Two candidates with severe disabilities belonging to the opposition group Reiwa Shinsengumi won seats in the Upper House election on Sunday, scoring an important victory for disabled people in a country where they have long been encouraged to stay in the shadows. In addition, the wins by Eiko Kimura, 54, and Yasuhiko Funago, 61, marked the first by candidates not belonging to a so-called political party since the open-list, proportional representation system was put in place in 2001, the Asahi newspaper said on its website. It is also a sign of society's changing attitudes toward such people. Reiwa Shinsengumi was set up in April, but it still does not have accreditation as a political party. Kimura, who has cerebral palsy, did not even know how to buy train tickets when she chose to move out of a facility for the disabled and live in a Tokyo suburb at age 19.
A newly elected Upper House member who has severe physical disabilities has said that her presence as a lawmaker will help turn Japan into a country where the socially vulnerable can live comfortably. Eiko Kimura, 54, of the political group Reiwa Shinsengumi, also voiced concern Friday over the current welfare service system for people with disabilities, as commuting and other economic activities are not covered through public aid. "(For example) there's no system allowing lawmakers with severe disabilities to be at the Diet while receiving (necessary) care," said Kimura, who has cerebral palsy. Kimura and Yasuhiko Funago, a lawmaker from the same political group who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, received their certificates of election through proportional representation. "I'm just overwhelmed and speechless," Funago, 61, said through his caretaker.
The Upper House on Sunday started renovation work for two newly elected lawmakers with severe physical disabilities. As Yasuhiko Funago, 61, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Eiko Kimura, 54, who has cerebral palsy, use bigger-than-normal wheelchairs, the Upper House removed three seats from its chamber for plenary sessions to create space for them to attend. The seats were at the back of the chamber near a doorway. Funago and Kimura won their races in the July 21 election as candidates for Reiwa Shinsengumi, a political group founded in April by actor-turned-politician Taro Yamamoto to "challenge the establishment and status quo." Electric power sources will be installed where the two lawmakers will sit so they can use them to charge their wheelchairs and medical equipment.
A lawmaker with severe physical disabilities attended his first parliamentary interpellation Thursday since being elected in July and became the first lawmaker in Japan ever to use an electronically-generated voice during a Diet session. In the session of the education, culture and science committee, Yasuhiko Funago, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a condition also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, greeted the committee using a speech synthesizer. He also asked questions through a proxy speaker. "As a newcomer, I am still inexperienced, but with everyone's assistance, I will do my best to tackle (issues)," he said at the beginning of the session. An aide then posed questions on his behalf and expressed his desire to see improvements in the learning environment for disabled children.
A lawmaker with severe physical disabilities highlighted the various difficulties disabled people encounter in their daily lives as she attended her first interpellation in the Diet on Tuesday since she was elected in July. "I want to ask questions so more rational considerations will be made" in society for people with disabilities, Eiko Kimura, who has cerebral palsy, said to the standing committee of land and transport. Kimura won a seat in the July 21 Upper House election as a member of Reiwa Shinsengumi, an anti-establishment political group founded in April by actor-turned-politician Taro Yamamoto. For roughly 30 minutes she raised questions about the barrier-free accessibility of evacuation shelters during typhoons and other natural disasters, as well as the availability of toilets for the disabled. According to the House of Councilors, it marks the first time a lawmaker requiring a wheelchair and an aide due to a disability has asked questions during an interpellation session.