Aso vows to cure economic woes

by Kazuaki Nagata

Self-described “manga” enthusiast Prime Minister Taro Aso returned to Tokyo’s Akihabara district Sunday to deliver a speech concentrating on the economy.

With a possible general election in mind, he argued that his top priority is revitalizing the slumping economy amid the global financial crisis.

“Looking at current Japan, (the atmosphere) seems kind of down somehow. When you come to Akihabara, it doesn’t seem that way. But when you go to rural areas, it does,” Aso told the hundreds of observers, including scores of young people, who gathered in front of JR Akihabara Station.

“Why does it seem depressed? I think the bad economy can be pointed out as the first reason,” he said.

Aso said his Liberal Democratic Party’s first priority is to cure this economic situation; for instance, by seriously considering raising the minimum wage as well as developing measures to increase regular full-time jobs.

He argued that the recent rise of the yen against the dollar is “not always a bad thing,” pointing out that a strong yen, for example, pushes down import prices of crude oil.

Aso said he has not had time to read manga (comic books) as much as he’d like because of his busy schedule as prime minister.

“This is already Sunday this week. I’ve read ‘Sunday’ and ‘Magazine’ of the last week but haven’t got to ‘Jump’ and ‘Morning,’ ” he said, referring to three major manga for boys and another for adult males.

It was his first street speech since becoming LDP president and prime minister last month.

He said he wanted the first one to be in Akihabara. He was welcomed with chanting from some members of the audience.

There are not many politicians who can grab young people’s attention, a 39-year-old Tokyo woman said after Aso’s speech. She declined to give her name.

A man in his 20s also said Aso is good at winning people’s hearts with his speeches.

But the man does not support Aso or the LDP, saying the party has been in power too long. “We need some change,” he said.