In the month since becoming prime minister on Sept. 25, Yasuo Fukuda seems to have changed his demeanor as well as his attitude toward the media and the opposition.
While the 71-year-old Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker was known for his sarcastic and harsh comments to reporters, he seems to have restrained himself and is extremely modest when facing the opposition parties in the divided Diet.
Asked Wednesday to reflect on his first month in office, Fukuda pointed to a painting of leaves turning red in the Prime Minister's Official Residence's hall and said: "I have this color in my heart," to indicate he was full of passion for his work. "All I can do is do my best."
Soon after he took office last month, he said with a big smile: "I'm happy to talk with young people like you all," without forgetting to add, "so far."
"Before taking office, Prime Minister Fukuda may have received a piece of advice that he should have good relations with the media," a government official who works closely with him said, adding that Fukuda's predecessor, Shinzo Abe, had suffered soured relations with the media.
Abe, who appeared nervous in front of TV cameras throughout his one-year stint, one day started to answer questions with his eyes fixed on a camera without a glance at the reporters questioning him. Asked why he didn't look at them, he replied: "I don't talk to you, but to the public."
Hit by a string of political fund scandals and gaffes by Cabinet members, Abe's support rating tumbled, and the LDP-New Komeito ruling coalition suffered a huge defeat in the July House of Councilors election, giving the opposition camp a majority in the chamber.
In contrast, Fukuda adopted a modest tone in the Diet, aware he was facing tough battles over the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean and a scandal involving a former top bureaucrat at the Defense Ministry.
In his first Diet speech on Oct. 1, Fukuda stressed the importance of talking sincerely with the opposition camp on major issues.
Earlier this month, when asked if the opposition was being overly aggressive blocking efforts to extend the MSDF's refueling mission, Fukuda said: "What we can do is explain the significance of the bill and make efforts to gain their – .”