Preparations are ramping up here in Japan as voters get set to cast their ballots in prefectural and municipal elections early next month.
Eleven prefectures, across the nation, kicked off gubernatorial campaigns on Thursday. Candidates are expected to focus their platforms on how to revitalize local economies in the wake of declining populations.
One of the most closely watched races is in Hokkaido. National opposition parties are rallying behind one candidate in the hopes of unseating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition.
Another race attracting attention is in Osaka. One of the main candidates is running on a platform to create an "Osaka metropolis." This would mean abolishing Osaka city and reorganizing it into a ward system similar to Tokyo.
Voters will also elect new prefectural and municipal assemblies on April 7.
Right now, a large portion of the seats are occupied by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. But other parties are hoping to make headways at the local level. Observers say the results could influence their strategy for national Upper House elections set for this summer.