Tamayo Marukawa (House of Councilors, Tokyo District, ‘07) and Taku Otsuka (House of Representatives, proportional seat, Tokyo Bloc, ‘05) bookended the June 16-20 workweek by marrying on Monday and joining a habastsu on Friday. The Seiwa Seisaku-kenkyukai (better known as Seiwa-kai), the faction of choice, is to the best of my knowledge the only faction that has its own website.
Maybe the Marukawa-Otsuka couple wanted some advice on having a successful “political” marriage, if you’ll pardon the expression. They have become the third Seiwa-kai couple, after Mrs. Kyoko (House of Councilors) and Mr. Nariaki Nakayama (House of Representatives) and Ms. Sakae Takaichi and Mr. Taku Yamamoto (both House of Representatives). You may laugh, but a journalist who has spent more than thirty years observing the Prime Minister’s Office, the LDP, and the rest of the Tokyo political scene told me that factions still have two functions, and one of them is “the exchange of information”, oiled by once-a-week, all-member get-togethers. Tokyo, and the Diet, can be a lonely place—why not seek out people who will understand. There was one other, more famous couple, a non-Seiwa-kai one at that, but the Shisaku favorite Seiko Noda (HR) and Yosuke Tsuruyasu (HC) couple broke up recently.
Alas, the real reason for their choice appears to be less social, more political. Mr. Otsuka was chosen by the Koizumi team for the 2005 election (it must have helped that a scion of the Otsuka pharmaceutical magnate clan would not be having money problems in financing his electoral campaign), while Ms. Maruyama had been heavily recruited by then-Prime Minister Abe for the 2007 HC campaign. These two former Prime Ministers are sandwiched between Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and incumbent Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda; all four hail from the Seiwa-kai.
This is related to the other point that the veteran journalist raised as a key function of the post-modern faction: The habatsu still serves as a support system, especially when election time rolls around. Most important for newbies, it will dispatch its leaders and celebrity faction members to make speeches on your behalf and otherwise make gestures of endorsement. The Seiwa-kai boasts five Prime Ministers still alive and still in the LDP, including—as I already implied—the last four (the other is the venerable octogenarian Yasuhiro Nakasone), appealing to a wide range of ideological preferences and demographics. It is no wonder, then, that the Seiwa-kai is now hands-down the largest faction in the LDP.
If Ms. Marukawa and Mr. Otsuka—likewise Prime Minister aspirant Nobuteru Ishihara*—are any indication, the habatsu is very much alive, if not quite kickin’.
* See footnote ** here.
Seriously, though, isn’t this a rather high incidence of intermarriage between Diet members, especially given the scarcity of female Diet members? Does anything like this happen in your home country?