Raw Japan

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Japan has its first female PM — she’s a dog

March 17, 2009

One of the women often cited as a possible candidate to break through the bamboo ceiling and become Japan’s first woman prime minister says she’s been pipped to the post by her dog.

Yuriko Koike, a former defence and environment minister who raised eyebrows by standing against the current prime minister, Taro Aso, in the race for leadership of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) last year, keeps a photo in her office of her Yorkshire terrier, “Sori”, which means “prime minister” in Japanese.


“She’s a female. So you see Japan already has its first female prime minister,” she joked when I interviewed her this week.

Though Koike said in the interview she would only stand for the party leadership again if the right conditions arose, her dog’s name may be a sign that her ambitions for the top job are simply on the back burner while the LDP struggles with voter dissatisfaction magnified by the deepening economic crisis.

Polls show the main opposition Democratic Party has a chance of wresting power from the LDP for the first time at the next election.

Asked whether the party could accept a female leader, Koike, a fan of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, was more upbeat than Seiko Noda, another female lawmaker often tipped as a possible prime minister.

“I think so,” she said. “Whether or not it’s me is a different matter. But I think the resistance to female leadership has grown weaker.”

If, as Koike predicts, Aso stays on in his post until the election he must call in October at the latest, she could be in a good position to launch another bid based on the environmental platform she says is essential for Japan’s economic recovery.

Koike, 56,  is currently building her own wooden “eco-house” in her Tokyo constituency, complete with solar panels, fuel cells and a place to plug in her electric car. Her new home, which she wants to show to the media as an example of what can be done, is set to be ready in the autumn.


And the word for a female dog is…? But seriously folks, nice tale (tail?).


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