The Yokohama mayoral election is set to be announced on 8 August with the votes being cast and counted on 22 August in what has become a crucial battlefield for the city’s IR project.
However, at time of writing, only one of the contenders has expressed support for continuing plans to develop an integrated resort on Yamashita Pier, despite the city’s RFP process having progressed with consortiums led by Genting Singapore and Melco Resorts & Entertainment in contention.
IAG takes a closer look at exactly where the current candidates stand:
Hachiro Okonogi (55) is opposed to an IR bid. He is a member of the House of Representatives (Liberal Democratic Party), was Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, Minister of State for Disaster Management (Disaster Prevention and Ocean Policy), and Minister of Land Resilience and Territorial Disputes. He recently resigned from his ministerial position to run for mayor. He is expected to run as an independent. Many have been surprised that Okonogi, a minister for a party that has promoted IRs in Japan, has switched to run on a platform of IR opposition. At a press conference, Okonogi stated, “There have been concerns expressed about addiction, security, or using people’s gambling losses on town planning and other matters.”
Takeharu Yamanaka (48) is opposed to an IR bid. He is a professor at Yokohama City University. Running as an independent candidate with the recommendation of the Constitutional Democratic Party, he has stated, “Data makes it clear that casinos increase addiction issues, weaken public safety and damage the educational environment. I am completely opposed to an IR bid and will immediately withdraw.”
Mineyuki Fukuda (57) is in favor of an IR bid. He is a former member of the House of Representatives and Deputy Minister of the Cabinet Office. Fukuda is planning to run as an independent. Initially he took a neutral stance with respect to an IR, commenting that he wanted to review the business plan. However, after receiving criticism from voters that they do not know where he stands, he has come out in favor, stating, “IR is one way that we can secure financial resources for Yokohama city amidst a declining population.”
Masataka Ota (75) is opposed to an IR bid. He is an incumbent member of the Yokohama City Council (Constitutional Democratic Party), and is planning to run in the mayoral election as an independent. At a press conference in January he commented, “If I become the mayor of Yokohama, the casino issue will disappear that very day. To put it plainly, I will not do casinos.” Ota has clearly nailed his colors to the mast, telling IAG, “I understand that an IR would make money. But I am opposed to a casino.”
Akiko Fujimura (45) is opposed to an IR bid. Representative director of an animal protection group and planning to run as an independent, Fujimura has promised to immediately cancel the IR project, establish an animal police that specializes in animal cruelty and set up a consultation desk in Yokohama for Chinese nationals to withdraw from the Chinese Communist Party.
Fumiko Hayashi (75), the incumbent mayor, is reported to be considering running for a fourth term but has not yet formally declared her intent. However, Liberal Democratic Party internal rules stipulate that candidates should only serve three consecutive terms. Further, Hayashi is elderly and there are concerns for her health and so the LDP’s stance is to not support her candidacy.