As for the other candidates, most come from small political groups led by livestreamers. Dr Tomohiko said they will have “very little” impact on the political landscape.

They had caught national attention in recent lower house by-elections after three were arrested for unruly behaviour on campaign trails.

“It’s one of the best opportunities for you to sell your brand recognition, to sell your name. That’s one of the reasons why those unnamed unpopular, unheard-of candidates are emerging, with the exception of a couple that have national recognition,” Dr Tomohiko added.

“So it boils down to a race between the two female candidates (Ms Koike and Ms Renho).”

Another top candidate is Mr Toshio Tamogami, 75, former chief of staff of the country’s Air Self Defence Force.

Considered by opponents as an ultra-rightist, he has vowed to step up disaster mitigation, focus on education and build a Japan independent of United States influence.

The election has shaped up to be the city’s most crowded race in history. Whoever wins on Jul 7 will have to tackle the capital’s sliding fertility rate, its ageing population, and rising costs of living.

For now, Ms Koike is widely expected to win the race, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s ruling LDP throwing its support behind her.

However, observers warned that it remains to be seen if support from the scandal-hit party may actually work against her.


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