Hirofumi Hirano, a close aide to Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama and the likely chief Cabinet secretary in the incoming DPJ administration, is known as a man of few words who would rather work behind-the-scenes than in the spotlight.
A native of Katsuragi, Wakayama Prefecture, and a graduate of Chuo University, Hirano, 60, worked for Osaka-based Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., now known as Panasonic Corp., from 1971 to 1983, when he became the chief secretary to Masao Nakamura, a Lower House lawmaker of the then Japan Socialist Party.
Backed by the Matsushita Electric union, Hirano was elected to the Lower House for the first time in 1996 as an independent, taking over Nakamura’s electoral turf.
After joining the DPJ in 1998, he worked as the party’s deputy secretary general, vice chairman of its Diet affairs committee and as acting secretary general backing up Hatoyama when Ichiro Ozawa was DPJ president.
When Hatoyama took over the DPJ helm in May after Ozawa resigned amid an illicit political donations scandal, Hirano was appointed chairman of the executive board, remaining in close proximity to the new leader.
Moriya Takashi, a representative of Hirano’s main support group in Wakayama, called Hirano an unpretentious politician who sang songs like “Old-Fashioned Man” (“Jidai Okure”) — a piece written by Eigo Kawashima that praises the old-school virtues of modesty and humility — at karaoke joints.
“I guess I’ll be a bit surprised if he assumes office,” Takashi told The Japan Times over the phone Friday.
“He’s not the flamboyant type.”
Considered a die-hard Hatoyama loyalist and one of his “three sidekicks” along with Sakihito Ozawa and Yorihisa Matsuno, Hirano is said to be well-versed on dealings within the DPJ.
During the May election to decide Ozawa’s successor, Hirano was said to have worked behind-the-scenes to secure votes for Hatoyama, who beat then-acting President Katsuya Okada by 124 votes to 95.
Hirano is currently an adviser to Japanese Electrical Electronic and Information Union, a national federation of labor unions, including that of Panasonic Corp.