Consider, if you will, the following graph:
This is the graph of the proportional party seat personal (kojin) vote totals for the New Komeito and its list of candidates in the last House of Councillors election. In the proportional vote, you can either vote purely for the party or for a single member on the party's list. Each vote for a single member counts as vote for the party, while the single member's vote total determines the ranking of that individual in the party's list when it comes time to divvy up the seats according to results spat out by the D'Hondt formula.
Having supporters of a party vote for individuals within the party rather than the party generates two potential dangers for the parties. Voters trying to write down personal names rather than party names are more likely to submit spoiled or invalid ballots. While every party has its celebrity "name only" candidates (like the Democratic Party of Japan's judoka mom Tani Ryoko) the parties tend to avoid encouraging their supporters from voting for the person, rather than the party.
Percent of total proportional vote given to the party, as opposed to a single member in the party:
The New Komeito's number really sticks out. It is even more of an outlier when one understands that the Sunrise Party's low number is the result of the second serious danger, a crafty operator like Katayama Toranosuke's use of his former support groups (koenkai) to vault up to the top of a party's list and to seize what is ostensibly a party seat essentially for himself.
So why does the New Komeito voter more likely to make the unusual decision to take the riskier course 52% of the time, writing down a personal name rather than a party name, and choose from a list of 17 persons in a manner that in the aggregate produces the extraordinarily shaped distribution we see above, which I call the New Komeito Ski Jump?
Two words: coordination and obedience.
Voters must receive instructions as to whom they are going to vote for--and the persons giving out those instructions have to be certain that those instructions will be carried out to the letter (or kanji or the kana, as is most likely the case here). Furthermore, in order to get that astonishing cutoff, the voters have to know who the anointed members of the party list are and who can/should/must be ignored.
Which brings up the real question: where did the New Komeito's 5.3 million district election votes go?
In 2010, the New Komeito fielded just 3 candidates in three electoral districts, one each in Saitama, Tokyo and Osaka. The total vote going to these three candidates was 2,265,818 votes. Looking at the lists below, some 5.3 million voters in 44 prefectures who plunked down for either the party or one of its anointed candidates in the proportional party vote had to vote for someone other than a party candidate in the district election.
As to a guess as to who that someone else might be, let us take a look first at the proportional party list results of the July 11 elections.
Proportional party list
Now compare the above to the district election results:
Call me unsophisticated and naive ("You are unsophisticated and naive" - Ed.) but when I look one line up in each column and see a 5.4 million vote rise in between the proportional party vote of the deeply unloved Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the vote for LDP candidates in the districts -- and I know that exactly the same pattern existed in the House of Representatives election of 2009 when the LDP and the New Komeito were coalition partners engaged in open vote switching, then please, please, please do not tell me that the 5.3 million unaccounted-for, highly disciplined New Komeito voters were free to vote willy-nilly on July 11 -- that they did not in the vast majority of instances submit their district votes to the LDP candidate in their district.