Of all the wacky candidates in the Tokyo gubernatorial election it is Yusuke Kawai who seems to be making the biggest impression. The man known as the Japanese Joker, though he is also sometimes dressed as the titular character from The Mask, has brought a lot of color, craziness and controversy to this year’s race to be governor. 

Controversial Posters

In one poster, Kawai is seen dressed as the Mask surrounded by three women. It’s part of his message to promote polygamy in Japan to help solve the country’s declining birth rate. In another, he calls on Shibuya to legalize marijuana. Appearing in his Joker outfit with his hand out holding green leaves, he suggests renaming the ward “Shabuya,” with “shabu” being slang for stimulants.  

His most controversial posters, which he put up on the opening day of campaigning, were of a near-naked gyaru model named Miu Sakurai to “promote the importance of freedom of expression.” Locals were angry at the images as children could easily see them. Kawai was warned by the police over a possible violation of Tokyo’s anti-nuisance ordinance, and subsequently took them down. Death threats were also made against Sakurai.  

japanese joker

Who is the Japanese Joker?

Born in Kansai in 1981, Kawai studied at Kyoto University before working for an IT company. He then ran his own human resources business. In 2018, he joined Watanabe Entertainment after graduating from the company’s comedy school. Three years later, he made headlines during the Chiba gubernatorial election, as he ran for governor dressed as the Joker. Before running for Tokyo governor, he was a Soka city council member in Saitama Prefecture. 

While the Tokyo gubernatorial election has become known for its zany candidates down the years, including the likes of prolific inventor Dr. Nakamats, the eccentric late rock star Yuya Uchida and naked nationalist Teruki Goto, the Japanese Joker may just be the craziest yet. He’s certainly the most colorful. 

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