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Headline

The Voice of Tokyo for over 50 Years

JAPAN’S NO.1 ENGLISH LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE

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Latest Issue
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Disability Advocate and Unlikely Politician: Super Humbaba

Super Humbaba's elections posters stood out from the crowd. But what does he actually stand for?

By Kim Kahan

For anyone who visited Kanagawa Prefecture around election time, Super Humbaba (real name: Hiroyuki Hashimoto) posters were hard to miss. Curious to find out more about his campaign, we recently caught up with the eccentric politician

Super Humbaba standing next to one of his election posters

As a foreign resident in Japan, election time arrives as a reminder of the few rights that we, as non-Japanese citizens, have in this democracy. Living legally in this country, surrounded by people talking — or not — about the election that we cannot legally participate in, it can feel dissociative to see the posters and hear the loudspeaker vans.

Unavoidable Election Posters

Despite not being able to vote, it’s hard not to get caught up in all the campaigning, especially with all those poster boards that appear come election season. In true Japanese fashion, they have everything one can hope to know about each candidate squeezed onto A3 rectangular paper.

Japanese election posters displayed in a street

Many take a somber tone, highlighting the personal lives of the candidates and their paths to their current positions. Some detail their policies and how this may affect the locale. Others insert slogans along with the party line over passport-style portrait pictures. 

Yet, even amongst the chaotic typography and design of typical Japanese election posters, Super Humbaba stands out from the rest.

His posters have minimal writing, with his happy face superimposed onto a yellow background. His age (39) is popped, badge-like onto the lapels of his suit. He was one of the younger candidates this time, as the average age of a politician in this country is 55 years old. 

Commendable Motives

We asked about his name ‘Humbaba,’ taken from an evil Mesopotamian god. Surprisingly, there is less of an ulterior motive than we expected. “It’s just a joke between me and my friends,” he tells us. And what about the ‘Super’? “That’s for impact,” he answers. 

Luscious blonde locks, tomato red glasses and a bright cap accentuate his eccentricity. Such that one can be forgiven for thinking that Super Humbaba took part purely for the laughs. He is earnest about his motives, though, having struggled with his own learning disabilities from a young age. “I’ve never had a proper job,” he says. 

He wants to increase the visibility of disabled persons. “If I become well-known, I’d spread awareness of how difficult it is to live in Japan as a minority, of which there are more than people realize.” 

disabled child wheelchair user japan

An Uphill Battle

Japan’s dark stigma against those with disabilities has been an issue for many years. In 2016, one of the country’s biggest mass murders took place at a disabled facility in Kanagawa Prefecture, notably, where Super Humbaba ran for election. The murderer claimed that he wanted to “rid” Japan of disabled people.

While there is progress in favor of those with disabilities since that horrific act, there are still countless hurdles. 

Even though more than seven percent of the Japanese population live with disabilities, as of 2021, the statutory employment rate for those with disabilities stands at a mere 2.3 percent

In fact, currently fewer than half of Japanese companies meet the quota for disabled workers. In 2019, even the Japanese government was found to have falsified employee information to meet its disability employment quota. 

Japan same sex marriage protest

For All Minorities

As someone who has experienced discrimination, Hashimoto is empathetic to others who face prejudice. “I want to make same-sex marriage legal…LGBTQ people are born that way, so how can we not respect them?” It’s worth noting that currently, Japan is the only G7 country in which same-sex marriage is against the law. Despite efforts to lobby the government, this year the Japanese supreme court again refused to make same-sex marriage legal.

A Clean Slate

Prior to his evolution into Super Humbaba for the election, Hashimoto worked as an Uber delivery driver. Unfortunately, he didn’t win a seat, but we were eager to find out his future plans. “I’m starting over, with a blank slate,” he says. 

He also spoke about his dream to help others with disabilities and those less fortunate. “I want to become more well-known to increase my ability to send out messages and to help those in need.”

Hashimoto finished a reasonable 14th out of 22 candidates in Kanagawa. We hope that he can continue being a role model for people with disabilities and continue to speak out on behalf of minorities across Japan.