So, it turns out that Abe Shinzo had supporters the way the fictional band Flight of the Conchords had fans (or rather, “fan”), and yet after managing to survive longer than some expected, still gave up the ghost suddenly and with no clear immediate reason. While most people are probably concerned about such things as when the next lower house election will be called, what this means for Japanese constitutional revision or the future of overseas troop deployment, or whether the grandson of “The Bismarck of Japan” will be the next prime minister, others are speculating on it. That is to say, the prospect of famously geeky Aso Taro assuming the prime minster-ship has sent shares of manga and otaku related stocks soaring.
On Wednesday, shares of manga publisher Broccoli shot up 71 percent, while those of second-hand comic store chain Mandarake climbed 13 percent. Shares of We’ve, which produces a Japanese version of Sesame Street, rose 14 percent.
Although Olympic sharpshooter and manga aficionado Aso Taro would probably be a more entertaining premier than Abe was (although certainly no Koizumi), he would likely still be a disaster and a half. To remind everyone why, I would like to briefly revisit some things we’ve posted about the man in the past.
First of all, here are some items from what Joe described as 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.
- “Japan is one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture, one race, none of which can be found in any other country.” (Direct quote)
- Claimed Koreans wished to change their names to Japanese names during colonial rule (an attempt to justify the Aso Zaibatsu’s colonial-era actions). Also claimed Japan helped spread the use of Hangul writing.
- When inaugurated as MIC Minister in 2003, made the bold prediction that office paperwork would disappear with the development of information technology and that everything would be done by magical new floppy disks in the future.
- “Japan is treated like a nouveau-riche child because it has no military power but does have economic power. All the G8 countries are White, and Japan is the only Yellow Race country there. So we teamed up with the best fighter, America. This should be obvious!” (Originally posted here.)
He also made a proposal to “de-religicize” Yasukuni to avoid “all this fuss.”
“It’s about expressing our respect and gratitude for those who died for their country and praying for the peace of the souls of those who died…without all this fuss,” Aso told a news conference.
“The tens of thousands of soldiers who died crying ‘Long Life to the Emperor’ filled those words with deep emotion,” Aso said in a statement outlining his idea. “So I strongly pray that the emperor can visit Yasukuni.”
Since the plan made no mention of removing the Class A war criminals who are the cause of “all this fuss,” I fail to see how taking away the shrine’s tax exempt status or whatever would actually change anything. In another speech, Aso had this to say on the Yasukuni issue:
‘From the viewpoint of the spirits of the war dead, they hailed ‘Banzai’ for the emperor—none of them said ‘prime minister Banzai!’
But Aso isn’t all bad. On the plus side, his appointment as Foreign Minister, to replace himself, would apparently be Astroboy.