Seiko Noda, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker in the House of Representatives, wrote in her elementary school composition class that her dream was to become a politician -- and ultimately prime minister.

Born into a political family, Noda embarked on that career at age 26 as a member of the Gifu Prefectural Assembly, after working at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo for four years.

In 1993, she was elected to the Lower House from the Gifu No. 1 district at age 32. Five years later, she became posts and telecommunications minister, becoming the youngest postwar Cabinet member.