Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Ozawa wipes away tears, but not doubts


When Ichiro Ozawa, leader of Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party, became teary-eyed as he announced his intention to stay in his post despite a funding scandal plaguing his bid to become prime minister, he may have won some sympathy.

Whether he gets to keep his job, though, is another matter.

The pugnacious political veteran has been trying to oust Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party since he bolted the long-ruling party in 1993, helping replace it briefly with a reformist coalition, only to see his former conservative colleagues return to power the next year.


But just as his opposition Democrats looked set to win an election this year and end more than 50 years of almost unbroken LDP rule, prosecutors arrested a close Ozawa aide and on Tuesday charged him with breaking a political funding law by accepting corporate donations.

Speaking at a nationally televised news conference on Tuesday, a subdued Ozawa — wiping tears from his eyes as he spoke — denied any wrongdoing, adding he wouldn’t quit for now. He left the door open to resigning if public support for the Democrats slides and endangers his long-held dream of defeating the LDP at the polls.

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


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.

The memory test for Japanese media


A furore over anonymous comments by a senior Japanese bureaucrat that landed him in the middle of a political funding scandal has highlighted an unusual practice in Japan of “no memo” briefings, where journalists can listen but are forbidden to take notes.

“Off-record” briefings are common in Western journalism. These conversations between reporters and contacts will never see the light of day but can be used by sources to get their points across and some would say spin the story.

Desperate times, desperate measures?


With Prime Minister Taro Aso’s public support tanking ahead of a tough election this year, some lawmakers in Japan’s conservative ruling party — long dominated by dark-suited men — are pondering the once unthinkable — replacing a him with a her.

Opinion polls show voter support for Aso, Japan’s third prime minister in less than two years, near or even below 10 percent, and a hefty majority want him to resign within months.

Japan’s next prime minister?


Japan’s finance minister, Kaoru Yosano, already has three key cabinet posts. Now some pundits say  he looks well-placed to take the top job, too.

Public support for Prime Minister Taro Aso, suffering  a slump after policy flip-flops and gaffes, took another hit when close ally Shoichi Nakagawa quit as finance minister last week after being forced to deny he was drunk at at G7 gathering in Rome.

A Clinton jinx on ruling party?


Japan’s ruling coalition could be forgiven for feeling nervous over U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meeting with the leaders of the powerful main opposition party this week.

The last time a Clinton met Japanese opposition executives, the Liberal Democratic Party lost its grip on power within weeks. That was in 1993, when then U.S. President Bill Clinton attended an embassy reception with politicians including Morihiro Hosokawa, soon to become the first non-LDP premier since 1955.

Cozying up to Japan’s opposition


Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party has a shot at grabbing power this year from the Liberal Democrats – ending more than five decades of almost unbroken rule – and many in the political and business establishment are wary.

Can the Democrats really govern? What will it mean if they really take power? While trying to answer these questions, one thing is clear to everyone: The Democrats can no longer be ignored.

Japanese opposition unites with an eye to power


Japan’s opposition Democratic Party is often seen as a fractious bunch prone to policy and personal feuds, but with the scent of election victory in the air, party leaders are preaching a unified message to their troops: don’t let down your guard.

Naoto Kan

“We have decided not to make predictions about the election,” Naoto Kan, a senior party executive told me last week. “The important thing is to keep on our toes and make preparations, because we are the ones who are asking the people to choose us.”

Short-term accommodation for Japan’s Prime Minister Aso?


Almost four months after being sworn in, Japan’s unpopular prime minister has moved into his official residence, but many pundits are betting he’ll be packing again soon.

Taro Aso had intended to move in after an election he was expected to call soon after taking office last September, but sagging support has made the premier wary of going to the polls sooner than necessary.