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Bun maker unfazed by Fukuda exit

by Hiroko Nakata

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda’s exit from the race to succeed Junichiro Koizumi as Liberal Democratic Party president may have surprised the political arena, but it hasn’t upended plans by a Tokyo souvenir maker to turn a profit on the upcoming election.

Boxes of “manju” steamed buns wrapped in paper lampooning Koizumi are all the rage in Tokyo’s Nagata-cho political hub. The packages also depict four candidates eager to replace him standing at a starting line. They are Fukuda, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki and Foreign Minister Taro Aso.

The sweets, called Post-Junchan Manju, went on sale July 4 at souvenir shops in and around the Diet building, as well as at major tourist spots in Tokyo, including Asakusa, Odaiba, and even the contentious Yasukuni Shrine.

Daito Corp., which dreamed up the political sweets, is selling about 1,000 boxes a week for 800 yen each, it said.

Fukuda announced on July 21 he will not run in the election, giving a further boost to Abe, the youngest candidate and already the front-runner by a wide margin.

But despite Fukuda’s exit, Daito said it has no plans to change the packaging.

“As you can see on the package, the four have not started the race,” said Ichiro Watanabe, a spokesman for the company, which is based in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward.

While the impact of Fukuda’s pullout on sales is unclear, Watanabe said the company will not change the design of the package regardless of who joins or quits the race.

The package shows the four politicians lined up behind a starting line, with Abe almost touching the line and warning, “No false starts, please.”

Koizumi, perched on a chair, says, “Five years passed without my noticing.”

Koizumi will complete his term as LDP president and step down at the end of September. The election for the top party spot, and thus the prime ministership, is scheduled for Sept. 20.

The package is covered with political humor.

Next to Koizumi, a diminutive U.S. President George W. Bush waves his arms, calling out, “Well done, Jun-chan.”