Influential Liberal Democratic Party Diet member Wataru Takeshita made domestic headlines on July 8 when he formally announced that he would be retiring from politics. While Takeshita’s impending departure is unsurprising given his known esophageal cancer, it still stirred media outlets and prompted an emergency meeting of his LDP faction.

For outside observers, there are two questions that likely come to mind in response to Takeshita's announcement: Who is he and why does his departure really matter?

There are some schools of thought that prefer to view Japanese politics as party-centric and monolithic. In other words, the LDP is the LDP and who is inside of it is not as important as the policies and decisions that emanate from the party writ large.