OSAKA – After an absence of more than eight years, Toru Hashimoto, former Osaka mayor, governor and founder of the Ishin movement, returns to television as a regular commentator next month in what is expected to be the start of a regular series beginning in April.
Despite Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui’s announcement last week that the former mayor will stay out of politics for the time being, Hashimoto is at least plotting a return to the public eye. To this end, he’ll co-host a variety program on TV Asahi, a three-hour pilot, on the evening of March 23 with freelance announcer Shinichi Hatori that will serve as an introduction to a regular program scheduled to start in April.
Details of the April program have yet to be decided, TV Asahi said, but the tentative schedule has it airing Monday evenings at 11:15 p.m.
The decision marks another effort by Hashimoto over the past few months to return to the public view. There, he hopes to spread his economic ideas for local and national reform, which can best be described as a mixture of Reagan-Thatcherite free-market fundamentalism, anti-unionism, and privatization schemes but with more of an emphasis on social welfare programs for those judged truly needy.
The new program is expected to offer Hashimoto a platform on which to expound at length on topical political issues. These are likely to range from constitutional revision — which he favors in principle but differs with the LDP on the details — to Japan’s international relations.
Of course, Hashimoto is also expected to speak at length on his experience as an Osaka politician.
The new television show is the latest tactic in a larger media strategy designed to keep Hashimoto visible now that he’s officially out of power.
Since last month, he has offered a subscription-only Internet political juku (cram school). For ¥18,000 a month, member viewers can tune in and listen to Hashimoto and those who share his political and economic philosophy.
A former television commentator, Hashimoto was one of Japan’s first local and national politicians to truly embrace social media as a tool for criticism. During his tenure as governor and mayor, he prioritized the use of Twitter and local television, which relied on him for high ratings, over traditional print media to rally support for his policies.
He is clearly betting that, in 2016, a return of Toru Hashimoto via both mediums will find not only enthusiastic viewing audiences but also votes come election time.