Mind you, this happened in 1997, exactly ten years ago, even as the national government raised the consumption tax rate from 3% to 5% and the economy was taking a dive, which would lead the following year to an LDP loss of epic proportions in the Upper House election and the demise of the Hashimoto administration.
Then, again, the downfall of the Hino Communists may have had something to do with the fact that the incumbent had been mayor for all of those 24 years and was 85 years old when he hit the campaign trails for the last time.
In fact, Kimio Morita was the last surviving member of the massive wave of progressive governors and mayors supported by the Socialist and Communist Parties that saw its heyday in the mid-seventies. At its peak in 1975, 12 (out of 47) provinces including Tokyo, Osaka, Kanagawa and Kyoto were administered by progressive governors, and countless municipalities, including major metropolitan centers such as Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto and Kobe had progressive mayors. This progressive surge came during the high-growth sixties and maintained its front through the mid-seventies, but receded as Japan reached the bubbly eighties.
Currently, the progressives have only one governor (Yukiko Kada; Shiga Prefecture), eight city mayors including one in a Prefectural capital (Okinawa), and a smattering of mayors in smaller municipalities. Remarkably, four of the eight mayors, in Warabi, Higashi-Osaka, Yuzawa and Komae, are Japanese Communist Party members or received their main support from it in the election, while two others, in Ginowan and Kunitachi, received support from both parties. (The Ginowan candidate also received support from the DPJ and a local progressive party.) The other two mayors are Social Democrats.
This is a far cry from the Golden Era of progressive politics. Still, the public can be quite adventuresome in local governance (remember, these are winner-take-all elections), and experimentation is not limited to electing comedians.
But one of the principles of JCP diplomacy:
“We will work for the reversion of the Chishima (Kurile) Islands, and Habomai and Shikotan Islands, which are Japan’s historical territories.”
Those namby-pamby appeasers like Taro Aso and Shoichi Nakagawa will clearly have a hard time fitting into a coalition led by the revanchist JCP.
note: This is a very rough survey based on online sources (news reports and official websites). Wikipedia has an article on progressive governors and mayors if you would like to do your own digging.