Thursday, September 17, 2009

Japan's New PM profile

New Japan PM a political heir out to rebuild

TOKYO: Japan’s new center-left Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is a soft-spoken and wealthy political scion with an academic bent who likes to chant meditative mantras to clear his mind.

A Stanford-trained engineering scholar, he is known for sometimes lofty and unconventional ideas that have earned the 62-year-old the nickname “The Alien,” also a playful stab at his bulging eyes and bouffant hair.

Hatoyama, the heir to a political dynasty often dubbed Japan’s Kennedys, followed his father and grandfather, a former conservative premier, into politics, taking an electoral seat on northern Hokkaido island in 1986.

His other grandfather founded Bridgestone, the world’s largest tiremaker, and Hatoyama remains one of Japan’s wealthiest politicians.

Friends of the new leader—who rarely betrays emotions and kept a sombre face even after his party’s stunning August 30 election win—describe him as more the scholarly type than a natural politician.

“If Japanese politicians are like hard liquor, Mr. Hatoyama is very plain, like water . . . [he] is cool but doesn’t offend people,” said a fellow Stanford alumnus, statistics professor Nozomu Matsubara of Seigakuin University.

Unexpected decision

Another fellow academic said he was surprised when he learned years ago that Hatoyama had entered the rough and tumble of national politics.

“He’s got money, he’s smart, and he didn’t have to choose the tough road,” Doshisha University cultural studies professor Masakatsu Murakami told Agence France-Presse.
Hatoyama himself has expressed a distaste for the rougher side of politics.

“In this world there are some people who try to climb the ladder by any means except murder, but I never want to have such naked ambition,” Hatoyama was quoted as saying in a 2002 biography.

Nonetheless, Hatoyama has become somewhat of a political revolutionary, breaking the decades-long grip on power of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) with a pledge to build a “fraternal society.”

New vision

In a recent, wide-ranging essay, Hatoyama cited his own grandfather and an early 20th Austrian political thinker to promote his vision of a kinder, gentler society, while criticizing the excesses of “US-led globalism.”

He said this goal was the reason he left the LDP and co-founded the DPJ more than a decade ago. He rose to the top post in 1999 but slipped down the party ranks, only to take the leadership again in May when his predecessor was engulfed in a fund-raising scandal.

Hatoyama himself came under fire in June for accounting irregularities at his fund-raising body, when it emerged that 21 million yen ($230,000) had been wrongly recorded since 2005.

Life before politics

Before entering politics, Hatoyama in the 1970s received a Ph.D. in engineering in a field called operations research, which employs applied mathematics to solve complex problems, at Stanford University.

While in California, he married former actress Miyuki, now a lifestyle guru and inspirational speaker. The couple has one son, an engineering scholar now living in Moscow.

His extroverted wife has made headlines by saying her soul once traveled to Venus in a UFO, and that she met Tom Cruise in a previous life.

But Hatoyama, who has called Miyuki, 66, his “energy-refueling base,” has defended her ideas and himself betrayed a spiritual side.

He has said he likes to meditate and is quoted as saying: “I chant mantras without thinking anything. My mind goes blank while chanting meaningless words.”

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