Ozawa bids to win over young on Aso’s ‘otaku’ turf

by Kazuaki Nagata

On the last day of 2008, Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa showed up at an event held in Tokyo’s Akihabara district — home to Prime Minister Taro Aso’s “otaku” geeks fan base — apparently to steal some of Aso’s thunder.

Ozawa appeared on a live Internet talk show that 10,000 people could simultaneously watch on the Nico Nico Douga Web site, run by Niwango Inc.

The move came as Ozawa’s support rate in favor of him becoming the next prime minister is on the rise, surpassing that of Aso. According to a recent poll by the daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 17 percent chose Ozawa as best-suited to be the prime minister; only 7 percent picked Aso.

One of the topics he touched on during the show was Japan’s employment system and the increasing number of temp workers who are being axed amid the global financial turmoil.

“There is a good and a bad side” to lifetime employment, but it was a social safety net, Ozawa said of the now-threatened one-employer, full-time worker system.

When asked what he thinks of the revised business strategy of firms using temp workers to cut costs and thus maintain profits, Ozawa said the excessive easing of employment regulations should be reconsidered.

Although Ozawa is often described as a behind-the-scenes figure, he has recently been saying he would be willing to assume the prime ministership if the DPJ wins a majority in the next Lower House election. But despite his claims, some still doubt he would accept the position.

Ozawa mentioned on the show the vehicular and stabbing rampage in the area in June that claimed seven lives. The accused perpetrator is described as a disaffected temp worker. “It was an incident that symbolized the person’s psychological state and social situation. I decided to come to Akihabara with that incident in mind,” Ozawa said.