Around 70 percent of single-seat constituencies in the approaching House of Representatives election are seeing a three-way battle between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition, its new conservative rival led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and a party opposing change in Japan's war-renouncing Constitution, according to a Kyodo News tally.
The No. 2 district in central Tokyo straddles four wards including Chuo and Minato and is just one of the areas likely to see a close race between the three parties in the Oct. 22 poll.
A few days into official campaigning, Koike, wholaunched her Party of Hope to challenge Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, delivered a stump speech in Tokyo's Ueno district where Taro Hatoyama is running as the party's candidate.
"Our party will protect the children's future and preserve hope for your future," Koike told the crowd, pledging to free politics from the "shackles" of vested interests.
Hatoyama has a political pedigree, born into a family which has produced two prime ministers, a foreign minister and an internal affairs minister, representing both the LDP and the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan.
But his family name did not necessarily make it easy for the 43-year-old former Tokyo metropolitan assembly member to win votes in past elections as Hatoyama suffered consecutive losses in local and national elections.
But Hatoyama is not straying too far from the well-worn path of Japanese political candidates, relying on being visible on the streets, shaking hands and blasting his and the party's name over loudspeakers, said a senior campaign official.
While his campaign team is employing typical methods to increase his name recognition, the popularity of the Tokyo governor will also prove vital to the prospects of Hatoyama and other Party of Hope candidates.
After shaking hands with Koike in Ueno, a 75-year-old woman living in the electoral district in which Hatoyama is standing demonstrated the confidence the governor inspires, "I don't know much about the candidate and his pledges, but I can trust Ms. Koike's party," she said.
Koike, for her part, hopes to secure as many seats in the capital as possible as her influence and impact in other regions is likely to fall well short, comparatively.
But latest opinion polls indicate Koike's party will need more than name recognition to challenge the ruling coalition, with analysts pointing to a perceived misstep she made when taking in new members from the disintegrating main opposition. Her handling of the exodus has been pointed to as one of the major reasons behind her party's slowing electoral momentum.
Some analysts maintain it was a tactical mistake when she said she would "reject" some liberal members of the Democratic Party after coming to an agreement with its leader Seiji Maehara to let its members run under the banner of her new party.
Takeo Yoshida, who runs a liquor store in Bunkyo Ward, part of the No. 2 district, said he thinks it showed Koike is incapable of managing a national political party.
"I admit I am an old-fashioned person, so I am putting my priority on stability and opting for the LDP over weak opposition parties," the 73-year-old said.
The LDP's Kiyoto Tsuji, a two-term lawmaker who lived in Canada for 14 years and worked as a researcher at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies for five years from 2007, is hoping to keep his hold on the No. 2 district seat.
The ruling party has been dispatching a spate of party heavyweights to support his campaign including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa.
"Voters' reaction is not bad. But, honestly speaking, I am not sure what will happen. I have been telling my staff members to pull their socks up," Tsuji told reporters earlier in the month.
Abe's LDP is pledging to spend more of the revenue to be collected from a planned consumption tax hike in October 2019 on social welfare centering on free preschool education, but voters still wonder if an improvement in services will come as promised.
Sayuri Ohashi, 37, a working mother of two in Bunkyo Ward, is skeptical that the LDP will deliver on its promise to improve child care services for parents who do not work full time.
The current system limits the availability of support for mothers with part-time jobs in her ward, according to Ohashi.
"I want a system not only for full-time workers or housewives," but for everyone in need, she said.
Akihiro Matsuo, a candidate of the new Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which was formed as a refuge for the liberal wing of the collapsing main opposition by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, is struggling to make his voice heard due to the party's limited campaign resources.
Matsuo and the party challenge the LDP on two major issues, opposing both an amendment to Japan's war-renouncing Constitution and a planned 2 percent increase in the sales tax.
The 42-year-old lawyer's campaign car and leaflets bearing the new party's name arrived just in time for the start of official campaigning on Oct. 10.
Asked about voters' reaction, Matsuo said, "I am not really sure whether it has been good as this is my first election. What is certain is there are expectations I need to meet."