Prime Minister Koizumi’s new cabinet is in place this week, and one of the apparent front-runners to succeed him is this interesting fellow, Taro Aso, now Minister of Foreign Affairs.
We’ve already talked about some of his more asinine comments: that burakumin shouldn’t be in government, that Japan is one race, that Korea was better off under colonial rule, that floppy disks are the future, and all that.
But there’s more to Aso-san than just knee-jerk right-wingery. Let’s look at his colorful past:
- Aso’s father, Takakichi Aso, was a big businessman: he owned a large cement company, Aso Cement. He later entered the Diet and was buddies with Kakuei Tanaka, the Nixonian prime minister of Japan who spent half of his life amassing political capital in Niigata and the other half split between running the LDP from the shadows and fending off prosecution for corruption. (Tanaka’s daughter Makiko is the short-lived foreign minister who called Bush an asshole.)
- Takakichi’s wife (Taro’s mother) was Shigeru Yoshida’s daughter—Yoshida being the postwar prime minister who set up Japan’s foreign and domestic policy for much of the Cold War era.
- Yoshida’s wife’s father was Nobuaki Makino, a Meiji-era diplomat and politician; Makino’s father was the famous samurai Okubo Toshimichi.
- Back to Taro Aso himself: he represented Japan in the shooting events at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, while still president of the cement company he inherited from his father (he gave it up to run for office in 1978, and now his brother runs the company).
- He was appointed Minister of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications in 2003, and Koizumi apparently likes him, because he’s survived two subsequent cabinet reshuffles.
Now, he’s certainly qualified to be prime minister given the generally low standards that have been accepted historically: take a look at Koizumi’s predecessor, Yoshiro Mori, who greeted Bill Clinton by saying “Who are you?” and went on to screw up the Buddhist rites at Keizo Obuchi’s funeral later that day. Part of me wants Aso to become prime minister because there’s an excellent chance he’ll produce all sorts of hilarious Mori-esque gaffes that will make great blog material.
On the other hand, I love Japan too much to subject its people to this man’s leadership. His gaffes are not silly and laughable like Mori’s, but dark and pitiful, likely to kill what few good relations Japan enjoys with the rest of East Asia. Hopefully the LDP will not be foolish enough to elevate him to the top post; maybe he’s just a foil to make Shinzo Abe look better. We can only hope.