Japan has first transgendered political candidate

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 22 2003 12:00 AM ET

An activist believed to be the first Japanese transgendered person to run for public office has registered as a candidate in a local election in Tokyo. Kamikawa Aya, 35, will run for a seat in a local assembly in Setagaya, one of Tokyo's 23 wards, in voting slated for April 27, the candidate and an election official said Sunday. In Setagaya, 72 candidates are vying for 52 seats.

Kamikawa was born a biological man but lives as a woman and is planning to have a sex-change operation. She said she wanted to give a voice to transgendered people in Japan and raise awareness of problems they face in "this conformity-conscious nation."

In a formal application to Setagaya's election commission on Sunday, Kamikawa identified herself as a woman, though she is listed as a male in her family registry--a government record used in Japan when issuing official documents ranging from passports to marriage certificates.

Commission official Takehito Suzuki described that discrepancy as a first for a candidate in a Japanese election and said the ward accepted it after consulting with the central government.

Kamikawa said she thought her chances of winning are "not so bad." She said voters she has met on the campaign trail appear to accept her status but that it is difficult to predict whether they will vote for her.