Japan from the inside out

Japan’s next prime minister?

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, June 12, 2007

WANT TO TAKE BETS on who’s going to be Japan’s next prime minister? I just might put my money on Foreign Minister Aso Taro.

That’s not because of my political acumen or any inside information. I simply picked up the newspaper this morning and saw the advertisement at the bottom of page two. Aso has just released a book, titled Totetsumonai Nihon. (Translation off the top of my head: Japan the Tremendous, though there are several other possibilities.)

Aso has at least one thing in common with current office-holder Abe Shinzo: they’re the grandsons of former prime ministers. Aso’s forebear was Yoshida Shigeru, the head of government from 1946 to 1954 (except for a 17-month period), which encompassed most of the Allied occupation. His father-in-law was the late Suzuki Zenko, prime minister from 1980 to 1982

Naturally, the ad leads with a reference to Yoshida: “When I was a boy, my grandfather Shigeru Yoshida often said to me, ‘The Japanese people have tremendous energy. Japan will most certainly recover in the future. Japan is a tremendous country.’”

Following is my quick and dirty translation of six bulleted points from the book cited in the ad:

  • Japan is the time-tested champion of the universal value of peace.
  • Japan is a ‘wellspring of moral lessons‘ for Asia.
  • The otaku culture is the focus of global attention.
  • “Captain Tsubasa” gave rise to (Zinedine) Zidane and (Francesco) Totti.
  • The NEETs are not castoffs.
  • Japan’s aged population is the healthiest and wealthiest in the world.
  • China’s rise is a good thing.

(Quick explanations: Aso uses the word shinise, meaning a long-established shop or enterprise, which I rendered here as ‘time-tested champion’. Captain Tsubasa was a comic about soccer. Tsubasa means wing. NEET is an acronym coined in the UK that refers to people “not currently engaged in employment, education or training”. The expression has caught on in East Asia.)

Finally, printed as if it were a slogan accompanying his photo on the far left is the phrase, “Shouldn’t we try believing in the underlying strength of this country?”

Publishing a book is no guarantee that Aso will take the reins of government—opposition leader Ozawa Ichiro published at least three, and he’s never going to be prime minister (though he did pull the strings behind the scenes for a few years in the mid-90s).

But Abe Shinzo came out with his first book a year before assuming office. The title, Toward a Beautiful Country, became the slogan of his administration. Now one has to wonder if the Liberal Democratic Party is using Aso to hedge its own bets with Abe in case the Upper House election next month goes poorly. (The Democratic Party of Japan, the primary opposition party, is unlikely to take power during the intermediate term absent an LDP catastrophe and the Wizard of Oz returning to offer them a three-for-one deal on a brain, a heart, and courage.)

Considering some of his statements during his political career—not to mention some of the assertions made in the advertisement—an Aso administration would be entertaining, to say the least.

It also, alas, would provide column fodder for the usual torpedoes of the Western media and an outlet for the proliferation of weedpatch bloggers offering uninformed political commentary.

16 Responses to “Japan’s next prime minister?”

  1. JA said

    Who, might I ask, would you include in the “proliferation of weedpatch bloggers offering uninformed political commentary”? (Perhaps you should name names, so those in the weedpatch can defend themselves.)

  2. Overthinker said

    An Aso admin would guarantee people will dig up that Kyushu mining thing again, that’s for sure….

  3. madne0 said

    ““Captain Tsubasa” gave rise to (Zinedine) Zidane and (Francesco) Totti.”


  4. ampontan said

    I read that about Captain Tsubasa about three or four times to make sure that’s what it said and I wasn’t missing anything.

    That’s what it said.

  5. The claim about Captain Tsubasa inspiring football players in Japan and Europe is not one he came up with himself:

  6. ampontan said

    Here’s a sentence from that second link:

    “Zinedine Zidane, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero are among the foreign stars who watched it as youngsters.”

    Whaddaya know…

  7. Ken said

    Aso just has too many haters in the LDP. He couldn’t even garner enough support to get his own faction going, and he only needed 20 guys to show up for that.

    I think he has been a fabulous, unsung Foreign Minister (despite his often stupid public comments), but he’s too hated in the LDP to really win.

    On the other hand, with a severe lack of competition – both Nakagawas have too many enemies and Shiozaki looks political powerless, he might be the only option left.

    As a dark horse, I submit Akira Amari.

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  9. James A said

    Didn’t know Aso was such a big soccer fan to reference things like euro soccer players liking Captain Tsubasa.

    I wonder though, was there ever a headbutt scene in the series? Maybe that inspired Zidane. Heh heh.

  10. ampontan said

    I don’t know about soccer, but Aso reportedly is a big manga fan. Perhaps that’s where it comes from.

  11. AC said

    Aso has a well-deserved reputation as a loose cannon. Another problem with him is that he has long been openly campaigning for the position, something the LDP tends not to reward. If the LDP gets trounced in July and Abe is sent packing, I fully expect Mori and the other heavyweights to throw their support behind a nonthreatening caretaker who won’t further split the party. Aso is not that person. Machimura might be, and that’s my pick.

  12. Aso’s been using the Captain Tsubasa thing since at least last year. It apparently has gotten him street cred with the otaku crowd:
    Plus he has some interest in sports. He’s the chairman of both the WJBL (Japan Women’s Basketball League) and the Japan Clay Target Shooting Association:

  13. ampontan said

    LIU: Aso was in the 76 Olympics in Canada as part of the Japanese shooting team.

  14. […] Who will be Japan’s next Prime Minister? Japan blogger Ampontan is putting his money on Foreign Minister Taro Aso. [Link] […]

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