Loved by his supporters for his fiery rhetoric — which often involves bashing the Tokyo-centric status quo, overpaid local bureaucrats, utility executives, teachers’ unions or, indeed, anybody who disagrees with him — Hashimoto’s critics charge that he’s a dangerous rightwing demagogue seeking a fascist dictatorship, and a political amateur who will destroy the country.

Listening to his various comments, Japan’s mainstream media, and some Tokyo-based foreign pundits, attempt to affix some generic political label to Hashimoto. Or, they dismiss his rise and that of his Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) as a joke, pointing to media polls showing that he enjoys very little support, especially in the Tokyo area.

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