Last week, Japanese media reported that former Foreign Minister and prime minister-hopeful Fumio Kishida intends to merge his Liberal Democratic Party faction with another LDP group that used to be led by former party chief Sadakazu Tanigaki. But what does this mean? Why does it matter? If it is so important, why don't foreign news outlets report on these political moves?

Many foreign observers are either unaware of Japan's factional politics or do not believe that they hold the same importance that they did 50 years ago. However, a merger of Kishida's faction and Tanigaki group offers another example of the continued relevance of these groups within the governing party. The last seven years of evidence identifies a resurgence of factional politics under the current administration. This is meaningful when assessing the Japanese political landscape, especially with regard to Cabinet postings and the line of succession following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

It is not unusual for a political party to have cliques, blocs or other similar groups — it is just that in the LDP, those are institutionalized with formal membership and structure. The factions are as old as the party itself, starting with the five original groups that carried over from the former Liberal and Democratic parties. Every one of those five still exist in some form today, while others have come and gone.