Big in Japan: All Heil The New Japanese Prime Minister-san

Being that it’s Friday, I wanted to send all of my readers into the weekend with some bit of random Japanese fun. With that said, it’s actually Saturday here in Japan, but time zones aside, you get where I’m going with this.

So, how will I wrap up this week’s installment of Big in Japan? From bizarre local news stories and crazy Japanese TV shows to the world’s oldest man and a look at the robots of the future, it’s definitely been an interesting week here in the Far East.

Unfortunately however, we interrupt our regularly scheduled light-heartedness to bring you the latest from the Japanese political scene. As the designated Japan correspondent for Gadling, I feel it is my patriotic duty to update everyone about the new Japanese Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda.

At 71 years of age, Mr. Fukuda, the son of a former prime minister, became this week both the president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the new prime minister of the nation of Japan.

Mr. Fukuda, a former oil magnet, is the oldest Japanese prime minister to take office since 1991. Coincidently, he replaced Japan’s youngest leader in recent history, Shinzo Abe, who was just 53 years old when he stepped down earlier this week.

Largely vilified by the Japanese public, Mr Abe’s short-lived administration was dogged by mistakes and scandals which many said were largely the result of his inexperience.

According to political analyst Tsuneo Watanabe from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, “[Yasuo Fukuda] is often described as being boring. But, the other way of looking at that is that he represents stability.”

On the other hand, as Professor Koichi Nakano from Tokyo’s Sophia University, points out, he has only held one cabinet post previously. “He is old but not that experienced.”

So what will that agenda be?

According to an article on the BBC, Mr. Fukuda has already made clear that he wants to try to improve relations with North Korea. Not surprisingly, he is seen as more of a dove on foreign policy than the hawkish Mr Abe.

He will be keen to try to improve relations with Japan’s neighbors, namely China and South Korea. He will also push for an extension of Japan’s naval mission in support of US-led forces in Afghanistan.

However, this will not be easy since the opposition which controls the country’s Upper House of Parliament has promised to block the legislation necessary to extend the mission.

At home he needs to try to reconnect the LDP with its traditional supporters, particularly those in rural areas who punished the government in the Upper House elections in July.

Many in the countryside complain they have suffered as a result of the country’s economic reforms. As a result, Mr Fukuda will have to decide whether to increase public spending in those areas, difficult when the country’s huge public debt is the equivalent of one and a half times Japan’s GDP.

Anyway, forgive my foray into politics, but the TV over here is buzzing with the face of the new prime minister, and I really couldn’t think of anything else more important to report on today.