Japanese Pol Won't Mask Old Gig

Dancer Derek Hough arrives at Heidi Klum's 10th annual Halloween party in West Hollywood, Calif. on Saturday, Oct. 31 , 2009. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)
AP Photo/Dan Steinberg
A Japanese professional wrestler who won a local assembly seat over the weekend is now at the center of a new battle over whether he will be allowed to wear his trademark mask to his new job.

Masanori Murakawa, known by his ring name "The Great Sasuke," won 16,000 votes on Sunday to earn a spot in the Iwate prefectural (state) assembly in northern Japan.

But his vow to wear his red, white and blue wrestling mask into the assembly hall when the body convenes in May is causing an uproar.

Having tread the campaign trail with only his eyes and chin visible under the vinyl mask, Murakawa told reporters he wants to keep it on because that is how his electorate knows him.

"If I take it off, it will go against my platform," the daily Sports Nippon newspaper quoted him as saying in an interview Tuesday.

Fellow Liberal Party lawmakers say they don't much care either way. But members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the local governor have voiced their opposition.

"It is not right for a person, whose face cannot be seen, to enter the sanctity of the assembly hall," LDP faction head Isao Kikuji said Tuesday.

Ishiro Hirasawa, an assembly spokesman, confirmed that the 5-foot 8-inch, 180-pound Murakawa has said he will defend his right to attend the assembly wearing the mask.

Hirasawa noted that though hats, canes and umbrellas are banned from the assembly hall, there is no regulation regarding face masks.

"The real issue is whether it is right or wrong to wear a mask," Hirasawa said.

Gov. Hiroya Masuda believes it is a bad idea.

"As a politician, it is important that the electorate be able to read expressions of approval or distress as decisions are made," he told reporters Tuesday.

Political parties in Japan frequently field celebrity candidates to catch voters' attention.

Pro wrestler Kanji "Antonio" Inoki took his ring-won fame all the way to the national Parliament in 1989 on the Sports and Peace Party ticket, while the upper house has counted a retired baseball pitcher and Olympic speed skater among its former members.