It’s so bad that the region is now slang for “corrupt election.”

Japanese elections are often rife with craziness, ranging from the benign such as a candidate appearing next to a giant snow-white cat, to the horrific such as campaign posters that actively promote misogyny.

But recently, campaign corruption in the northern Aomori Prefecture has come to light that could potentially put all of the others to shame.

Satoshi Sawada, a member of the Aomori Prefectural Assembly, was arrested earlier this week for bribery in the April prefecture election this year. The allegations against him include paying several hundred dollars to assembly members in Sannohe, a town in Aomori, to arrange the votes in his favor. Nine of the twelve Sannohe assembly members are suspects in the case, and Sawada has seemingly not denied paying them, instead claiming that the money was for “service fees.”

▼ I mean, they did technically perform a service…
an illegal service, but hey, details schm-etails!

But that’s only the top of the iceberg. Residents of Aomori have come forward claiming that corruption is rampant in their prefecture, with stories about getting direct bribes from candidates such as: “Fifty years ago I got 300 yen,” or “Twenty years ago I’d go a candidate’s speech, shake hands, and get a 10,000-yen bill in my hand.” Apparently inflation in bribery is a thing!

Others have said that they were given onigiri (rice balls) with 10,000-yen bills hidden inside, or just got gifts such as fishing poles or manga in exchange for votes.

In 2014 in Aomori’s Hirakwa City, the mayor and 15 out of 20 assembly members were arrested for bribery. It was so incredible that bribery elections got the name “Tsugaru Election,” with Tsugaru referring to the western region of Aomori.

▼ You know that when your region is literally the definition of corruption, you have a problem.

Kappei Ina, a celebrity from Aomori, has talked at length about election corruption in his home prefecture, saying:

“I’ve heard stories of the election committee actually eating the ballots of their opponents. Or if someone’s kid wanted a bike, they’d just tell them, ‘Well an election’s coming up soon, so just wait until then.’ The corrupt elections are everywhere, from Tsugaru to the south to Sannohe. We shouldn’t call bribery elections ‘Tsugaru Elections,” just call them ‘Aomori Elections.'”

Some analysts have said they fear that even with the recent arrests, the corruption is so deep that it will continue anyway. Others have claimed that “gift exchange culture” is so ingrained in the region that it’s going to be hard to change, and that if they “actually went after all the politicians who went against election law, all the jails would be full.”

Here’s how Japanese netizens reacted to the news:

“I’ve never tried it before, but a 10,000-yen bill seems like a bad filling for an onigiri.”
“If they’d instead put onigiri inside of 10,00-yen bills, they would’ve been safe.”
“All the jails being full of corrupt politicians seems… fine to me?”
“Ugh, just thinking about being handed a bill in the greasy hand of an old man makes me nauseous.”
“Actually, I’d be more suspicious of places where you don’t hear corruption stories like this lol.”

We’ll have to see what the future holds for Aomori, if they can escape their reputation of “Tsugaru Elections.” Until then though, we think that the Nara deer have the right idea: let’s just eat all of the politicians instead.

Source: Nippon News Network, livedoor NEWS via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso (1, 2) (Edited by SoraNews24)
Insert images: Paktaso (1, 2)

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