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Japan ramen chain Ippudo offering free noodle refills to voters in upcoming election

Ramen chain Ippudo's poster urging people to vote is seen in this image provided by Chikaranomoto Holdings Co.

SAPPORO -- Popular ramen chain Ippudo and some other businesses are promoting the July 10 House of Councillors election by providing services such as free noodle refills to people who vote in a bid to boost young people's stagnant turnout.

    Between July 10 and 24, Ippudo will serve noodle refills or offer one boiled egg topping for free to those who have cast their ballot. People who have voted in the election are eligible to receive the service as many times as they want during the period. Customers need to show official proof that they voted or a photo that proves they have cast their ballot.

    According to Fukuoka-based Chikaranomoto Holdings Co., the operator of the ramen chain, this will mark the fifth time for Ippudo to offer a discount to voters in national elections since 2016. The company explained that it has decided to serve free noodle refills to urge young people with a large appetite to vote. A representative at the company commented: "We hope this will create an opportunity for people to cast their ballots, even if voting has not become customary for them. We want them to view it like an outing, and enjoy ramen after voting."

    The introduction of similar services is also spreading among small businesses. In the background of this movement is the low voter turnout among young people. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the turnout for the House of Representatives' election last October was 55.93% for single-seat constituencies. Broken down by age bracket, the figure was the lowest among people in their 20s at 36.50%, followed by teenagers (18 and 19) at 43.21%, and those in their 30s at 47.12%. The turnout among people in their 20s has remained below 50% in the past 30 years.

    Meanwhile, some people in their 20s have expressed a sense of anxiety over such a situation.

    Kohei Iwabuchi, 20, a university student and the Hokkaido branch head of the nonprofit organization Dot-jp, which is urging youths to participate in politics, said, "We may be considered (by candidates) as a generation that is not worth making an effort to appeal to, and our voices will not be reflected in policies, but if this is the case, politics will be for only a limited number of people."

    The NPO's Hokkaido branch, to which 20 university students who have the same concerns belong, began to urge businesses mainly in the prefectural capital of Sapporo to introduce discount services for those who voted in the lower house election last year.

    For the upcoming upper house election, a total of seven businesses in cities including Sapporo and nearby Otaru had decided to introduce discounts for voters as of June 28.

    Iwabuchi commented, "We want the election discounts to become a trigger for people to vote first and get interested in politics. It is us young people who will create the future of Japan."

    (Japanese original by Yui Takahashi, Hokkaido News Department)

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