The 65-year old Shigeo Ōmae is a relative newcomer on the national scene. In 2003, he wrested the Lower House seat from Hyōgo 5th District from then Socialist leader and former House Chairwoman (beating Nancy Pelosi by 14 years) Takako Doi, , and was reelected in the 2005 Koizumi landslide.
Mr. Ōmae is what liberal readers of this blog might call a revisionist-nationalist-conservative. He backs all the right/wrong causes, from a hard-line approach to North Korea to opposing legislation allowing both spouses to keep their pre-marriage surnames. So he probably got his wish in 2006 when the first Abe Cabinet gave him the junior political appointment in the Self-Defense Agency, later the Ministry of Defense.
Sidebar 1: Just to confuse you about the meaning of habatsu and also prove that opposites attract, Mr. Ōmae is a member of the Near Future Policy Study Group, the faction led by Taku Yamazaki, who is the polar opposite of Mr. Ōmae on most flashpoint political issues.
sidebar 2: Until the medieval era, women continued to be identified by their maiden names even after marriage. Moreover, other than for nobles and samurais, what passed for family names appears for much of Japanese history to have been not much more than a form of local identification. In fact, the vast majority of family names (but not the names of the actual population; samurai names like Satō and Suzuki are very common) mirror the geographical names of domiciles from the times when people led far less mobile lives. It is probably safe to say that for the vast majority of Japanese, the first time that they became conscious of their family names was the advent of the Meiji Era.
Mr. Ōmae no longer has the MOD job, but his experience apparently enables him to continue to speak with authority and sympathy for the beleaguered Ministry. For in a meeting with his Hyōgo supporters, he said, “Both sides must have been at fault and there is a need to reveal the causes from a fair point of view.” But, he went on to say more: according to him, the fishing boat “made grave errors, but that is not being mentioned at all”. He also said that the fishermen should have been wearing lifejackets in the first place.
Actually, there have been media reports that the fishing boat may have been partially at fault, and the lack of basic safety precautions on the part of the fishermen has been mentioned in the media as well. But given the lavish attention given to the errors and omissions of the Defense Ministry, he might have felt compelled to speak up on behalf of the defense establishment.
Never mind. An Asahi reporter got wind of his prejudgment of the case, his dissing of the media, and some other harsh words of his toward the two missing fishermen. His statements as well as his apology have been duly recorded.
Mr. Ōmae must be hoping that Sōka Gakkai will be in a sufficiently forgiving mood over his disrespect for the missing New Kōmeitō supporters to help out when the next Lower House election rolls around, God knows when, after the July G-8 Summit and the expiration of the Lower House mandate in September 2009.