Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet reshuffle in September failed to boost his sinking popularity, with recent polls showing approval ratings at record lows. But it did signal a shift in political winds in Tokyo.

Apart from attention-grabbing headlines such as the appointment of Yoko Kamikawa, Japan’s first female foreign minister in almost two decades, one of the most overlooked, but significant changes was the elimination of the post of special adviser to the prime minister for international human rights issues.

Kishida had appointed high-profile Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker and former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani to the position in November 2021 — a move that placed a renewed focus on Japan’s efforts to promote human rights internationally, which critics and advocates argued were significantly lagging behind those of Western countries.