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Prime Minister Abe Shinzō’s surprise resignation last week threw the eternally-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) into turmoil: who will be take the helm of the Party and nation?

Two candidates have floated to the top: Asō Tarō (麻生太郎) and Fukuda Yasuo (福田康夫). At first, the right-wing, outspoken Asō seemed to be the obvious choice, but now, as the brilliant wonks behind Observing Japan and GlobalTalk 21 have been dutifully reporting, the various LDP factions have thrown their weight behind Fukuda as the “anyone-but-Asō” (ABA) candidate. Although Fukuda’s political ideology is vague at best, he is strongly pro-Asia and has made hints of not visiting Yasukuni Shrine (Hey, Uyoku, time to get out the maps of Gunma and start filling bottles with inflammable liquids. And remember, always work alone.)

From a macro-political angle, the Asō vs. Fukuda contest would appear to be a battle between two dynasties. Ironically, Fukuda — whose dad was Prime Minister — is the less connected of the two. Asō comes from an aristocratic “clan” that has produced five prime ministers — Yoshida, Suzuki, Kishi, Satō, and Abe — and has contributed a member to the Imperial Family (Asō’s sister). (I, Shingen has a nice primer on the immediate Asō side.)

I am trying to get through Kevin Phillips’ American Dynasty before Bush abdicates, and the book’s main thesis revolves around the danger of aristocratic democracy. Bush Jr. has not helped the case for inherited rule. Maybe, however, American distrust of (non-Kennedy) familial dynasties seems to have put pressure on the younger Bush to simultaneously not be his father and avenge his father. These inconsistent Oedipal motives have now killed thousands and thousands of Iraqis and 3,000+ Americans.

In Japan, I can’t imagine anyone going into politics this day and age unless they are approaching it as “taking over Father’s business.” Abe may have wanted to accomplish what his own father never could, but the comfort with democratic dynasty in Japan probably means that individuals are not trying to enact personal familial struggles in the political arena. The greater controversy for a Japanese political candidate would be, why was your father not in the government? Just like you want your kimono made by a 19th generation tailor, you want your politics run by those blessed with proper pedigree.

W. David MARX
September 17, 2007

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

One Response

  1. Jrim Says:

    I went to listen to Fukuda and Aso speak at the FCCJ today. An interesting rumble: apparently Aso had been emphatically told not to speak in English beforehand but, fuckit, he did exactly that, effortlessly outclassing Fukuda in the process. He’d also been doing his homework: lots of statistics, lots of specific policy statements. Fukuda, by contrast, ummed and blustered his way along, never really committing to anything. Much as I dislike Aso’s views, I came away feeling that he was the more able politician. Whether that counts for anything in Sept 25th’s vote – which already feels as pre-ordained as the Abe one did a year ago – remains to be seen.