KONAN, Shiga -- While the forthcoming second round of nationwide local elections are ready to take the political spotlight, a different sort of mayoral poll with eight candidates -- seven cats and one dog -- is heating up in a virtual city promoting animal rights.
The city name "Konyan" is a mix of the actual name of the western Japan city Konan and "nyan" or the Japanese onomatopoeia for a cat's meow. It is the ninth mayoral race carried out by the Konan Tourism Association, which started in 2011 in a bid to promote tourism and animal protection.
Any pet dog or pet cat in Konan can run for mayor. Last year, 2-year-old male cat Kyara was elected for the first time. Kyara engaged in city affairs such as participating in city events as the Konyan mayor.
Konan's official virtual YouTuber Minami explained, "The Shiga prefectural animal protection center located in the city of Konan takes dogs and cats that do not have a home into protective custody, but any animals that are not adopted are euthanized. The city of Konyan was established to deal with this issue." She added, "Please check the website if you are interested."
Anyone can cast a ballot through the official Konyan website, which displays the profiles and the campaign promises "nyanifest" for each candidate. The election kicked off on March 22, and the total number of votes exceeded 2,000 as of April 15. The polls close on 11:59 p.m. on April 21 and the results will be announced on April 22. The winner will be awarded with a certificate of election in a ceremony held on the same day.
For more inquiries, please visit the official Konyan website at http://www.burari-konan.jp/konyan/ (in Japanese).
(Japanese original by Kenichi Isono, Kusatsu Resident Bureau)