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BIG IN JAPAN
Junichiro Koizumi


Junichiro KoizumiThe most charismatic and outspoken Prime Minister in years-and there have been nine men at the top in the last decade-Junichiro Koizumi is injecting new life into the previously yawn-inducing gray world of Japanese politics. For starters, Koizumi is currently single and makes no bones about going on official engagements without a female companion, something previously frowned upon in the conservative world of the Diet. A divorcée with two sons, Koizumi' the first post-war PM to go it solo. Then there's his rather un-ministerial passion for karaoke and his favorite song, "Forever Love," by X-Japan. An easily distinguishable hairstyle seems to be the pre-requisite for being PM these days-there was Hashimoto's pompadour, Obuchi's comb-over, and now Koizumi is cutting a dash with his trademark ram's horn hair, for which he pays a princely JY8000 per perm. And to top it all, Koizumi even has opinions and isn't afraid to speak his mind in public-a brave move considering the gaffes that led to predecessor Mori's downfall.

An economics graduate of the prestigious Keio University, Koizumi's slight build (169cm, 60kg) belies his political stature. Unlike his American counterpart, he has plenty of political experience, having already served in four cabinets as Parliamentary Finance Vice Minister, Post and Telecommunications Minister, and Health, Labor and Welfare Minister. He was also Vice Secretary General of his party, the LDP, and began his career back in 1970 as secretary to his mentor, Takeo Fukuda. Two years later, Koizumi made his debut in the House of Representatives and went on to win ten subsequent elections to the House. A third-generation career politician - his father was Minister of Defense and his grandfather was Vice Speaker in the House of Representatives and Minister of Posts and Telecommunications - Jun-chan, a native of Yokosuka, is a parliamentarian with pedigree.

By promoting more women and younger politicians to the cabinet, Koizumi has already managed to garner further public support, not least by appointing outspoken Makiko Tanaka to the Foreign Ministry. "I want to appoint those who are zealous about reform," he was recently quoted as saying, and it seems as if the public are ready to see some changes.

Having witnessed from the inside how internal factions have torn apart the LDP, Koizumi's grand aim is to abolish the political cliques and eliminate the sleaze and under-the-table dealings that have driven the parliamentary system. Interesting considering that he was himself the head of one such faction and that ultimately his future will depend on party elders' continuing support. His previous runs for the PM's job back in 1995 and 1998 failed precisely because he lacked the backing of the party faithful. This year, the time was right for Koizumi, and he gained 287 votes out of a possible 478 to snatch the honors from his old boss, Ryuichi Hashimoto, who was eyeing the premiership for a second time.

Whether Jun-chan will weather the turbulent world of J-politics remains to be seen, but if he's anything like his idol, Winston Churchill, he may ride the current swell of popularity well into the future.

Matt Wilce

BIG IN JAPAN:
381: Tokyo Tower
Japan's own Eiffel Tower
380: Ken Hirai
Current king of Japanese R&B
379: Ayumi Hamasaki
Powerhouse of pop
378: Makiko Tanaka
New Japanese Foreign Minister
377: Junichiro Koizumi
Japan's most charismatic prime Minister in years
376: Hiromi Go
The original boy idol
375: Junichiro Tanizaki
Nobel Prize winning author
374: Tomoya Nagase
Lead singer with pop group Tokio
373: hitomi
Sultry songstress
372: Fumiya Fujii
'80s boy band member
371: Yoshio Kodama
Powerful, postwar yakuza Godfather
370: Wakanohana
Controversial big man of sumo
369: Hanae Mori
Queen of fashion in Japan
368: O-Ko
A whiff of Japanese incense
367: Yuko Arimori
The former marathon queen
366: Kappa
A water-imp's fart
365: Nagurareya
Tokyo's own Fight Club
364: Tengu
Mischievous swordsman
363: Hideki Saijo
Pop legend in the making
362: Hina dolls
Beautiful dolls of the Hina festival
361: Mitsugoro Bando X
Kabuki actor Yasosuke Bando
360: Chonmage
Fancy men's topnot
358: Setsubun
Bean-throwing Ceremony Day
357: Terao
The Tom Jones of Sumo
356: Masao Sen
Poor man-rich man-poor man
354: Shingo Katori
Saucy SMAP boy
352/3: Shichifukujin
Six Gods and a Goddess
351: Tadanobu Asano

Stylish, off-beat actor
350: Umeboshi
Sour pickled plums

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