“Rozen Asou” set to become Japan’s new PM


The PM-to-be’s unofficial (???) cameo in Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, episode 6

It’s official.

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has picked self-professed manga fan Asou Tarou to succeed outgoing premier Fukuda Yasuo as party president, which puts him squarely on the path to become the country’s first Roman Catholic prime minister.

For the record, he’s not Prime Minister yet – the Diet still needs to confirm him in that role on 24 September. But with the LDP holding a majority of the seats in the lower house, I think the chances of Asou not taking over Fukuda’s job are virtually nil. UPDATE (24 September 2008): As expected, the LDP-dominated lower house wasted no time in confirming Asou as Prime Minister. As expected, the DPJ-controlled upper house snubbed Asou and chose DPJ party leader Ozawa Ichirou to take over Fukuda’s job. As expected, the lower house overrode the upper house and planted their own man firmly in the Kantei.

I first wrote about the new LDP president just over a year ago, when then-Prime Minister Abe Shinzou sprung a surprise resignation on his party and Asou was expected to succeed him. As it turned out, Fukuda Yasuo got the top job, but now he’s out and the 68-year-old political conservative – known in some circles as “Rozen Asou” ever since he was said to have been spotted reading Rozen Maiden – is in.

To mark this event, I’m reposting the blog entry I first published on 13 September 2007 on the occasion of Abe Shinzou’s resignation. Unless otherwise indicated, everything between the two lines of asterisks is from that 2007 entry.

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I think the Wall Street Journal said it best: “Score one for the nerds!”

News of Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzou‘s surprise resignation was quickly followed by speculation as to who would succeed him. [EDIT: Now, less than a year later, Abe’s immediate successor Fukuda is on his way out. Talk about turnover!] According to the BBC, former Foreign Minister Asou Tarou – currently the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and a close ally of Prime Minister Abe – is widely tipped to become the new man in the Kantei.

Now why is this relevant to us in the otakusphere?

Well, there’s the fact that Asou is a well-known manga fan.

In this interview, for example, Asou freely admitted to reading “10 to 20” manga anthologies a week. My Japanese sucks, but I was able to recognise some pretty big names in the list he rattled off (including the seinen anthologies Young Jump and Business Jump).

And his credentials don’t end there. Earlier this year [EDIT: “this year” = 2007], as Japan’s Foreign Minister, Asou oversaw the establishment of the International Manga Award to honour the achievements of non-Japanese mangaka. During his term in office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs used manga in an official capacity to bolster its image among Japanese children and to convey its message to delegates at an international meeting on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Not surprisingly, shares in manga publishers and bookshops rose on the Tokyo Stock Exchange even as the rest of the market lost ground on the news of Prime Minister Abe’s resignation.

Of course, his selection is far from a sure thing; so far the only person to throw his hat into the ring is Finance Minister Nukaga Fukushiro. [EDIT: In the 2008 party election, Asou’s rivals included State Minister in charge of Economic and Fiscal Policy Yosano Kaoru, former Defence Minister Koike Yuriko, former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Ishihara Nobuteru, and former Defence Minister Ishiba Shigeru.] But if Asou is indeed picked for the top job, I shall look forward to seeing how his love for manga will influence the way he manages his country’s affairs.

For starters, how does a manga mascot for the Kantei sound?

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A parting note: the BBC’s writers can’t seem to make up their minds about how to describe manga. First the BBC calls them “Japanese manga cartoons“, then “manga animation“, and now “adult manga cartoons“. Unforgivable.

Mark Thompson, I demand your immediate and irrevocable resignation.

LINKS
Anime News Network – “Manga Fan Asō Chosen to Be Japan’s Next Prime Minister” (news article)
BBC News – “Aso picked to become new Japan PM” (news article) / “Taro Aso confirmed as Japan’s PM” (news article) / biographical profile
Wikipedia – encyclopedia entry (English) / encyclopedia entry (Japanese)

3 Responses

  1. Well, it looks like otakus will be happy 😛

    Actually I even heard that even when he was just a candidate some manga stocks went up lol

  2. @Kitsune: Yes, I’m sure there will be no shortage of cheering. (^_^) Probably not from everyone, though. There’s likely to be some concern over Asou’s plan for Japan to spend its way towards an economic recovery, and of course his foreign policy views. His comments over the past few years haven’t exactly inspired confidence among those seeking to improve relations with Japan’s neighbours (most notably China and Korea). But as some would put it, “the office changes the man” – so I’m taking a wait-and-see approach before passing judgement.

  3. […] Minister (Japan Probe) Rozen Aso Prime Minister (Following the calling of intellectual curiosity) “Rozen Asou” set to become Japan’s new PM (Anime Affairs) Aso Cabinet Profiles (Japan […]

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