Voting got under way Sunday morning to choose the next governor of Shizuoka Prefecture in what is seen as a prelude to next month's House of Councillors election.
Incumbent Gov. Heita Kawakatsu, 64, is running against former Tama University professor Ichiro Hirose, 57, supported by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and Yukihiro Shimazu, 56, a senior official at the Japanese Communist Party's local chapter.
One of the key election issues is the fate of Chubu Electric Power Co.'s Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, now shut down following the March 2011 disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Shimazu is calling for the decommissioning of the plant, while Kawakatsu is for putting resumption of operations to a referendum. Hirose has voiced reluctance toward such a vote.
Kawakatsu won the previous election in 2009 with support from the Democratic Party of Japan, which proved to be a bellwether for the following general election that brought the DPJ to power for the first time.