They must come to him at night, standing around him as he awakens from a deep sleep -- or sitting round the table in the great tatami room, translucent and glowing in the darkness. Kajiyama Seiroku, Hashimoto Ryutaro, Okuda Keiwa, Nakagawa Sho'ichi with his head buried in his arms or leaning to one side...and always, at the head of the table or the foot of the bed, a stern, thick-lipped Obuchi Keizo.
Those who were and might have been.
Okuda died first, in 1998, aged 70. Then Obuchi in 2000-- Obuchi whom Ozawa betrayed, breaking up the tripartite LDP-New Komeito-Liberal Party coalition. He suffered a stroke and died two days later -- though his body was kept on a respirator, nominally alive and deteriorating, until the middle of May.
The Prime Minister as vegetable.
He was 62 years old.
Then Kajiyama, his bar code hair straight back and gleaming, died just five weeks after that - at 74 years of age a Methuselah for this group.
Then Hashimoto, horribly of septicemia, in 2006, aged 68.
And of Nakagawa what can be said? An hidden yet well-known alcoholic, never pulled aside to seek treatment for his disease. Disgraced by a drunken episode in Rome in February 2009, he loses his seat in August and in November is dead of...no one knows. No tries to know.
His father committed suicide, but Sho'ichi...
Nakagawa was all of 56 years of age.
Hashimoto, Kajiyama, Obuchi, Okuda...four of the Seven Magistrates of the Takeshita Faction (Takeshitaha shichinin bugyo). Two became Prime Ministers. One became Chief Cabinet Minister, the likes of which has not been seen since. Hashimoto, Obuchi, Nakagawa...who all whom got a head start in their political careers because their fathers' having died young.
Ozawa Ichiro must look at the fates of those like unto him and wonder.
Of the Seven Magistrates of the Takeshita Faction only he, Watanabe Kozo and Hata Tsutomu survive. Watanabe, The Talker, has had so many health issues the television news shows have to put subtitles on for people to make out what he is saying. And Hata, good old faithful Hata, has come out in support of Ozawa's bid even after the way he got burned in 1994.
Of those who jumped the to the head of the line in politics thanks to their father's getting out of the way, surviving are himself, Koizumi Jun'ichiro and Abe Shinzo -- and of them all it is Koizumi, the weirdo, the exception to the rule, who is the only one with nary a thing wrong with him.
Hata, Koizumi and Abe -- all of them have been Prime Minister.
Ozawa Ichiro has watched most of his contemporaries in the political world die off or be felled by health problems far earlier than normal for Japanese citizens. He himself is said to be dogged by ill health, hiding his condition from the public and confederates, taking medical vacations overseas.
He is 68 years of age. His father died at age 69.
Perhaps he has always been not like us. For him, perhaps now more than ever, there is no tomorrow -- there is only today. For those of us with expectations of living into our mid-eighties, his impatience, his willingness to smash the toy he has constructed because it would not do what he wanted it to, smacked of selfishness and conceit.
We see him that way still, and the polls this weekend will likely show our fellow believers are in the tens of millions.
Yet we should stop perhaps and consider what may have gripped him, what may haunt him, what may drive him to simply not care what we think -- that what remains of his days are few, and he seeks and has always sought a glittering prize -- one that decidedly lesser men have seized or had handed to them.
And but for a questionable investigation into a land registration issue that had it been anyone else's problem would have been dealt with by a simple fine and an expression of remorse -- except for this investigation that seasoned and publicity-seeking prosecutors have twice judged pointless to pursue -- the prize would already be his.
No matter what the cost to reputation of the the Democratic Party of Japan, no matter that it will look stupid - three prime ministers resigning in a space of 13 months -- Ozawa is racing the darkness.
We should perhaps judge him in that light.
Photo image: Sunset over the Imperial Palace on August 24, 2010. Photo credit MTC.
Later - This post has been edited for greater clarity