Seiko Noda, 48, is Japan's state minister in charge of science and technology policy, food safety, consumer affairs and space policy. As a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and of Prime Minister Taro Aso's Cabinet, she is entrusted with running 21 different departments. Not one to crack under pressure, Noda is a powerhouse who thrives on responsibility, whether in setting policies for Japan's information- technology industry or combating the graying of Japan. Ever since she entered the political arena in 1987, Noda has been a rebel with many causes whose dedication has earned her both praise and criticism. In 1998, she became the youngest minister of the postwar era when she was appointed minister of posts and telecommunications. In 2005, however, she was ousted from the LDP for opposing then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's postal reforms. Still, Noda didn't budge: Regardless of the consequences, she kept her position on the issues. Today, she is back in the LDP, with more power than ever before, proving that sticking to one's beliefs can payoff.

Power requires great responsibility. Some people want to be in a position of power just to feel good. That was never my goal. How to use power is key: If I am thinking of becoming the prime minister one day, it is only so I can improve my country and the world. Having such a huge responsibility means handling life-and-death matters.

Politicians must be top salespeople. Although Japan is the leader in technology, unfortunately we are not very good at sales. For example, H-IIA is Japan's primary space-launch vehicle, the most reliable rocket on earth — or, I should say, in orbit — with 93 percent of all launches successful, yet we are basically producing it for domestic use. Kaguya, our lunar explorer, is 10 times more accurate than the second-best one in the world, and yet we have not sold one yet. On the commercial market, Japan is lagging way behind the United States and the EU. We must change our attitude and not only make great things, but also sell them well.