"One inch ahead is darkness."

The Japanese saying used to describe the unexpected twists and turns of politics is just the phrase to illustrate what Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has endured over the past year — and that’s unlikely to change in 2023.

Kishida heads into the new year with diminished political capital. Ever since former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination in July, Kishida has suffered one setback after another: From his ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s ties to the controversial Unification Church, to criticism over Abe’s state funeral, a series of resignations by Cabinet ministers and the impact of inflation, several developments have diminished Kishida's standing.