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Newly elected upper house members arrive at Diet building with determination

Democratic Party new face Hideya Sugio poses for photos in front of the Diet building in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Aug. 1, 2016. (Mainichi)

New faces in the House of Councillors, who were elected for the first time in the July upper house election, were among the legislators to arrive at the Diet building as an extraordinary Diet session opened on Aug. 1.

Eriko Imai, 32, a member of the pop unit "SPEED," secured a seat in the upper house after winning over 310,000 votes on the ticket of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the proportional representation bloc.

"I hope to work on welfare issues," Imai commented, as she wore a silver badge designed to symbolize "I love you" in sign language, along with a lawmaker pin badge in a lapel.

When asked about ongoing U.S. base issues in her home prefecture of Okinawa, Imai said, "Even though I'm an LDP member, I would like to deepen discussions on the issue and speak out while sincerely listening to what each Okinawan has to say."

Hideya Sugio, 58, a former Tokyo Broadcasting System reporter who won a seat in the Nagano Prefecture constituency in a close battle on the opposition Democratic Party ticket, spoke to reporters in front of the Diet building, saying, "Security and peace policies, and the Constitution -- there are so many things to do (as a politician). I'll work the hardest." In a very journalist-like comment, Sugio added, "I also want to work on making sure that freedom of speech is secured."

"The upper house has been called the 'chamber of wisdom' and there have been many members who had their own opinions. I have to become an indispensable member of the upper house," Sugio said, with a determined look.

Yoichi Iha, 64, beat Aiko Shimajiri, state minister for Okinawa and Northern Territory affairs, who was the then incumbent legislator for the Okinawa Prefecture district, in the July upper chamber race.

"Even Diet members do not know fully about the fact that the base issues in Okinawa are violating human rights and property rights of the Okinawans. I'll start with letting others know about the reality in Okinawa," Iha told reporters as he entered the Diet building.

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