The turnout at the lower house polls was as lackluster as ever. And for trick-or-treating in Shibuya? Halloween revelers fill the streets in central Shibuya on Sunday. Officials of Shibuya, which has become a popular gathering spot for Halloween events, and the police had requested people celebrate at home due to continuing concerns about the possible spread of the novel coronavirus. Shibuya even organized an online event for enjoying Halloween remotely. Nonetheless, thousands of revelers showed up over the weekend, with police struggling to keep the crowds moving across the famous scramble intersection in front of the station. | ROB GILHOOLY
Japan’s voters went to the ballot stations Sunday for their first general election in four years. In the end, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party secured a comfortable majority of the 465-member Lower House, albeit with a pruning of in its pre-election tally of 276 seats.
When it comes to elections, a major talking point has been Japan’s younger generation, who are largely seen as being apathetic toward politics despite the voting age being lowered from 20 to 18 five years ago.
The first time 18-year-olds were given the opportunity to have their say was in 2017’s general election, when the overall voter turnout was 53.68%, the second-lowest in postwar Japan. Only 33.85% of those in their 20s voted on that occasion, less than half of the 72.04% recorded among those in their 60s.
According to a Jiji Press exit poll, overall turnout this time was just under 56%. An informal exit survey conducted by The Japan Times at one polling station revealed roughly 25% of voters were under 30.
Perhaps adding to this lower turnout was the fact the elections this year were held on Halloween. In Tokyo, many of Japan’s young seemed determined to celebrate, despite calls for them to vote and, at the same time, stay home due to continuing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
Indeed, thousands showed up in Shibuya, filling the streets and causing a headache for police attempting to keep them moving. Many interviewed by The Japan Times about the election said they felt excluded from the political process, and that there was more chance of a zombie invasion than the LDP being ousted from a leadership role it has held almost without interruption since its founding in 1955.
The following is a gallery of images from election day in Tokyo, and comments from those who voted and/or took part in Halloween events in the capital.
Pedestrians walk past a ‘Happy Halloween’ message written with chalk on the asphalt in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo. This year, Halloween and a major election ended up sharing a date. Turnout among Japan’s youth was expected to be lower than the 31% in the 2019 Upper House election — a far cry from countries such as Denmark, where it is around 80%. In the United States, around 50% of 18- to 29-year-olds voted in the 2020 presidential election — an 11-point increase over the 2016 ballot. | ROB GILHOOLY A dog gets into the Halloween mood as his owners make their way to a polling station as Japan’s general election gets underway in Setagaya Ward on Sunday. An informal survey of 100 people taken outside the polling station revealed around 25% to be under 30. One voter, a 22-year-old university student who declined to be named, said she had no particular interest in politics but had voted every year since she turned 18, largely at the urging of her parents’. Another, 25-year-old Reiko Wakai, said she had posted a selfie of herself outside the polling station to shame her apathetic friends who ‘have no awareness’ of the privilege of being able to vote. ‘It’s a wonderful thing to able to have a say in your country’s direction, and I’m always banging on at my friends about voting — but they don’t listen,’ she says. | ROB GILHOOLY A man completes an exit survey after voting at a polling station as Japan’s general election got underway in Setagaya Ward on Sunday. According to ward official Yoshinari Ando, morning voting numbers at the station had been good compared with previous years, adding they had tailed off significantly in the afternoon as the rain started to fall. Early voting numbers would seem to suggest a ‘decent turnout,’ he says, adding that the number of young voters — frequently low among Japan’s voting public — had also been reasonably favorable, likely influenced by the polling station’s proximity to youth culture capital Shimokitazawa. | ROB GILHOOLY A boy and his mother browse local candidates on an election board outside a polling station