In late April at an upscale hotel in Tokyo, more than 100 people thronged to have their photo taken with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso.

The fundraising party, organized by Ikokai, Aso's faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, attracted more than 2,500 people, twice more than last year, when the LDP was the largest opposition force.

"We only had 12 members in my faction last year, but now it has almost tripled," Aso, who doubles as finance minister, said in a speech at the event. "I was also very surprised that we have this many guests this year. I apologize if there is not enough food for everybody."