What's new

Non-Japanese town council members in Japan

Welcome to our Japan community!

A discussion forum for all Things Japanese. Join Today! It is fast, simple, and FREE!


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Reaction score
Asahi introduced foreign-born council members in two Japanese towns: Canadian-born Jon Heese from Tsukuba (Ibaraki) and NY-born Anthony Bianchi from Inuyama (Aichi). Both have adopted Japanese nationality.

Bianchi's first election experience in Japan was baffling. He said he was particularly perplexed by election rules that allowed campaign vehicles to only repeatedly blare out the names of candidates. He also wanted to avoid giving loud street speeches, and he once quarreled with his campaign staff over the volume level. The native New Yorker also overheard some people saying that his Japanese was terrible and that they didn't want a foreigner representing them. Still, his supporters encouraged him by saying there was nothing wrong with bringing a new perspective to the assembly. He felt that his American background worked both positively and negatively. Bianchi gained the most votes in the election. His first question as an assembly member was why his colleagues appeared reluctant to discuss issues with each other. He thought there were more active discussions in the United States. He established a system of encouraging talks among assembly members as part of reforms.

Bianchi's effort to realize grass-roots democracy through free speech by residents attracted nationwide attention. Bianchi feels that the Japanese take a reserved stance on politics and shy away from speaking their minds. For that reason, he takes pride in encouraging discussions but said he must be careful not to impose an American way of thinking. "Diversity matters not only in terms of where people come from but also in how they participate in politics".

Top Bottom