- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2007

TOKYO — There’s Peru’s former dictator, Alberto Fujimori; and Yuko Tojo, whose grandfather ordered Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor; and the inventor who calls himself Dr. Nakamats and claims he knows how to turn North Korean missiles around in midflight.

Japan’s national elections today feature some unlikely candidates.

It’s not that the ballot is in any way a frivolous affair. Battered by funding scandals and a huge pensions blunder, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government will be fighting to hold onto its slim majority in parliament’s upper house. Defeat could prompt calls for Mr. Abe to resign.

But plenty of wannabes are sharing the campaign spotlight with Mr. Abe.

ZAKI — a wandering musician and peace activist who writes his name that way in Latin characters — has resorted to unconventional tactics to woo voters, including impromptu rock performances on the streets of Tokyo.

“I’ve long campaigned against evil government policies from outside the system. Now I want in,” a guitar-wielding ZAKI, whose real name is Masatoshi Nozaki, shouted to a crowd in the shopping district of Shibuya last week between performances that slammed the prime minister’s nationalist agenda.

In part, the shift toward more outlandish candidates is due to media-savvy former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who drew celebrity candidates from entertainment, academia and business to push his reformist agenda in the 2005 elections.

Dr. Nakamats said Japan should draw on its technological prowess to better protect itself from its missile-wielding neighbor, North Korea.

“North Korea is one day going to launch a missile attack. But Japan has no plan for when that happens,” the popular inventor warned during a campaign stop in Tokyo last week. “I have an idea for a device that could turn missiles round 180 degrees in midair.”

Yuko Tojo, the granddaughter of the executed wartime leader Gen. Hideki Tojo, has an equally ambitious plan for defending Japan: She wants to scrap its pacifist constitution and develop a full-fledged military. She said she often prays at a Tokyo war shrine for Japan’s fallen soldiers, including her grandfather, who ordered the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and was hanged for war crimes after World War II.

Some would-be celebrity politicians are hampered by a ban on campaigning where they are most popular — cyberspace.

The stringent regulations, which effectively prevent candidates from using the Internet and e-mail to disseminate images, have proven most problematic for Mr. Fujimori.

Under house arrest in Chile, Mr. Fujimori can’t even travel to meet voters face to face — and has resorted to campaigning through his Japanese wife, Satomi Kataoka.

“He is trying something new,” she said. “I think we can create a new history.”