Tokyo Tidbit: New Prime Minister Embarks on his Descent

All Japanese prime ministers since Koizumi—who was in office from April 2001 to September 2006—slither down a bumpy and steep slope that lasts between 8 and 15 months. When their popularity drops into the teens or low twenties, they’re kicked out. The latest new guy is Yoshihiko Noda, elected by parliament on August 30. His popularity during the first round of polls, like that of his predecessors, is still high:

But oh no! His new ministers are talking.

“A town of death,” is what his new trade minister, Yoshio Hachiro, called the vicinity of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Thursday evening after his visit to the no-go zone. The remark was criticized as insensitive to residents of the area who don’t know if they’ll ever be able to return home. Apologies that emanated from all concerned seemed to settle the problem. But then it was revealed that he also made a gesture of rubbing the sleeve of his protective coat against a reporter as if trying to contaminate him, jokingly saying, “Here’s the radiation.” Outcry! Having become a political liability, he stepped down Saturday after nine days in office.

“I am an amateur on security issues,” Yasuo Ichikawa, the new Defense Minister, told reporters a week earlier in a fit of misplaced modesty. And then he tried some rationalization and said, “But this is what you call real civilian control.”

“That remark itself warrants his dismissal,” retorted Shigeru Ishiba, former Defense Minister, now chief policymaker of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

Are we seeing the beginning of Noda’s bumpy and steep slope into utter unpopularity?

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