On July 30th, Yahoo!Japan published an article titled “5000 Women Vote for Top 10 Politicians They Would Like To See Lose the Upcoming Election.” This essay discusses the results, and also gives historical context to each response. The opinions are that of the survey respondents.
#10- Kono Taro, Vaccine Czar
Though most of you may be more familiar with Kono Taro as the politician in charge of Japan’s troubled vaccine rollout, complete with hubris-laden tweets about said rollout, Kono’s main role is as the Minister for Administrative Reform and Regulatory Reform.
His politics are more on the centrist side, having opposed Japan’s nuclear policy, supported the building of a new war memorial to offset the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, called for increased immigration to help with Japan’s severe labor shortage, and as recent as last year, argued that female and matrilineal members of the Imperial family should be included in the line of succession.
These political stances likely contribute to his comparatively high placement on the list. Still, when it comes to the matter of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, one 29-year-old housewife was not impressed:
“Even though six Ministries are involved in COVID-19 countermeasures, I find it very inconvenient that I can only find information about it at the Ministry of Defense’s website. They could easily have the information available on every government-related website. Since Mr. Kono is in charge of administrative reform, it was supposed to be his job, but he didn’t do anything at all. The LDP has no self-awareness whatsoever.”
#9-Edano Yukio, head of CDP
Edano Yukio is head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. His recent political career mostly revolved around consolidating power for the center-left. Moreover, he was a key political figure in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster (also known as 3/11), making many TV appearances as the then-Chief Cabinet Secretary to discuss the accident. During this time, his supporters were both amazed with his dedication and concerned for his health, resulting in the Twitter hashtag, #edano_nero, or #GetSomeRestEdano.
Despite his generally good reputation, Edano’s reason for ending up on this not-so-prestigious Top 10 List is in relation to the Fukushima Disaster. One of the main issues during the accident was the poor record-keeping within the government, especially with the SPEEDI (Emergency Rapid Radioactivity Impact Prediction Network System) network. Though the radiation dispersion data was sent to the Fukushima Prefectural government, the disaster response office deleted it, claiming that it was useless in hindsight.
It came to light on June 11, 2011, that this negligence happened under Edano’s watch, disappointing some. He apologized and took responsibility for the matter, but in one Aomori woman’s opinion, it’s not enough:
“He obscured the data from SPEEDI and exposed people to unnecessary radiation.”
#8- Nishimura Yasutoshi, Economic Revitalization Minister
Similar to a few of his LDP peers, Nishimura Yasutoshi is a notable member of Nippon Kaigi, a far-right ultranationalist lobby whose goal is to “promote a national movement to restore a beautiful Japan and to build a proud nation”. Specifically, their goal is to revise Article 9 of the Constitution; this would allow Japan to rebuild a standing army, which flies in the face of pacifist sentiments.
Yet, in this survey, it is not Nishimura’s ideology that has drawn criticism, but the proverbial chokehold he put on eateries and establishments during the pandemic. Originally, he planned to cooperate with financial institutions in order to help businesses during the fourth state of emergency. Yet, he’d already flip-flopped by July 9th, only a day after his initial announcement. He instead called for small businesses to use self-restraint, earning him the title of “restaurant bully” from the survey respondents.
#7- Koizumi Shinjiro, Environment Minister
Koizumi Shinjiro is one of the younger members of the Liberal Democratic Party and has served as Environment Minister since 2019. A third-generation politician, his father was former Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro. His dynastic ties drew some criticism as Shinjiro rose through the ranks.
Nevertheless, Shinjiro’s noted history of overseeing post-3/11 reconstruction efforts, criticizing the LDP for not listening to its younger members, and taking often-maligned paternity leave upon the birth of his first child, has caused others to perceive him as a more progressive member of the LDP.
Unfortunately, he still appears at number seven on this list due to questions about his star power, environmental policy, and even his marriage:
“[Seeing as how he’s from the Koizumi family] I don’t see how he’s considered a “fresh face” in politics.” (25-year-old civil servant from Kumamoto)
“His policies are terrible. I want him to focus less on reducing plastic shopping bag uasge and more on preventing natural disasters.” (Tokyo)
“I get that everyone’s got a different type, but personally I was disappointed to hear that he married [TV announcer] Christel Takigawa. She’s older than him [S/N: Koizumi and Takigawa are 40 and 43, respectively] and she has a torrid history of love affairs. She doesn’t stay in Yokosuka, but she has Koizumi wrapped around her little finger. She’s probably the reason why he can’t concentrate on politics.” (Anonymous)
#6- Tsujimoto Kiyomi, CDP Policy Chief
Current policy chief of the CDP. Tsujimoto was originally a grassroots activist, who co-founded the Peace Boat, a non-governmental organization dedicated to “building a culture of peace and sustainability.” (Those familiar with izakayas in Tokyo may know the organization from their posters, plastered over every bathroom door.) Her politics are center-left; she has worked in multiple political parties, including the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan, and the Social Democratic Party.
Tsujimoto appears on this list mainly because of her past financial scandals, as well as her outspoken persona:
“[Tsujimoto] had a lot of scandals in her past, including the Secretarial Embezzelment Case, and the Kansai Seikon Incident. She once wrote that the Imperial Family was “psychologically unpleasant”. She’s very problematic.” (52-year-old housewife from Chiba)
“She’s too emotional and speaks harshly. She needs to reflect on herself before criticizing others.” (60-year-old housewife from Niigata)
#5- Maruyama Hodaka, Anti-NHK Party member
Most of us probably know Maruyama as a member of the Protect People from the NHK Party, but he’s also known for crashing a press conference while drunk way back in 2019. To make matters worse, this happened while on business in Russian-held islands near Hokkaido. He suggested that Japan and Russia go to war over the islands.
