Of Japan’s 1,788 local assemblies, 339 have no female legislators, a survey conducted by the Asahi Shimbun has found. The number of local assemblies with no women members has gradually decreased from the poll taken eight years ago, which revealed that 411 assemblies had no female members, and the poll taken four years ago, which determined that 379 assemblies had no women. Nonetheless, almost 20% of Japan’s local assemblies still have no female legislators. Some 460 assemblies have only one female legislator. Nationwide, 45% of Japan’s local assemblies have one or no women legislators.
Almost half of local assemblies with no female legislators (153 assemblies nationwide) have seats up for election in the unified local elections to be held this spring. A law urging political parties to seek to field the same number of male and female candidates in national and local assembly elections was passed last year, and all eyes are on how many local assemblies will welcome their first female members with this change in the environment.
Ahead of the unified local elections due to be held starting from the end of March this year, the Asahi Shimbun sent questionnaires to the 1,788 prefectural and municipal assemblies nationwide in December last year. All assemblies responded to the survey which asked about the number of seats as of Jan. 1 and about the assemblies’ activities over the past four years.
Of the total of 32,483 local assemblypersons nationwide, 4,278 were women, meaning that women make up 13.2% of all assemblypersons (previous poll [conducted in 2015]: 11.7%). By prefecture, 46% of local assemblies in Aomori Prefecture have no women members, the highest of any prefecture in the nation. Over 30% of local assemblies in Nara, Kumamoto, Fukushima, Okinawa, Yamanashi, Kagoshima, and Gunma Prefectures also have no female legislators.
By municipality, 55% of village assemblies have no women. Of city assemblies composed of 20 or more members, 12 have no women, including Iizuka City, Fukuoka Prefecture (28-member assembly); Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture (26); and Amakusa City, Kumamoto Prefecture (26).
Hayama Town, Kanagawa Prefecture, was the local assembly with the highest percentage of women at 54% (men, 6; women, 7). This was followed by Katano City, Osaka Prefecture, 50% (men, 7; women, 7), and Kiyose City, Tokyo, at 45% (men, 11; women, 9).
Three prefectural assemblies have only one woman: Kagawa (41-member assembly), Saga (38), and Yamanashi (38). The female legislator at one of the prefectural assemblies with only one woman commented: “It is hard because I am isolated at the assembly and I tend to be seen as the ‘representative of all women.’”
Fifty-eight assemblies, or 3% of assemblies nationwide, have a female chairperson. No prefectural assembly is chaired by a woman. Of designated major cities, only Sakai City has a female chairperson.