Speed's Imai Dances To A Different Tune, Seeks Upper House Seat

SPEED's Imai dances to a different tune, seeks Upper House seatEriko Imai, who gained fame and success for belting out tunes as a member of J-pop group SPEED, used sign language to announce her candidacy in the Upper House election this summer.

Imai, 32, a single mother of an 11-year-old son with a hearing disability, will run on the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s ticket.

“I want to create a society in which children with disabilities can have bright hopes,” she said using sign language during a news conference Feb. 9 at the LDP’s headquarters in Tokyo.

Imai, a native of Okinawa Prefecture, also referred to the contentious issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to the Henoko district of Nago, also in the prefecture.

“It is our common desire to ease the burden caused by the base,” Imai said. “I want to listen directly to the voices of Okinawan people and seriously grapple the issue.”

Imai also said the Abe administration’s national security legislation, which will greatly expand the role of the Self-Defense Forces overseas, is “not intended to wage war but is necessary to protect peace and lives.”

One Okinawa prefectural assembly member who supports Governor Takeshi Onaga’s efforts to halt the government’s Futenma relocation plan, questioned whether Imai’s actual views “agree with the administration’s policies.”

Last summer, when protests were being held against the national security bills, Imai tweeted, “The current move of Japan somehow looks as if ‘we could approve of war if it is small-scale!’”

Despite widespread public opposition, the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito passed the security legislation through the Diet in September 2015.

Imai will be on the LDP’s list of proportional representation candidates for the Upper House election.

The LDP will field Aiko Shimajiri, an Upper House member and state minister in charge of Okinawa issues, for the seat representing the Okinawa electoral district.