Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ozawa as Warlord-Oracle

From a well-earned, long lunch-break spent on the Internet, where still I’m unable to drift too far off the reservation.

Sankei, if not always the firstest among the MSM outlets, for sure posts the mostest on its media website. And here it is, reporting on the blame-game among the Ozawa forces, where the fingers point to: The Four Heavenly Kings, the keepers of the world, keeping, according to the complaints in the report, the world from the Dharma. (Confession: To show you how little I actually know, I wasn’t even aware that Ozawa had “Four Heavenly Kings” surrounding him.)Then there is, of course, majordomo Kenji Yamaoka, who led the election campaign for Ozawa and kept issuing cheerful “Imperial General Headquarters announcements” till the bitter end that only served to aggravate the anguish of defeat.

It’s the identities of the Four Kings that intrigued me though. Two of them, Koji Sato and Kazumasa Okajima are second-generation Diet members, sons of Ozawa allies who now dwell in that Great Big Diet Building in the Sky. If you’re dead, then there’s no danger of the falling out that plagues ever other associate sooner or later, is there*? Another King, Takeshi Hidaka, left his day job early in his professional career and joined the horde of Ozawa aides**. A few years later, he married one of the daughters of a Diet member and—you guessed it—Ozawa ally, and a very trusted one too, before he retired. There is something visceral and atavistic about these relationships, casting on Ozawa an aura of a feudal warlord. The fourth King, Kenko Matsuki, the only one without such clear ties, started out with the LDP, where his father was the head of a small local chapter, but his career only took off after he joined the Ozawa camp.

All this is in sharp contrast to the popular image of men and women accomplished in their respective professions making a mid-career shift in response to DPJ solicitations, and comes across as more the product of old-school conservative politics typical of the LDP, now making a painful shift to the public solicitation process and limitations on heirloom candidates***. You wonder how many of the new breed will be inclined to follow the 68 year old Ozawa into the wilderness if he decides to pull up stakes and leave.
* Actually, Okajima’s father did leave Ozawa’s party, but later lost his Diet seat and died while plotting a comeback, having returned to Ozawa’s wing, after the appropriate apologies.

** You may remember his name from the recent Ozawa financial scandals, where Tomohiro Ishikawa, the main defendant, implicated him in the cover-up.

*** Yamaoka is, unlike the other four, Ozawa’s generational cohort who left the LDP with him to form the Japan Renewal Party.

While I’m on Ozawa’s throwback tendencies, let me mention that I wasn’t the only one who was surprised to see the New Ozawa, the one full of smiles and handshakes and emotional speeches, and opening himself up to the press, any press, when the campaign started. That Ozawa may have been one of those Terminator robots from the future (or is it the other way around?), though, because the smiles and open access vanished in a political instant when the September 14 election ceremonies ended. Leaving the conference room, Ozawa stared down the throng of journalists waiting for his comments and left without a word for public consumption. Words leaked out from that night’s gathering, including his vow to return to “one common foot-soldier to work for the party” (according to media report a phrase known to be use by Ozawa to express the equivalent of “you’ll have to pull all my teeth with a pair of pliers to see if I cooperate with the bastard”). This has been Ozawa’s usual Oracular mode of communication; he seems to have reverted immediately to type.

Sorry if I’m boring you with Ozawa trivia, but for me, it’s a welcome diversion from an assortment of Kan admin stuff that I’m working on. And Ozawa is a fascinating diversion.


Janne Morén said...

"And Ozawa is a fascinating diversion. "

No doubt. Whatever his faults and shortcomings, you have to admit he's been the life of the party - any party - for a long time, and Japanese politics would be a great deal duller without him.

Which is a good thing as long as you appreciate politics for its entertainment value as much as for the very serious business of actually governing a state.

Jun Okumura said...


Ozawa has been more than entertainment for me. The uncertainty and volatility that he continues to inject into Japanese political life comprise one important source of the work I do for a living. For starters, he played an instrumental role in the 2009 DPJ takeover, without which I would have had to continue to earn money in a far more boring manner.

Climate Morio said...

From this end of the career ladder, it is a much less rosy picture. All this volatility in Japanese politics over the past year makes guesstimations a very tricky game. "Omg, where did THIS PM retirement/tax hike talk/potential party split come from? WHY HAVE YOU NOT TOLD US BEFORE?!"

One quickly becomes very adept at Newsweekese may-schmay lingo with these kinds of politics going on. I find it very frustrating, even though, yes, it does keep my fridge stocked.

Jun Okumura said...

It may be more snakes and ladders, CM, and I could be hanging onto the wrong end of the wrong kind. We could be playing different games; not being a quant, I make guesses, not guesstimates.

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