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For most young Japanese, their initial experience was not a vote for change, but rather to learn and to comply with the current political system.It remains to be seen how well this modified electoral system will provide a voice for those youth who do desire change and to what extent it maintains political stability.In February, a hard-hitting political phrase, — ‘Go to hell, Japan’ — went viral.The phrase originated from a blogpost by an anonymous working mother decrying the fact that her one-year-old child had been denied a place at nursery school — ‘My child was denied enrolment in nursery school, go to hell Japan’.
The CEO of Niwango, who manages Niconico — a Japanese social media giant — argues that its monthly political opinion poll consistently attracts 30,000 replies in just 15 minutes, far more than major television channels or newspapers.
There is still no definitive answer, but what is clear is that there is a representation gap.
This gap derives from the ageing population engendering feelings of disempowerment among the youth in a ‘silver democracy’.
The fact that 18- and 19-year-olds were granted the vote as a result of top-down reform, rather than as a hard-fought political concession, will likely shape their voting behaviour in the longer term.
They will likely be less motivated to campaign for change than if this voting reform had been the result of sustained political action by Japan’s youth.