Pune-born 41-year-old Yogendra Puranik, nicknamed ‘Yogi’ became the first Indian to win an election in Japan. He has been elected from Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward assembly, which has a sizeable number of Indians.
Yogi, a Japanese citizen, secured 6,477 votes, the fifth highest of the 226,561 valid ballots cast, in the April 21 poll, part of unified local elections held across Japan.
“I want to be a bridge between Japanese and foreigners,” Yogendra Puranik, who was backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, was quoted as saying to the Japanese newspaper.
Notably, 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.
Yogendra’s tryst with Japan started in the year 1997 when he went there as a student. He returned two years later, and in 2001 went back to Japan to work as an engineer. He later worked for a bank and other companies and has resided in Edogawa Ward since 2005, according to the Japanese newspaper.
Recalling his earlier experience in the country, Yogendra said, "Japan is neat and everyone was kind."
His affinity with Japan was strengthened 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 Yogendra felt a strong attachment with this country.
“I felt the time had come for me to become Japanese. 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,” he said.
Notably, the election manifesto of Yogendra touched on various social issues including availability of crèche for babies, having a place of entertainment or vocational training for breastfeeding mothers and non-local children availing of government schools.