Today’s online Mainichi has a list of 14 prospective cabinet members (CMs) and two deputy chief cabinet secretaries as (DCCSs) well as four prospective members of the LDP political leadership team. nine (10 if you count Nobuteru Ishihara as a NHINO—non-heritage in name only) of the 14 CM and the two DCCS candidates are second-or-more generation Diet members. That’s a 64% heritage rate (69% if you count the DCCSs). That rises to 67% (71% including DCCSs) when you count Shinzo Abe. So far, we are out-princeling China. At least we have a princessling on the list, Yuko Obuchi, the daughter of a former prime minister. Note also that one of the non-heritage candidates is slated for the obligatory Komeito slot.
Well, only one, which means that the Y-chromosome index of the list of prospective CMs clocks in at 93 (94 counting the DCCSs) against a perfect all-male score of 100. To be fair, the article mentions two other women being talked about for a political leadership position, Sanae Takaichi and Yuriko Koike, who incidentally did not inherit their Diet seats. The personal histories of the two women are instructive. Takaichi is a relatively rare female graduate of Matsushita Seikeijuku, the launching pad for many a non-LDP, non-heritage centrist career, while Koike was a popular newscaster, a great situation for jumpstarting a non-heritage career. They are both well-travelled politically, having at one time been members of Ichiro Ozawa’s old New Frontier Party.
Finally, of the four party leadership candidates, two are heritage-farmed while the other two come from prominent families in local (prefectural) politics.
It obviously helps to be a princeling, but it may be even better to be a princessling. Obuchi, at 39, has already been ministered, at the politically tender age of 34 by then Prime Minister Taro Aso. Actually, just being a woman can’t be that bad. Takaichi, 51, held a cabinet post in Abe’s 2006-2007 cabinet while Koike, 60, has held three cabinet positions including the environment and defense portfolios. But first you have to be nominated by your friendly local chapter, and how good are the chances for that? The alternative is to start off on the national candidate list for the House of Councilors, which in principle is the slow-track to power, with limited upside to boot.
More generally, the lesson here is that you need to start early if you want to get ahead. Seniority matters, particularly in the LDP (and Komeito, I presume). It obviously helps to be heritage-farmed, but a high-profile media career is also useful in this respect. There was also a point in time where the Matsushita Seikeijuku helped launch many a centrist political career against a backdrop of political ferment as the post-1955 LDP grip on political power loosened.