Mayor Satoko Kishimoto of Suginami: Working for the Local People

MAYOR Satoko Kishimoto of Suginami ward, Tokyo, is the first female mayor of the 600,000 inhabitants. Many said she has broken a 90-year-long tradition. She won her election in June 2022, by a margin of 187 votes. What’s more interesting, prior to the election, Mayor Kishimoto had been living in Belgium for over a decade; a fact once considered as her weakness/disconnection with Japanese culture and politics. However, the poll result has shown otherwise; it led her to the leadership role. We highlight factors making her approved by the local people and her upcoming mission.

Mayor Satoko Kishimoto established her presence by hosting virtual public debates in Japan. She talked and advocated for anti-privatisation and environmentally friendly policies. She mentioned that “Remunicipalisation is a vital element of an all-encompassing transition towards a low-carbon economy measuring up to the standards of social justice.” For her, re-municipalisation relates more closely to local public interest and direct citizen needs. Her contribution is recorded in the “Reclaiming public services. How cities and citizens are turning back privatisation”, a publication that added insights to the debate at that time, which she co-edited with Olivier Petitjean.

Media records that Mayor Satoko has turned heads for a number of reasons. She opposes decade-long plans to build a major road extension through Koenji, a bohemian neighbourhood full of small shops, bars, and music venues. She also highlights inclusiveness and stopping the privatisation of day care centres and other public facilities.

She once said that “I want to see more women in management positions, but there is a huge hierarchy and women are not yet in a position to be able to step up.” Having this in mind, she dedicates herself to accelerating progress for women’s representation in Japanese politics. She also stresses the importance of civilian voices.

Mayor Satoko Kishimoto took the leadership in mid-July 2022. Her spirit to do something for the betterment of the local people is reflected in her statement, “When I looked at Suginami and what local people faced there in terms of public services, childcare, and urban planning, I thought something had to change and I believed I could do something with them and for them.”

This is the spirit that every city leader must possess.