Official campaigning has begun in the race for governor of Japan's southern prefecture of Okinawa. It comes just over a month after the death of previous Governor Takeshi Onaga.
The candidates are expected to discuss the controversial plan to relocate an American military base within the prefecture, as well as how to revitalize Okinawa's economy.
Four people are running. They are former Ginowan mayor Atsushi Sakima, former Lower House lawmaker and the Secretary General of the Liberal Party, Denny Tamaki, culinary instructor Hatsumi Toguchi, former businessperson Shun Kaneshima.
Atsushi Sakima said, "I will regain Okinawa's harmony by moving from confrontation and division to dialogue. The first thing I need to do is to raise the income of the people of Okinawa. Citizens of Ginowan and people of Okinawa want the site of the Futenma air station to be returned. Only I can realize their wishes."
Denny Tamaki said, "We can make Okinawa the most advanced place in Japan in terms of its economy, society, welfare and potential, not as a place at the tip of the country, but as a place facing Asia. Governor Onaga was committed to prioritizing the identity of the people of Okinawa. Let's follow his wishes and fight through this election so as not to allow a new military base to be built."
Hatsumi Toguchi said, "The prefectural government is totally consumed by the base issue. If I become governor, I will focus on people's daily lives."
Shun Kaneshima said, "I want young people to have more interest in politics. I want to work with them to create Okinawa's future. It's important to reflect their voices to the prefectural government."
The race is seen as an effective face-off between Sakima and Tamaki.
Sakima is supported by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito, as well as Nippon Ishin and The Party of Hope.
Tamaki is backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Democratic Party For the People, Japanese Communist Party, Liberal Party, Social Democratic Party and the Political Local Party of Okinawa.
The winner will replace Onaga who died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Onaga was elected on a promise he would stop the central government's plan to relocate the US Futenma air station. The base sits in a densely populated area in the city of Ginowan.
Officials in Washington and Tokyo want to move it to a coastal area of Henoko in the city of Nago to reduce potential danger posed by the military base.
But Onaga tried to block the construction of a replacement facility within the prefecture. He wanted the base moved out of Okinawa altogether.
The vote is set for September 30th.