Anyone wondering why Japan is skirting yet another recession should spend an hour with lawmaker Seiko Noda.

In a nation that chronically underappreciates the talents of women (Japan trails Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh in terms of the number of females in politics), Noda is a trailblazer. In 1989, at 37, she became Japan's youngest post-war Cabinet member. Her skill in navigating around the jeers and contempt of male colleagues caught the attention of then-Japanese leader Keizo Obuchi, who famously dubbed Noda "the future candidate for female prime minister."

Noda took that notion out for a test-ride. While ultimately she was unable to challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the latest party election, she had sought support behind the scenes for such a run. Her rallying cry: Abe's government has ignored economic reforms and demographic challenges to the detriment of Japan's global status. Her message is vital.