Tax advocate seen as homely but stable leader

Kyodo

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda never hesitates to describe himself as a rather boring, homespun man, and that did not change Monday as he prepared to become prime minister.

“There is nothing that can be done even if a weatherfish tries to pretend to be a goldfish,” Noda told a room packed with Diet members from the Democratic Party of Japan, who later elected him as the ruling party’s new president. “Because of my looks, the support rate for us won’t rise,” he joked.

But comparing himself to a freshwater fish abundant in Japan’s rice paddies and marshlands says a lot about the nature, background, political beliefs and leadership style of the man newly chosen to lead the country at this crucial moment.

Born in 1957 to parents who both grew up in farming households, Noda initially aimed to become a journalist. But the shy bookworm would soon learn the discipline needed to be a politician from novels that featured lower-class samurai, figures of integrity and strong will, he said.

After studying political science at Waseda University in Tokyo, Noda joined the first batch of students to study at the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, a school for political hopefuls established in 1980 by the late founder of Panasonic Corp., Konosuke Matsushita.

“As homespun as weatherfish, I will work for the public,” Noda said.