A poll in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper on November 1 had Hashimoto ahead of his closest opponent, current mayor Kunio Hiramatsu, by an approval rating of 50 percent versus 26 percent. The tabloids had been released two days later.
Nikkan Gendai also says that a cousin of Hashimoto, who was previously the governor of Osaka, is in prison for manslaughter. Hashimoto has commented publicly on the reports, not challenging their accuracy.
In 2010, Hashimoto backed the Osaka Restoration Association, which seeks to reform Osaka into a metropolis of wards similar to Tokyo.
“The people of Osaka are not interested in reform,” says a local newspaper reporter. “The feeling is that things are fine. They are indifferent to Hashimoto. Mayor Hiramatsu has stood firm. He said in a speech, ‘Hashimoto-san is trying to stir things up. What do you think about it?’ and ‘We cannot trust this guy.’ There is a real rivalry between the two right now.”
In spite of the tabloid reports, news watchers feel that Hashimoto might be even more formidable now.
“Osaka people want to cheer for people like Hideyoshi Toyotomi, people who rise from the bottom,” Kaku Kozo explains history writer, referring to the warrior and politician who rose from being a peasant in the sixteenth century. “The more disclosure about a past, the more sympathy from people will follow, and for Hashimoto it will be like a wind at his back.”
In 1923, the seventh mayor of Osaka, Hajime Seki, proposed a big construction project that involved the establishment of a subway system, which garnered great respect for the city. Hashimoto’s plan might receive similar acclaim.
“I think the plans of Seki and Hashimoto will overlap in the minds of voters,” Kozo says.
The election is November 27.