Public looks to Noda to provide stability

by Setsuko Kamiya

Staff Writers

People interviewed Tuesday on the streets of Tokyo voiced hope that new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will quickly find ways to rebuild the tsunami-ravaged Tohoku region but were frustrated by the frequent changes in leaders and called for a stable government.

They also acknowledged Noda’s stance that a tax hike is necessary.

Noda beat trade minister Banri Kaieda in Monday’s runoff for the Democratic Party of Japan’s presidency and became the new prime minister Tuesday.

Because DPJ kingpin Ichiro Ozawa backed Kaieda, the battle was viewed as pitting Ozawa’s foes against his allies within the ruling party.

“It would not have mattered who had won. If Kaieda had won, Ozawa’s influence would probably have made a difference, but the scale of my disappointment in politics dwarfs the difference,” Kaoru Osanai, 45, a freelance journalist on social welfare, said near JR Shinagawa Station.

Setsuko Ishigami, a 68-year-old retiree who lives in Kanagawa Prefecture, was happy Noda defeated Kaieda because she wants Noda to end Ozawa’s influence.

“Ozawa is the one who destroys the DPJ’s unity. . . . I’m worried about Ozawa’s next move. He may break up the party,” she said near Shibuya Station.

A 45-year-old male office worker wants the Liberal Democratic Party to regain the government helm because he was dissatisfied with the DPJ’s presidential candidates.

“The LDP has experience in long-term political leadership and is stable. If it doesn’t matter who the prime minister is, the LDP is better,” the man, who declined to be named, said in Shinagawa.

All of the people interviewed by The Japan Times want Noda to quickly push legislation to reconstruct the Tohoku region and boost the national economy.

“Reconstruction of the Tohoku region should be the priority of the government. . . . It’s heart-wrenching to hear about disaster victims,” Hidenori Abe, a 52-year-old long-time supporter of the LDP, said in Shibuya.

“I really do wish Noda will make efforts to address all the rubble and debris remaining in Tohoku. I want the government to clean the area as soon as possible,” Abe said.

Welfare journalist Osanai, who is from Aomori Prefecture and has many friends and relatives in tsunami-hit Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, said: “I’m very unhappy with the slow reconstruction effort. Pupils can’t even have a proper lunch yet.”

With the pressing need to rebuild Tohoku and reduce the record government debt, Noda’s advocacy of a tax increase may have given him an edge.

“A tax increase is necessary. If you think carefully, you have to agree,” Osanai said. “I like Noda for explicitly saying it.”

A 26-year-old chef supports Osanai’s stance.

“The government has too much debt,” the man said in Shinagawa, declining to be named. “I want Noda to show us a way to reduce the debt so we don’t shoulder the burden by ourselves.”

Other people said Noda has to cut government spending by reducing the number of public servants before raising taxes.

Near Tokyo Station, a 33-year-old researcher who had just returned from Chicago expressed dismay that the prime ministership seems like a yearly revolving door, hurting Japan’s credibility in the international arena.

“Japanese people won respect for demonstrating resilience and patience after the earthquake, but it won’t look good if the person at the top keeps changing all the time,” she said.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said she expects Noda to be clear in his vision and explain that to the public.

“Words are very important. I hope he thinks hard before he speaks and offers the public concrete ideas and sticks with them,” she said.

Photographer Masao Ikemura, 62, said Naoto Kan should not have had to step down as prime minister.

“Originally, Kan was criticized for the way he handled the nuclear plant accident and quake and tsunami. Whoever was the prime minister would have handled things the same way,” he said in Shinagawa.