(Tokyo Shimbun: February 10, 2016 – p. 26)
The “High School Student Future Meeting,” a conference supported by people close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is recruiting 150 participants for its three-day event to discuss Japan’s politics, national and local challenges and the lowering of voting age. The Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs) widened its public footprint by staging protests against the security legislation. Speculation is circulating that political conservatives are trying to attract the attention of young people before the introduction of a system that gives the voting right to those aged 18 and above.
The conference will be held on March 23-25 at the Lower House building and is open to students from the 9th to 12th grades. During the event, representatives of each political party and scholars will give lectures on various challenges across the country and suffrage at age 18.
A secretariat of the High School Student Future Meeting is inside the RE: Vision Japan, a judicial corporation. It is headed by Yohei Saiki, 23. When he was a student at Keio University, he launched a private cram school specializing on admission office examinations and sent many students to prestigious universities.
“Saiki is said to be a distant relative of Prime Minister Abe, but the conference will invite people from different parties as guest speakers,” said Mizuki Ishizuka, a high school sophomore who heads the Meeting. “Please join regardless of whether you are left- or right-aligned. I would also like to encourage members of T-ns SOWL, a subgroup of SEALDs, to join. Staging protests is out of date.”
Sophia University Professor Koichi Nakano says the High School Student Future Meeting is an initiative “to mobilize people, rather than encouraging young people to voluntarily participate in politics.”
“The SEALDs and T-ns SOWL were launched at the initiative of young people,” said Nakano. “We adults can give them advice, but we don’t financially sponsor them. With the House of Councillors election approaching, the press is beginning to pay close attention to younger people. That might be prompting the government to organize a group of high school students.” (Abridged)