Japanese woman wins Tokyo mayorship while living 5,800 miles away in Belgium

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Satoko Kishimoto, 47, has been elected mayor of Tokyo’s Suginami district despite being a resident of Leuven, Belgium, roughly 5,800 miles away.

Kishimoto won by a narrow 200 votes, defeating conservative opponent and incumbent mayor Ryo Tanaka.

Kishimoto traveled back and forth between Belgium and Japan to campaign in the weeks leading up to the election on June 20.

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While proximity was an obvious barrier for the mayor-elect, Kishimoto was able to rely on online campaigning with the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic, participating in online public debates to gain prominence.

Her win came as a huge shock, and despite her opposition taking constant jabs at her residency, her progressive agenda stressing less privatization and more citizen participation made an impression on voters.

Kishimoto’s background is in environmental activism at the not-for-profit Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, where she is currently a project coordinator.

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Kishimoto lived in Japan for the first 25 years of her life before moving to the Netherlands and then Leuven, where she has been living for the past decade with her husband and two children.

It has not been decided whether her family will be moving to Japan due to their childrens’ schooling situations.


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Featured Image via Asia Europe People’s Forum