as Japan’s general election gets underway in Setagaya Ward on Sunday afternoon. | ROB GILHOOLY Eito Hoshi (right) and Kodai Mori, both 18, pose for a photo on Sunday. With Japan’s voting age having been lowered to 18 five years ago, Mori had decided to visit his local polling station to post a ballot for the first time. ‘But, then there was this: my first time to experience Halloween,’ he says, adding he borrowed one of his dad’s suits as a sort of comment on salaried workers. ‘I am interested in politics and economics, so I wanted to make use of my right to vote. But it’s difficult to relate to Japanese politicians, who are all older, and don’t have a clue what younger people are thinking. Politics isn’t really presented as something for young people like us. It’s the older people who vote, and in the end they are the ones who stand most to gain. I want them to listen to the young people, to give us a say. They could start by allowing online voting. You can manage your finances online, right? I think if we had online voting, you’d see a massive increase in young voters. But perhaps that’s not what they want.’ | ROB GILHOOLY ‘Sekiya,’ 27, poses on a shopping street in Shibuya on Halloween night. As for the election? ‘I have zero interest,’ Sekiya says, adding that he never votes. ‘There’s really no benefit in voting. Nothing changes.’ | ROB GILHOOLY A pet parrot takes a break on the head of a Halloween reveler in Shibuya. | ROB GILHOOLY ‘Aoki,’ 24, poses on a shopping street in the Shibuya district on Halloween night. Asked if he had voted during the general election, Aoki says he couldn’t. ‘I’m a foreign student, from China.’ Only Japanese citizens — including those born outside Japan but who have taken up Japanese citizenship — are allowed to vote in Japan. | ROB GILHOOLY Kazuki Shimauchi, 32, poses for a selfie in Shibuya on Sunday. | ROB GILHOOLY Two young men take their dinosaurs for a ride in Shibuya. | ROB GILHOOLY ‘Suzuki,’ who is in his early 30s, takes a break from the crowds during Halloween celebrations in Shibuya, Tokyo, on Sunday. He says he is ‘indifferent’ about politics. ‘I pay no attention to the elections,’ he says. ‘Many young people don’t bother. The outcome is pretty much set in stone anyway. My friends and colleagues, we never talk politics. We couldn’t care less.’ | ROB GILHOOLY For some, Halloween in Shibuya involved putting on a store-bought mask or hat. For others, it meant spending months on a DIY costume. | ROB GILHOOLY ‘Fujiwara,’ 62, dressed in a Tyvek suit and mask, says he had come prepared to ‘do battle with coronavirus and radiation’ but had chosen not to take on the polling booths. ‘I feel I can make a bigger statement here,’ he says. | ROB GILHOOLY
A blue dinosaur on the loose on the streets of Shibuya. | ROB GILHOOLY A reveler dressed up in zombie attire lets it all hang out on Sunday. | ROB GILHOOLY ‘Nori’, 32, says that while he had come to the events to ‘spread peace’ during the difficult COVID-19 pandemic, he was unconvinced the state of Japanese politics could be similarly pacified. ‘There seems to be little effort made to embrace young people, and they could start by making things more accessible,’ the salaried worker says. ‘Bring out an anime character who explains that process, and the reasons for voting and having your say. It’s often said young people lack awareness, but I’m not sure. If you change the voting process to make it more appealing to young people, I think they will vote.’ | ROB GILHOOLY Sidney Smallbone and Michelangelo Damato, both 12, are ‘abducted’ by aliens during Halloween festivities in Shibuya on Sunday. A small foreign contingent was among the thousands who flocked to Shibuya to celebrate the imported holiday. | ROB GILHOOLY ‘Sasuke,’ 33, has his photo taken with young women dressed up as police officers. Sasuke, whose cop car light outfit took him months to make, admits he never votes. ‘Time is precious and I’d prefer to spend my free time making things like this,’ he says. ‘I think it would make a difference if they could make elections more interesting for young people, maybe introduce something like an election animation, explaining why people should vote, what the merits of doing it are, or if they don’t vote this or that could happen. Also think it would make a big difference if voting online was introduced. I’d vote if that was an option.’ | ROB GILHOOLY Hirekazu Joda, 40, said he was ‘too busy’ to go and vote. ‘There’s little point, anyway, we know the outcome,’ he said, while a passerby quipped ‘Yeah, we’re gonna be ruled by zombies.’ | ROB GILHOOLY More photo essays