Tsurunen Marutei is the first Caucasian legislator
to become a member of Japan
. Contrary to popular belief, he is not the first foreign-born dietman, nor is he the first non-native speaker of Japanese to enter the Diet, but he is
the first man with blue eyes
to take a seat on the Japanese parliament
Tsurunen was born Martti Turunen in Karelia, Finland, in 1940. At the age of 27, he traveled to Japan as a missionary of the Lutheran Church. It was not until he met his future wife, Sachiko, in 1974 that he became enamored with the country and decided to become Japanese, gaining his citizenship in 1979 and taking on a Japanized version of his original name (his current name is usually written in katakana, but can also be written in the kanji above).
Over the next decade, Tsurunen completed the first Finnish translations of the Tale of Genji and several other Japanese books while teaching English in Kanagawa Prefecture. In 1992, he ran for the town assembly in Yugawara and was elected: he subsequently wrote a popular book called Here Comes a Blue-Eyed Assemblyman. He served on the Yugawara assembly until 1995, when he made his first bid for the House of Councillors (Sangiin) and lost. Four unsuccessful campaigns later, and after writing another book called I Want to Be Japanese, Tsurunen finally entered the House of Councillors in 2001, after the resignation of former comedian Ohashi Kyosen.
Today, he does not claim to be either Finnish or Japanese, but instead says that he's "international." Nor does he see his marriage as exceptional, citing that 3 to 4 percent of marriages in Japan today are cross cultural. He has two children: a daughter age 26, and a son age 22.
In the Diet, he debates in favor of gaijin rights reforms, as you might expect, but also for better environmental protection regulations. The people in Yugawara love Tsurunen, and it is said (though I personally haven't tested this claim) that if you go there, you can just ask a cab driver to take you to Tsurunen's house, and he'll know exactly where to go. "Tsuru-chan" is a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, where he serves as Director General of the International Department.
Official website: www.tsurunen.net
Thanks go to liveforever for his donations of knowledge.