Sunday, September 4, 2011

Only in Japan

Picture credit: Japanese weather loach

From the September 3-9, 2011 edition of The Economist, a story on how Yoshihiko Noda, won his party's nod to become Japan's new Prime Minister:

"On August 30th it paid off. Mr Noda became prime minister, replacing Naoto Kan, who was forced out after 14 tumultuous months. The 54-year-old black belt in judo is the sixth new leader in five years; he risks being laughed off even before he starts. What is more, so little known in Japan is Mr Noda that a week earlier supporters were telling him to quit the race to replace Mr Kan as president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), especially once his more photogenic ally, Seiji Maehara, a former foreign minister, broke a promise not to run against him.

Yet using skills honed at Funabashi station, Mr Noda pulled off what supporters call a miracle. His speech to parliamentarians of the ruling party before they voted for a leader was unusual for a Japanese politician. He spoke plainly, exuding honesty and consistency. And he made people laugh, comparing his puffy appearance to that of a loach, a fish that loves mud.

In a second-round vote, victory was assured when one of the candidates he defeated in the first round took off his jacket. That signalled to the politician’s followers that they should cast their run-off vote for Mr Noda, rather than the puppet candidate of Ichiro Ozawa, the party’s indicted (and suspended) kingpin. Mr Noda romped home, 215 votes to 177. But supporters say his speech also contained a coded message aimed at healing a paralysing rift in the party between those for and against Mr Ozawa. The loach reference was taken from one of the favourite poems of Azuma Koshiishi, a 75-year-old elder in the DPJ who is close to Mr Ozawa, with rare influence over him. It was a deftly cast fly. Soon after Mr Noda was named prime minister, he persuaded Mr Koshiishi to become secretary-general of the party. That put the onus on Mr Ozawa to bury the hatchet."


Only in Japan....

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