A 41-year-old Indian-origin Japanese, who goes by the nickname "Yogi", has been elected to Tokyo's Edogawa Ward assembly, becoming the first Indian to win an election in Japan.
Puranik Yogendra 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, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
"I want to be a bridge between Japanese and foreigners," said Yogi, who was backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
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.
"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.
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 said.
"Japan is neat and everyone was kind," Yogi said, recalling his early experiences.
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, the paper said.
It was during these trips and chatting with Japanese while preparing food dishes that Yogi felt a strong affinity with this country.
"I felt the time had come for me to become Japanese," Yogi said.
He acquired Japanese nationality the following year and pursued a career in politics. "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," Yogi said.