
Contact: uchidashoko[at]gmail.com and satoko.kishimoto[at]gmail.com
Yours sincerely,Satoko Kishimoto
On June 20th, Satoko Kishimoto won the Suginami Ward mayoral election and she will be the first female mayor of Suginami Ward, taking office on 11 July. Against all odds, Satoko Kishimoto received more than 76000 votes and defeated the current mayor by a margin of 187 votes. Suginami is a district in Tokyo with 570,000 inhabitants. Satoko Kishimoto the first female mayor of Suginami City, is an important development in a country where women are heavily under-represented in politics.
She started her election campaign as an independent candidate representing grassroots citizen groups from Suginami. Later the campaign received support from several parties. The election program was drafted by the local citizen groups, who wanted a new political direction for Suginami ward and a departure from the politics of the current mayor Mr Tanaka. Satoko Kishimoto’s campaign promised to invest in improved public services and introduce a more democratic, participatory and transparent city administration. Also, the provision of free, healthy school meals was a key election campaign promise.
She campaigned in Suginami for more than two months, with an election campaign involving many active and enthusiastic women. The crowds gathering for public debates in front of the metro station exit increased day by day. The campaign gained momentum because she was listening to the concerns of the citizens and pledged to continue doing so if elected, a stark contrast with current mayor Tanaka’s top-down style of politics.
She was born in Tokyo and was a leading environmental activist in the Japanese environmental movement in the 1990s. She moved to Europe in 2001 to live with her husband and her two children in the Netherlands (Amsterdam) and in Belgium (Brussels and Leuven) until the spring of 2022. While residing in Europe, she worked for Transnational Institute, an international policy research NGO, based in Amsterdam as a researcher for nearly 20 years. She continued to inform Japanese society about the global social movements through her writing and speaking.
In March 2022, Kishimoto was asked to run for the election by the coalition of grassroots citizen groups "住民思いの杉並区長をつくる会（We want to have a mayor who stands by people）" and she accepted in April. The campaign called for recovering and reclaiming public services, halting controversial road and development projects, a democratic local economy, and centring climate justice and citizen participation.
＊There have been some newspaper articles that her campaign was conducted online from Europe, but these articles are incorrect.
The election result came as a huge surprise. Satoko defeated the mayor in office. Apparently, her political message appealed to many citizens.
"Satoko wants less privatisation and more citizen participation." Through her work for the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, Satoko Kishimoto has developed very extensive expertise in areas like alternatives to privatisation, improving public services and democratising city politics, topics that were highly relevant for the Suginami election campaign.
Her election is also big news across Japan, where it is seen as "the beginning of a fresh wind" in the country'. Now that she is elected mayor, Satoko Kishimoto moves permanently to Suginami.
Quotes:"Nobody believed that I could win, but it happened. I prioritize the voice of the citizens, something that is not uncommon in European cities like Leuven, but happens very little in Japanese cities. During the election campaign, I tried to really listen and dialogue with citizens and the people of Suginami found this refreshing."
"I was so proud of the green-red government that was elected in Leuven. It is not just ecological and social, but also prioritises citizens' participation, a new style of participatory politics. In Japan, this type of new politics is only at the beginning."
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