Meet the people driving Japan’s new Democratic Party


Following are brief profiles of the executives running the Democratic Party, the new opposition party formed Sunday through the merger of the Democratic Party of Japan and Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party):

Katsuya Okada

Okada, 62, served as deputy prime minister and foreign minister when the DPJ was in power between 2009 and 2012.

Since retaking the post of DPJ leader in January last year, Okada has worked hard to rebuild the party, which found itself struggling amid low public support.

Okada was elected DP leader after he successfully concluded tough merger negotiations with Ishin. He is determined to defeat the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in this summer’s election for the House of Councilors, the upper chamber of the Diet.

In 1990, Okada was elected to the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber, for the first time after working for the former Ministry of International Trade and Industry, now the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Okada left the LDP in 1993, aiming to achieve a change of government. He joined other politicians in launching the new DPJ in 1998.

Shiori Yamao

Yamao, 41, a former public prosecutor, has been elected to the Lower House only twice, but was picked for the important post of policy chief after drawing attention by grilling the Abe administration over the issue of the number of children on nursery waiting lists.

During a recent Diet discussion, she was the first to take up a controversial blog post, apparently written by a woman who expressed her extreme discontent with the issue as she is at risk of her losing her job because her application to enroll her child in a nursery was rejected.

She is trusted by Okada and other DP officials and regarded as one of a crop of next-generation leaders.

Yamao is also a mother.

Yukio Edano

A lawyer and powerful debater, Edano, 51, is well-versed in constitutional issues.

Focusing on constitutionalism, Edano led the DPJ’s debates with the Abe administration. As the DP’s secretary-general, Edano will take charge of coordinating with other opposition parties.

He landed his first Diet seat in 1993 when he ran in the Lower House election for the now-defunct Japan New Party.

During his tenure as chief Cabinet secretary, Edano worked hard to deal the massive earthquake and tsunami that wrecked the coastline of the Tohoku region in March 2011 and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster.

He was also appointed to be administrative reform minister, chief of METI, and DPJ secretary-general.