• Kyodo, Staff Report


Former internal affairs minister Seiko Noda, the first female chair of the Lower House Budget Committee, is making headlines for her unconventional style in steering deliberations — calling lawmakers by their names with the honorific suffix san, rather than kun, which is usually used for men.

In Budget Committee deliberations, it has been customary for the chair to use “kun” for lawmakers, regardless of their gender. But when Noda, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, debuted as the committee chair Thursday, she didn’t adhere to that custom, instead addressing all lawmakers with the “san” suffix.

“Society normally uses ‘san’ for both men and women. I didn’t really think about it,” Noda told reporters after her first session as the chair on Thursday, adding that it seemed “natural” to address them as such.

The Budget Committee deliberates on a number of important issues at the Diet, and committee meetings are often televised live. In steering deliberations, Noda said she was trying to make the sessions easy to understand for the public.

At one point during deliberations, she urged Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita to “make it short and simple, please” as he delivered a series of long answers about a bill to amend the immigration control law.

Noda, however, is not the first chair to use “san.”

In 1993, Takako Doi, who became the first female speaker of the Lower House, also made news when she addressed lawmakers with the suffix.

Noda, who formerly served as female empowerment minister, has been known for trying to crack the glass ceiling in Japan’s still male-dominated political arena.

She has twice fallen short in a quest to become the country’s first female prime minister, failing both times to get enough intraparty support to even run in the LDP presidential election to challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Still, she has made no secret that her quest for the top post remains a primary goal.

Upon announcing in August that she was ending her LDP presidential bid, she noted that there was still plenty of work for her to do within the party.

“If the LDP backs a policy of empowering women or making them ‘shine,’ I think we have to prove that ourselves first,” Noda said at the time.

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