IN the wake of the shock election of TV personalities as governors of Tokyo and Osaka, Japanese political parties are losing no time applying what they see as the lesson of the prefectural polls - by wooing celebrities to stand in the forthcoming upper house elections. The newly formed Shinshinto (New Frontier Party) has already signed up two actresses and one well-known female newsreader to stand as its candidates for the House of Councillors. It is also seeking the services of a former professional tennis player. Not to be outdone, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has approached a retired speed-skater, a former soccer player and an actress. Meanwhile, a professional boxer colourfully known as 'Guts' Ishimatsu, once the World Boxing Council's lightweight champion, is expected to be trading blows on behalf of the LDP when the next election to the Diet, or House of Representatives, takes place. A well-known songwriter has offered his candidacy to Shinshinto, while Japan's first astronaut in the US shuttle programme, Chiaki Mukai, has denied being willing to stand for the LDP. Many Japanese say this process smacks of offering an aspirin as a cure for cancer, as voting for the 2,607 seats in prefectural assemblies last Sunday revealed an astonishingly low level of trust in the established political parties. No party increased its level of representation in the assemblies. The disappointing returns were aggravated by the formation, since the last election in 1991, of the new parties Shinshinto and Sakigake (New Pioneer Party). The Japan Communist Party and the Komeito (Clean Government Party) came closest to holding their own. But the two major parties in the current ruling coalition - the Socialists and the LDP - both suffered a major decline in support. In 1991, the LDP won well over half the 2,693 seats then contested, but this time it won well under half. Shinshinto won 140 seats on its first nationwide poll outing, one ninth of the seats still held by the LDP. The greatest gains were recorded by independents, while the many small parties increased their representation from 33 to 80 seats. The result indicated a degree of disillusion and disgust with the political parties which does not augur well for the future of Japanese democracy - and to which the recruitment of celebrities may not be the answer.