Here’s this week’s Media Mix about Daigo Naito, the presumptive heir to the Takeshita political dynasty of Shimane Prefecture. As is apparent to anyone who follows Japanese politics even cursorily no one begrudges an aspiring office holder who is already famous for other reasons, including being a show business celebrity. Policies and ideological stances count for little even when it comes to election campaigns. Everything is built on name-recognition. Once you get elected you’re going to have to stick to the party line anyway, so why waste time and oxygen on building a platform?
But some names mean more than others. As mentioned in the column, Daigo appeared on a variety show last month with two other show biz scions, Yoshizumi Ishihara and Kazushige Nagashima. Ishihara is, of course the second son of Shintaro Ishihara, former governor of Tokyo and one of the loudest and most shameless representatives of the Japanese right wing. Yoshizumi has never expressed any interest in entering politics. He’s mainly known as a TV weatherman, though his name gives him plenty of opportunity to show his face on other TV shows. Shintaro, after all, was a golden boy himself as a young man, writing best-selling novels and helming projects for his brother, the movie star Yujiro Ishihara. They were from an already wealthy family that had little to do with politics directly. Shintaro became a politician because it was so easy for him to do so, but he eventually broke with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party when he ran as an independent for Tokyo governor. Presumably, the LDP wasn’t as far to the right as Ishihara would have liked. In terms of political dynasties, his eldest son, Nobuteru, and third son, Hirotaka, are national lawmakers with the LDP, and while Nobuteru has been a cabinet member for several administrations, his chances to gain the premiership seem shaky, which just goes to show pedigree is important but it has to be of a certain kind. Daigo may not be as ambitious politically, but the Takeshita political dynasty has roots that go deep, and the machine that runs it in Shimane is well-oiled. Shintaro Ishihara may have been one of the most famous politicians in Japan, but his loose cannon personality makes him something of a one-off. Nobuteru has already run for the presidency of the LDP once and did poorly. Even his candidacy for the Tokyo governorship, his dad’s old job, was an abject failure. Celebrityhood and family connections are extremely important for getting elected, but you need more to get to the top. Just ask Shinjiro Koizumi.