The question of whether the offspring of departing politicians should be allowed to run for their parents’ Diet seats is gaining attention in the runup to the general election that must be held by fall.
The Democratic Party of Japan plans to prohibit candidates from seeking the Diet seats of their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.
Members of Prime Minister Taro Aso’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party are opposed to placing restrictions on candidates for the next election of the House of Representatives, whose members’ four-year terms end in September.
Popular mimic Edoya Koneko, who imitates the calls of birds and animals on stage, said, “We only inherit ‘kanban’ (a sign or reputation) called ‘myoseki’ (family stage name).”
The 59-year-old Koneko (“kitten”) is due to assume his late father’s stage title in October to become the fourth Edoya Nekohachi.
“Our patrons do not take us seriously if we don’t have any talent,” he said, adding that Diet members who succeed their fathers, grandfathers or uncles inherit “jiban” (the constituency) and “kaban” (“bag” — a euphemism for money) in addition to kanban.
If they have an easier time because they are able to inherit the political legacies of their relatives, Koneko said, he hopes they will improve themselves.
However, he expressed concern that “hereditary” parliamentary members who take over electoral districts and supporters might be constantly compared with their predecessors.
Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who has announced he will retire at the end of his current term, has nominated his second son, Shinjiro, as his successor.
Aso and newly elected DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama share similar family backgrounds with their grandfathers, Shigeru Yoshida and Ichiro Hatoyama, having served as postwar prime ministers.
The LDP has been trying to establish a restriction on the candidacy of lawmakers’ kin after the DPJ decided in April not to endorse Diet members’ relatives as candidates for their electoral districts.
Koneko recalled that when he first underwent training under his father, he was told not to try to ride into the entertainment world on his father’s coattails.
Noh comedian Ippei Shigeyama, 30, received training in noh comic interludes from his great-grandfather, grandfather and father, starting from the age of 3.
“The biggest advantage of having been born into a noh comic family was that I was able to receive training at a young age,” he said, adding he intends to train his son, who was born in January, early in his life.
He expressed doubt about whether politics will improve by curtailing hereditary candidacies.
Under the existing law, Diet members acceding to their parents’ legacies can inherit political fund organizations without paying taxes.
Shinji Aono, 65, the fifth-generation owner of the confectioner Aono, founded in 1856, said he is envious of such politicians.
He said he has been parceling out the family fortune in Tokyo to his oldest son, now a member of the board, every year since he was young and paying a gift tax to keep his business intact.
“My biggest worry is how to pass on my duties to the next generation,” he said. “Diet members are probably spoiled.”
Akio Toyoda, vice president of Toyota Motor Corp., assumed the post of president but the public relations department said, “We have not directly commented on hereditary succession.”
The department said Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho had summed up the matter when in January he said “Vice President Toyoda is the right person” to head the giant automaker.
“I will do my best for what I believe,” Toyoda said at the time.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.