Otsu’s mayoral election was held on January 22, 2012 with Naomi Koshi (越 直美) defeating two-term (8 years) incumbent Mayor Makoto Mekata (目片信) by almost 10,000 votes.
The 36-year-old Koshi Naomi, a lawyer by trade, is Japan’s youngest woman mayor ever to be elected. She is Shiga’s first female mayor. And it is the first time in Japan to have a woman prefectural governor (Yukiko Kada) as well as a woman mayor of the prefectural capital. She is the third woman mayor of a prefectural capital (the other two are in Sendai and Yokohama). There are currently only 14 female city mayors in Japan.
Ms. Koshi ran as an independent, but was endorsed by the Democratic Party of Japan, Social Democratic Party, and Taiwa-no-Kai (対話の会) which also backs Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada. The 70-year-old incumbent Mayor Mekata, also an independent, was backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito, and numerous corporate organizations. It is amazing to see such a newcomer defeating a well-entrenched and experienced incumbent.
Ms. Koshi vowed to reform Otsu, especially social services such as childcare and elderly support, tourism promotion, and financial reforms. She also supports foreign language education in schools. Her youth and symbol of change have appealed to voters who also have high expectations for her and the governor to work together. (The incumbent mayor was not on very good terms with the governor.)
Ms. Koshi received 51,735 votes, Mayor Mekata got 42,232 votes, and the third candidate Masako Higashi (東 昌子) won 22,712 votes. Some 44.15% of eligible voters went to the polls. This is 1.84% higher than the last election.
Governor Yukiko Kada, who congratulated Ms. Koshi at her campaign headquarters, commented that the citizens of Otsu wanted change and that having a woman in office brings the woman’s point of view which is rare in politics and business. She added that there will be a good synergy by having the city and prefecture working together for child care, elderly support, tourism, and other areas. Ms. Koshi does intend to work in tandem with the governor better than her predecessor did. She hopes that by changing Otsu, she can change Shiga, and then Japan. She’s young yet, and if she does well in Otsu, I think she could very well run for governor someday.
Mayor-elect Koshi Naomi was born on July 5, 1975. She grew up in Otsu and attended public schools including Zeze High School. She earned her undergraduate and graduate law degrees at Hokkaido University. In June 2009, she graduated from Harvard Law School in the U.S. This means she speaks English. (Now you know why I’m writing about her.) From 2002 to Nov. 2011, she practiced law for a Tokyo-based law firm and in New York. She specialized in corporate law. Her hobbies are swimming and yoga.
Official Website: http://www.koshinaomi.net/
Congratulations to her and I look forward to her policies on promoting tourism.