Mizuno: Sanae Takaichi: A leader the world needs

Sanae Takaichi, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan, seeks to become their first female Prime Minister.

Courtesy of The New York Times

Sanae Takaichi, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications of Japan, seeks to become their first female Prime Minister.

Dane Mizuno, Staff Writer

On Sept. 3, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan announced his decision not to seek reelection. Suga’s inept response to COVID-19 made his approval ratings plunge to below 30%. He received criticism for the country’s initial slow vaccine rollout, along with his administration’s decision to still host the Olympic Games, despite about 83% of the population being against the decision. Putting the Liberal Democratic Party’s needs first, his decision to resign will likely send ripple effects to the foreign policy of the major superpowers—most notably, the United States and China. Given Japan has been one of the U.S.’s most powerful and staunch allies in East Asia, this key election could impact the power hierarchy as we know it.

The current Minister for Administrative Reform and Regulatory Reform, Taro Kono, and the former foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, are the two candidate favorites to win. While both are worthy candidates in many respects, they each have their own respective fatal flaws that could bring about the demise of Japan in the long run.

Therefore, if Japan wants to get through these turbulent times relatively unscathed, Sanae Takaichi, former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, has to become the first woman Prime Minister. 

Kono has broad public support as an outspoken politician, and as he comes from a dynasty of politicians, he has the pedigree necessary to succeed. In particular, Kono’s use of social media to gain the support of younger constituents is a direct contrast from the old guard politicians who use more traditional campaigning methods. It is for this kind of adaptability that I have great reverence for Kono. However, all of Kono’s amazing qualities as a politician go down the drain after he called for women to be allowed to become the emperor on the Chrysanthemum Throne. His statement could end the social structure of Japan as we know it; the reason Japan only allows for men to ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne is not to keep women out, but to keep men out. 

There is this fear in Japan that allowing for a women emperor would pave the way for men from the private sector to seek to exploit the Imperial Household in an effort to gain royalty status. This fear is confirmed with the current debacle surrounding Kei Komuro’s marriage with Princess Mako, daughter of the current emperor’s brother. Komuro has the worst credentials possible to have the honor of marrying the princess, as his father and grandparents have all committed suicide while his mother was recently involved in a settlement issue regarding undue payments. I, and the rest of the Japanese public, only have contempt for Komuro since any regular household with this kind of horrific background would turn down Princess Mako out of respect for her and the royal family. After all, the royal family is the symbol of Japan; the responsibilities that come with it transcend the notion of simply marrying for love. Komuro acts like nothing is wrong, even though the Japanese public and media have continually bashed him. His apathetic attitude makes everyone worry for Princess Mako, fearing that Komuro may be using her and the Imperial Family for his personal agenda. If Kono gets elected, I fear that more men like Komuro will start to emerge, and it is for this reason Kono’s statement lacks the understanding of the intricacies of Japan’s social structure. As a result, I fear this could bring about the end of the island country that has revolved around the emperor for centuries.

Kishida, on the other hand, represents a different problem. It is very concerning just how much of a dove he is in regard to his foreign policy with China. Simply saying for Japan to work with other countries in an effort to coordinate a multilateral response to China is putting Japan on the backfoot while instead, Japan should be proactive. Kishida is playing into China’s hands, where essentially, this type of soft-line response is the equivalent of Japan kowtowing to this authoritarian behemoth. Japan is not a tributary state but rather a sovereign state. The U.S. withdrawal in Afghanistan shows that Japan cannot rely on the U.S. for its protection. It begs the question of what would happen to Japan if the U.S. sees no strategic value in having troops in Japan anymore. No longer is revising Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution a simple option; it is a necessity. Exercising this sovereign right to possess armed forces is a means to avert a crisis of national survival. 

Takaichi, a protege of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, promises this revision of Article 9 to free Japan from the shackles of war that till this day constrain Japan from being able to stand up for itself. The same illogical aspect of Japan’s Constitution affects the domestic policy, since the Constitution only allows Japan to request lockdowns rather than impose them in the event of a pandemic like COVID-19. The widespread fear of excessive power that the military used during the war remains entrenched in the minds of Japanese society. Still, even if Takaichi could potentially face backlash from the media for giving the government more power, she is willing to enact this change and do what is right for the people of Japan. Her willingness to combat two of Japan’s most notable problems more than confirms her to have worthy credentials to become Japan’s first woman Prime Minister. 

Under Kishida, Japan will be at the mercy of China, while societal collapse will come if Kono’s willingness to allow for a woman emperor comes to fruition. Both candidates can potentially bring down the U.S.’s most reliable ally.

While the only thing Takaichi lacks compared to the other candidates is experience, Takaichi will be the right and necessary change for Japan to produce massive dividends for the country and the preservation of U.S. hegemony. Japan cannot exist without the U.S., while the U.S. cannot exist without Japan.

Therefore, remember her name. Sanae Takaichi.