This has been a fertile weekend for postings on the rolling snowball that is Hashimoto Toru.
First we have the essay from Spike Japan on the personal history, amazing sayings and local achievements of Osaka's more-than-just-a-mayor. (Link 1)
I, for one, do not really care if Hashimoto and his family came from the wrong side of the tracks. The Liberal Democratic Party's Nonaka Hiromu came from the wrong side of the tracks and he managed through grit, patience and knowing-where-you-had-dinner-last-night-and-with-whom to push past many a princeling and former elite bureaucrat to become a force within the party, eventually becoming secretary-general. Nonaka, however, never forgot about where he came from, and he would lacerate bureaucrats for their institutionalized prejudice against persons with suspicious ancestral addresses. Nonaka also retained a sympathy for Japan's North Korean population -- the country's least beloved and most misunderstood minority.
What worries me about Hashimoto is he has seems to have the airs of a self-made man. Few things are worse than self-made men, as they believe their success is due to their own special form of greatness, rather than because in their case talent transected with chance and opportunity.
Then we have the always comprehensive Corey Wallace on the confusion Hashimoto has whipped up in the political world, particularly the cosy little corner of the world inhabited by the Liberal Democratic Party. (Link 2)
The part of Hashimoto's Ishin no kai's declaration that has me shaking in my boots (and I am wearing boots) is the proposal for direct elections of prime ministers. (J) Such a proposal faces the same soaring constitutional hurdles as the other major radical reform: the abolition of the House of Councillors. Unlike the abolition, which has no chance of passing as the House of Councillors would have to vote itself out of existence -- a decidedly unlikely event -- a move toward a direct election of prime ministers could gather up enough support to pass through both Houses of the Diet and then received the people's imprimatur in a national referendum.
Nothing would guarantee gridlock in the Diet or, paradoxically, tyranny than to have a popularly elected prime minister. Floating Japanese voters do not vote for something, they vote against the status quo, often in the absence of logical examination of the content of a person's political program (Japanese undecided voters are, of course, far from unique in possessing this trait). Japan lacks the formal institutional brakes or political and social structures necessary to channel the energies of a leader voted into office for negative reasons into positive, rather than merely populist, directions.