Then after drinking 10 glasses of cognac with a Russian family, he returned to his hotel and said, “are those places with neon signs [sic] bars? Are there women? I want to grope breasts.” When his colleagues tried to stop him from leaving the hotel, he replied, “I will not be arrested because I am immune from arrest.”
Two years later, those statements still leave a sour taste in the survey respondents’ mouths:
“I can’t forgive his statements about going to war or buying women.” (40-year-old part-timer from Kanagawa)
“It’s strange that he’s a member of the Diet.” (46-year-old housewife from Tochigi)
#4- Abe Shinzo, former Prime Minister
Folks had a lot to say about the former Prime Minister, who’s had his fair share of troubles. These including the Cherry Blossom party scandal, the Abenomask fiasco, and his questionable attempt to extend the term limit of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Unseen Japan has done a fair share of coverage on Abe, so we’ll let one of the survey responses speak for itself:
“He quit being Prime Minister due to illness [ulcerative colitis], yet he’s still a member of the Diet?” (40-year-old housewife from Okayama]
#3- Suga Yoshihide, incumbent Prime Minister
Naturally, the closer we get to the top of the list, the less of an introduction we need. But for those who want a quick refresher on who Suga Yoshihide is: he became Prime Minister last year after Abe’s resignation, and planned to fight the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on economic revitalization. However, once his implemented “Go To” programs were seen as responsible for spread the virus further in Japan, they were temporarily shut down.
The largest of these mistakes, however, is that despite pleas from both the general public and noted medical experts, Suga still went ahead and held the 2020 Tokyo Olympics amidst the pandemic and one of many meaningless states of emergencies. Many of the survey respondents felt apathetic towards his leadership:
“We can’t rely on him at all!” (45-year-old housewife from Saitama)
“Lack of explanation, determination and especially leadership!” (45-year-old part-time worker from Tokyo)
“He doesn’t care about the people of Japan whatsoever. It’s so strange to hold the Olympics at a time like this.” (59-year-old housewife from Tokyo)
#2- Nikai Toshihiro, Secretary General
Though Suga was partially responsible for the various “Go To” initiatives, it was Nikai Toshihiro who heavily influence the campaigns; especially the “Go To Travel” campaign that increased the spread of COVID-19. The campaign was later revealed to be a potential conflict of interest, since Nikai is head of the All Nippon Travel Agents Association.
Survey respondents not only referenced the conflict of interest, but also discuss how Nikai has developed a stronghold on the LDP at large, having worked in the government since 1961. It also doesn’t help that he’s known for having misogynist beliefs, saying that the “LDP invites women to look, but not talk at key party meetings.“
“He spread the coronavirus to protect his own interests, such as [the] Go To [campaigns].” (32-year-old medical staffer from Fukuoka)
“The brilliant people of the younger generations are being held back by him.” (35-year-old office worker from Tokyo)
“…It’s only natural that Mr. Nikai’s self-righteous behavior–which launched the Go To Travel campaigns that only he will benefit from due to his ties to the travel industry–would be received poorly. However, no one can express themselves around him, and as long as he’s in office, the opinions of yonger politicians will never be heard. Therefore, he’s able to do whatever he wants.
Aso Taro is 80 years old [S/N: Nikai is 81], so I’d like [Nikai] to retire soon [as well]. The party’s rules are OK, but I think it’s time to set some term limits for members of the Diet.” (Hosokawa Tamao, political journalist.)
#1- Aso Taro, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister
Coming in at #1 is Aso Taro, former Prime Minister, current Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, and cousin-in-law to Emperor Emeritus Akihito, former mining executive, and one-time Olympian. His elite family history combined with his brief stints in both Sierra Leone and Brazil originally gave Aso a more cosmopolitan image than that of his LDP peers.
Starting in the early 2000s, however, his controversial statements and various gaffes caused quite a stir amongst the general public — to put it lightly.
His most infamous statements include: wanting to make Japan a country where “rich Jews would want to live in“; claiming that “work is good [and] that it’s completely different thinking from the Old Testament (Aso is Catholic); and, in 2014, saying that when it comes to Japan’s dwindling population, people who don’t give birth are more problematic than old people who die.
Survey respondents racked Aso over the coals for these and other statements:
“He only became a politician because of his family. His constant verbal slips are inappropriate.” (49-year-old part timer from Tokyo)
“He never learns. He acts like a spoiled brat who’s above everyone else. It’s a shame we can’t rid ourselves of his disgusting behavior.” (Kakutani Koichi, political critic
Disliked, But on Their Way Out?
These politicians are no strangers to controversy. Their place on this ranking comes as little surprise. It would interesting to see how a similar survey of Japanese men would compare; as a survey made up completely of women, is there anything particularly gendered about these responses?
Despite intense dislike from some sectors, most of these politicians have been in one office or another for decades. Many are members of long-running “old boys” clubs within the Japanese political world. Suga’s approval has crashed as the Olympics have wound down; nonetheless, it remains to be seen if any of these survey respondents’ wishes will be coming true.