Tokyo: Voting started on Sunday in crucial Japanese local elections, including the Tokyo governorship, amid an ongoing battle to bring a nuclear emergency under control in the tsunami-ravaged nation.
Before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeast Japan, the elections were seen as an important gauge of public support for Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
Kan has a faced resurgent Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition, and revolt within his own Democratic Party of Japan since coming to power 10 months ago.
Voters are choosing governors for 12 prefectures including Tokyo, where controversial incumbent Shintaro Ishihara looks likely to secure a fourth term in office.
Elections are also being held for mayor in four major cities, members of 41 prefecture legislatures and 15 legislatures in major municipalities.
Polling stations close at 8:00 pm (1100 GMT), with media exit polls expected immediately afterwards.
Candidates and major parties have refrained from their usual confrontational campaigning tactics as the government and media focused on gruelling efforts to cool overheating reactors after the 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami that heavily damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Reactors have been leaking harmful radioactive materials into the environment with officials predicting it will take months to cool them.