Japan from the inside out

Nothing is ever sonomama with Sonomanma

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, November 25, 2008

FIRST HE MIGHT. Then he won’t. Now, he just might after all.

The plans of the former comedian, current reform-minded governor of Miyazaki, and eternal publicity hound Higashikokubaru Hideo are once again the subject of speculation in regional newspapers. The governor asserts that his motivation is to reform government in his home prefecture and spread those reforms nationwide, but most people assume that national politics has always been his goal.

His political career began after his predecessor in Miyazaki resigned and was arrested for bid-rigging. The failure of another politician, lower house member Nakayama Nariaki of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, seemed set to launch Mr. Higashikokubaru’s Diet career. Mr. Nakayama lasted only five days as the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport in the Aso Taro cabinet after he offended the teachers’ union. He then announced he would not run for reelection to the Diet in Miyazaki #1 in early October, when an election was expected imminently.

The Miyazaki governor openly flirted with the possibility of running for Mr. Nakayama’s seat, only to give up the idea when his supporters in the prefecture said they would rather have him complete his first term instead of leaving before it reached the halfway point.

This weekend, the Nishinippon Shimbun ran an article claiming that the governor was much closer to declaring for the Diet seat than previously thought, and that he is again weighing the pros and cons of running in an election expected to come early next year.

The newspaper cites sources familiar with the conversation that the governor and Mr. Nakayama met in secret in Miyazaki City on 2 October and discussed the former’s candidacy. Mr. Nakayama, who had just resigned from the Cabinet, told Mr. Higashikokubaru that he wouldn’t stand for reelection in his district in the next lower house election. He urged the governor to run in his place. The governor replied that he was very interested in a Diet seat and wanted to run as an independent (in keeping with his stated political philosophy), albeit with LDP support. He also expressed concerns about being viewed as Mr. Nakayama’s designated successor.

Then, during a meeting in Tokyo on 8 October that both attended, Mr. Nakayama said in his introductory remarks that “(They would) have a hard time of it unless you (Gov. Higashikokubaru) somehow decide to run.” (The Japanese language allows sentences without subjects, and sometimes it is not clear what is being referred to. This is a case in point. It wasn’t specified whether the speaker, the people of the district, the people of the prefecture, the LDP, or various combinations of those would have a hard time of it.)

Despite the encouragement, the governor finally said that he would submit to the popular will and stay in Miyazaki. But he might be reconsidering that decision, as suggested by some of his statements during a speech in front of a fund-raising party of 600 in the prefecture on the 20th. Then again, he was all over the map, so divining his intentions is not easy. Here’s a sampler of what he said:

(The) differentials (in regional prosperity) won’t be overcome until the country’s system is changed. All I’m saying is that I want to change the system.


“There are 480 people in the lower house and 242 in the upper house. I don’t really want to become one of 722. If that’s the case, I won’t go, even with all this talk about running in my first term.”

But then:

“First election, first Cabinet appointment…I won’t go without a Cabinet-level appointment.”

Note that the governor will have completed only his second year in elective office in January 2009, but he’s already talking about a Cabinet post.

Then he closed with:

“Some of what I said here was a bit dicey.” (危うい、and what exactly he meant by that is a bit uncertain, too.)

The newspaper asked the Governor about his discussion with Mr. Nakayama, and he denied that it occurred. When they asked Mr. Nakayama, however, he replied:

“I can’t say now.”

Not very skillful at dissembling, is he?

A source in the LDP said that Prime Minister Aso Taro was enthusiastic about the idea of a Higashikokubaru candidacy. He added that some upper-level LDP officials chewed over the idea of appointing him the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, or giving him a portfolio as a special tourism minister. The latter idea might be a good one; the governor is a tireless promoter of the prefecture and its products, and he does have a show business background.

The local branch of the LDP decided to back former upper house MP and member of the Hashimoto Cabinet Uesugi Mitsuhiro for the Miyazaki #1 seat, but the Nishinippon Shimbun passes on word from an unidentified local official who said the party wants Mr. Uesugi to talk to Mr. Nakayama and work something out. He suggests they are laying the groundwork for a Higashikokubaru candidacy using Mr. Nakayama as cover.

Here’s an opinion from one official in the Miyazaki prefectural government:

“The governor seems to be bored by his current job. He wants to perform his next role.”

Others, however, say that with the Cabinet approval rate dropping, he doesn’t want to get on board the LDP “mud boat”. (If you’re not familiar with that Japanese expression, think of how long a boat made of mud might float crossing a river with passengers.)

But the article concluded with this from another observer:

“Once you get the idea you want to run, that feeling never goes away.”

Exactly. And for a man who is now in the national limelight a second time, it is likely to grow only stronger.

Let’s hope that the entertainer/politician who still appears as a panel member on nationally broadcast quiz/entertainment programs is learning something as he passes through the governor’s mansion.

Afterwords: Hit the search engine on the left sidebar for more posts on Gov. Higashikokubaru.

One Response to “Nothing is ever sonomama with Sonomanma”

  1. bender said

    but most people assume that national politics has always been his goal

    That’s why the agenda of so many politicians are plain empty.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: