Yogendra Puranik, a 41-year-old Indian-origin Japanese, has been elected to Tokyo's Edogawa Ward assembly. Importantly, Yogendra aka Yogi has become the first Indian to win an election in Japan.
Yogendra secured 6,477 votes, the fifth highest of the 2,26,561 valid ballots cast, in the April 21 poll, part of unified local elections held across Japan, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
According to the paper, Yogi felt his ties with Japan strengthen after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster while visiting affected areas on weekends to cook curry with Indian friends from Edogawa Ward to share with victims. It was during these trips and chatting with Japanese while preparing food dishes that Yogi felt a strong affinity with this country, the paper also noted.
Yogi first arrived in Japan in 1997 when he was a university student in India. He returned two years later to study, and in 2001 came back to work as an engineer. He later worked for a bank and other companies, and has resided in Edogawa Ward since 2005, the paper added.
"I want to be an assemblyman who can connect everyone regardless of nationality, age, or even disabilities, through my 20 years of living in Japan," Yogendra Puranik said after winning the election. Recalling his early experiences, he said, "Japan is neat and everyone was kind."
"This is the first-ever victory of a naturalised Japanese of Indian origin in elections in Japan. This is also a recognition of contributions made by Indians towards the Japanese society," Shamshad Khan, the author of Changing Dynamics of India-Japan Relations, told news agency PTI.
It is to be noted that Edogawa Ward has the highest number of Indian residents among Tokyo's 23 wards with 4,300 or so Indian nationals registered, accounting for more than 10 per cent of Indians living in Japan. Over 34,000 Indians live in Japan. The Edogawa Ward also has a large number of Chinese and Koreans. Yogi was backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
(With inputs from PTI)