Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Marriage Most Peculiar

One of the fixtures of life under an Abe Administration is the appearance, off to the side or in the corner, of Seko Hiroshige (Link). The fourth termer House of Councillors out of Wakayama is one of the prime minister's most trusted advisors and constant companions. On official trips when the PM's wife Akie does not accompany the PM, Seko seems the go-to surrogate. It was Seko who stood and sat beside the PM on his grueling globe-spanning trip from St. Petersburg to Buenos Aires and back again this past weekend -- a trip which began with the insane scene of the PM trotting up the stairs to his official plane, turning and giving a hearty wave for the media gaggle, turning back to step into the plane door, followed by Seko, in imitation of the PM, turning to the media and giving his own solo wave of departure at the top of the stairs.

Seko-sensei, control yourself. You are not one of that plane's passengers. You are the baggage.

The incongruity of Seko, a former communications and public relations executive at NTT who seems to lack even a smidgen of sense when it comes to image creation, and the efforts the PM has made to give Seko appointments to keep him close by (Seko is currently a Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary) has led me to uncharitably consider on more than one occasion the possibility that the relationship between the two was more than professional.

Well, those thoughts, while not shelved, must compete for my attention this morning with the reports that the divorced Seko quietly filed a marriage certificate on September 2. What has the political sphere abuzz is that his spouse is Hayashi Kumiko (Link), a second term Democratic Party of Japan member of the House of Councillors.

That Seko, who is no great shakes in the appearance department, should be cohabiting with and is now the spouse of a former BBC newsreader ten years his junior should give hope to all the unwed of the planet.

More significantly, inter-party relationships and marriages are extremely rare in Japanese politics -- one can count their postwar numbers on the fingers of one hand. Despite living in physical proximity, the ideological divides and the parliamentary tactics of the parties would make an extra-party romantic relationship extremely tough. The Seko\Hayashi marriage seems to the first one ever between a member of the ruling party and a member of the main opposition party.

Seko, who most of the time has a half-cocked opinion on everything, is reticent to talk about his remarriage (it is a second marriage for Hayashi as well). He has asserted to confidants that he and Hayashi do not discuss politics at home (Link - J) -- a statement that burnishes his reputation of having only a weak grasp of the remotely plausible.

The question this morning is whether the PM best bud's secret tieing of the knot with a member of the opposition changes the relationship of trust and cooperation between the two men -- or whether in the new on-sunny-side-of-the-street-all-the-news-is-wonderful Abe II Cabinet (and of late, all the news for the administration has indeed been wonderful), everything is all to the good.

Later - For those wondering about Seko's position in the political spectrum, whether he is a moderate inside the Abe administration, the answer would be "not on your life." Class him rather as a pugnacious militant. He was a co-signer, along with Abe, of the Sakurai Yoshiko-authored advertisement in The New Jersey Star-Ledger of November 4, 2012 (yes, less than a year ago) denouncing the teensy-tiny comfort women monument on public land in Palisades Park, New Jersey. (Link)

Speaking of Sakurai, she makes a brief appearance speaking English (she is a graduate of the University of Hawaii in Manoa) in this just-released video report on Japan's decidedly minor (as ever) adjustments to its military posture and capabilities. (Link)

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