Over the decades he's been dubbed the "shadow shogun," "the destroyer" and "the backroom fixer" for his powerful influence in the political arena and penchant for shaking up governments with his "strong hand."

And despite signs that his clout may be diminishing since being indicted earlier this year over a political funds scandal, Ichiro Ozawa remains a critical figure in politics, a shadowy string-puller whose presence can't be ignored, especially in times of political turmoil.

"Ozawa has become, over the years, an icon as an antimainstream politician," said Tomoaki Iwai, a political science professor at Nihon University.