A candidate who pushed an antinuclear agenda lost a closely watched race for governor in western Japan on Sunday, underscoring the challenges opponents of nuclear energy face in translating recent mass protests into votes.
The race in Yamaguchi Prefecture between Tetsunari Iida, the founder of a renewable energy research institute and a leading figure in Japan’s emerging antinuclear movement, and Shigetaro Yamamoto, a conservative former government official, had been seen as a test of how much the grass-roots protest movement had influenced public opinion.
Although Mr. Iida lost, the results were encouraging for the antinuclear camp, with a strong showing in a region considered to be a conservative stronghold. With 99 percent of the votes counted, Mr. Yamamoto had received 252,420 votes, or 47.6 percent, to Mr. Iida’s 185,567 votes, or 35 percent, according to the public broadcaster NHK.
During the campaign, Mr. Iida called for a rapid move away from the use of nuclear energy in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March 2011. His campaign attracted more than 1,000 antinuclear volunteers, some who traveled from Tokyo, 600 miles away.
Mr. Iida’s strong showing in opinion polls had even forced Mr. Yamamoto to backtrack on the pro-nuclear position long held by his supporters, the Liberal Democratic Party, the architects of Japan’s postwar civilian nuclear program.