Japan uses the term NEET to describe adult members of the population who are neither working nor going to school (not, in actuality, a special forces-style combat brigade). Broken down into its components, the acronym stands for “not in education, employment, or training.” Of course, nothing in the label says anything about not being in government, which is why one ambitious Japanese NEET is running for city council. Ryutaro Ueno doesn’t look all that different from his political rivals. Sure, at just 25 years old he’s several years younger than most people running for office, but in this photo shared by Twitter user Ageide Tofu, Ueno looks pretty respectable in his suit, even if maybe he could use a haircut and a bit of a shave. But there’s something besides his age that sets him apart from others in the race for a city council seat representing the people of Chiba City’s Hanamigawa Ward. Ueno is a self-professed NEET, and also a hikkikomori, or shut-in. According to his self-introduction, Ueno has been a hikkikomori for the last 10 years, with no education higher than junior high school. This would be prime ammunition for political mud-slinging from other candidates, except that Ueno himself openly announces his unorthodox background in his self-introduction to voters. It’s not his only revelation either. To quote the candidate, whose Twitter icon features him flanked by the text “Hi, I’m the trash of society”: “As I said on my poster, I am a hikkikomori…I have no professional or business experience. For a total of 10 years since junior high, I have been a shut-in. I have no idea how college students spend their daily lives. But I have experience that not a single politician in this country has…the experience of being a shut-in in the home for 10 years. It’s true, I don’t know what this country’s politicians are thinking. But I understand the feelings of shut-ins. I understand the feelings of people who have no friends, or have never experienced romance…I understand the feelings of people who have considered suicide every day. And there are 600,000 people in this country who share that experience. If everyone thinks this is an insignificant number, or an insignificant problem for Japan, then I will disappear…But, if you think this number is too large to be ignored, and if you think this problem will have a large effect on Japan’s future, my experiences are not a wasted life. My experiences can be used to save my fellow NEETs who have been branded as failures, to save the futures of 600,000 people. If some of you think, ‘There is a place for this man to do what he can do,’ please vote for me, Ryutaro Ueno.” Oddly enough, despite NEETs being frequently criticized for shirking adult duties, Ueno is basing at least part of his platform on fiscal responsibility, boasting of how he is conducting his campaign without the use of any public funds. According to the would-be city councilman, politicians seeking office in Hanamigawa Ward are entitled to use tax money to pay for up to 418 posters, each costing up to 1,955 yen (US$18). Further funds are available for hiring drivers and campaign cars. Ueno, however, says he is covering all of his own campaign costs. So far, a mere 8,000 yen has been an adequate political war chest, used to pay for tape, thumb tacks, and duplicates of his self-produced poster made at the convenience store copy machine. ▼ Basically, this could be the Ryutaro Ueno campaign headquarters Despite repeatedly referring to himself as a shut-in, Ueno has been personally putting up his posters (each of which he estimates costs 18 yen to produce) around town. In the process, he seems to have become something of a local celebrity, with Hanamigawa residents telling him “Go for it!” and “We’re cheering for you!” ▼ Ueno’s extremely simple poster consists of the handwritten text “Taro Ueno. NEET. 25 years old.” Of course, you can’t spend so much time locked away from the outside world without it having an effect on your mentality. In tweets, Ueno has responded to the direct encouragement from Hanamigawa residents by musing, “It’s kind of scary to imagine what’s in their hearts. Is this what you’d call ‘a morbid fear of interacting with people’?” Other tweets a little different from what you’d expect from a civic leader include: “I’m lost. It’s dark. And scary [ostensibly during a trip outside to put up posters].” “I’m back home! I forgot my cell when I went out. But thankfully, as always, no one called or emailed me.” “I cleaned my room for the first time in years. Wow, I filled up a whole trash bag just with tissues. What would the trash collector think if he saw what was inside?” On the other hand, he occasionally shows an admirable level of consideration for his potential constituents. Towards the end of the lengthy self-introduction pictured at the begining of this article, he takes time to add, “Since this text is so small, I think senior citizens had to use a magnifying glass. I am sorry for making you go to that trouble. Thank you for reading.” The Hanamigawa election is scheduled for April 12, after which we’ll find out if wearing your unemployment on your sleeve is as effective a campaign method as making sure everyone knows about the cute uniform you wore at your old job.