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Monday, Oct. 20, 2008

Ozawa uses Internet show to seek out young voters

Staff writer

Opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa tried to present a softer public image Sunday by speaking to young people about his favorite tofu, women's fashions — and even his unrequited first love.

News photo
Ichiro Ozawa KYODO PHOTO

The Democratic Party of Japan president appeared at Ameba Studio in the bustling Harajuku district in Tokyo to appear on a live Internet broadcast hosted by popular TV personality Sakura Uehara.

Uehara said Ozawa was the first male guest on her program and was surprised that a politician would take part.

"We really don't know, for instance, what kind of food you like. It is hard to imagine what kind of food politicians are eating," Uehara said as she started things off by serving Ozawa her homemade apple cake.

Ozawa later surprised Uehara by saying he loves tofu and frequents ramen shops and "izakaya" bars.

The opposition chief doesn't usually enjoy a positive public image. He is often described as a behind-the-scenes player and has been dubbed "the destroyer" for his past roles in party realignments.

But Ozawa responded with smiles to Uehara and another host, comedian Shuhei Shimada, who asked about some personal matters, like his first love. Ozawa said "it did not bloom."

With a general election expected soon, Ozawa's appearance at the Harajuku studio was aimed at appealing to young, nonaffiliated voters. It worked so far as a number of people walking by in the nation's youth mecca stopped to watch the show.

"I watched him at a close distance today, and I feel like I want to know more about politics," said 31-year-old Ayako Ibayashi of Tokyo, adding that it was good to see Ozawa answering personal questions. He seemed quite friendly, she said.

While the program proceeded in a cordial and upbeat mood, Ozawa also explained a bit about politics, as Uehara asked him why people generally feel there is a gulf between politicians and the public.

"I think it's because Japanese people aren't generally interested in politics and don't think it makes much difference whether they vote, so they let the politicians and government do the work," he said.

When Uehara, who said she doesn't know much about politics, described many young people as being in the same boat, Ozawa pitched his cause:

"There is no need to know about detailed political systems and such. Having a will that your vote will change and will make politics and government, that's all you need to have."

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The Japan Times

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