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Monday, December 15, 2014

Snap Election 2014 - My First Ever Vote


For the first time in the more than two decades I've lived in Japan, I voted today.

Snap election 2014 candidates, Asakusabashi, Tokyo, Japan.
The candidates
I got naturalized as a Japanese citizen in February of this year, qualifying me to participate in Japan's politics. And the first ever election I got to take part in was quite a newsworthy one, as Prime Minister Abe seeks mid-term endorsement for his policies aimed at turning around the country's flat-lined economy, turning the nuclear electric power plants back on in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, and giving Japan official military clout again.

Elementary school polling station, Asakusabashi, Tokyo, Japan.
The polling station
The problem is that a major measure aimed at curbing the gargantuan national debt: raising the consumption tax from 5% to 8% impacted severely on another major strand of his economic policy: raising demand for goods and services among the population.

The local polling station was an elementary school about 3 or 4 minutes away by bicycle - one of those drab old concrete monstrosities from the 1980s or, god forbid, earlier. There were hoardings, one on north side of the school, one on the west, with candidates' posters.

Polling station reception desk, Asakusabashi, Tokyo, Japan.
Voter reception desk
At the desk in the foyer, outside the voting room, I submitted the voting slip I had received in the mail. It was scanned and the clerk confirmed my name. I went in, and gave the paper to another clerk who gave me a voting slip and told me to write the name of the candidate of my choice.

Polling booths, Asakusabashi, Tokyo, Japan.
Polling booths
There was a sheet in front of me with the name and party affiliation of each candidate, so I referred to that to make sure I got it right. I then placed it in the first voting box, placed in front of the first of three clerks sitting in a row at a long desk, each with a ballot box in front of them.

Candidate name voting paper, Asakusabashi, Tokyo, Japan.
My voter registration form (left) and voting paper for candidate's name (right)
I was then given two more slips, each a different color from the first, and told to write the name of the political party of my choice on one, and, on another, which had the names of the six supreme court judges, I was asked to place a cross against any I didn't approve of, or leave it blank.
Political party voting form and supreme court judge voting form, Asakusabashi, Tokyo.
Political party voting form (left) and supreme court judge voting paper (right)

I filled in the party name, left the supreme court judge paper blank, and posted each in the box of the second and third ballot box clerk respectively.

That was it. I made my way out, leaving my choices to be counted and make their tiny contribution to Japanese history.

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