I’d do it, but I have tuba practice on Wednesdays.

A lot of nations’ leaders are divisive figures and simply bringing up their names can instantly trigger an argument between people with conflicting ideologies. When mentioning Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, however, you might be hard-pressed to find anyone either passionately supporting or opposing him. He’s just kind of…there.

That’s not to say he hasn’t experienced any controversy at all. There was that time he posted a picture of his wife in an apron that made people feel a little weird. For the most part, though, he hasn’t seemed to have done much to either win over or turn off people to a large degree.

▼ There was also a time when he posted a picture of his wife’s okonomiyaki and a colleague landed in hot water for his reaction, so maybe Kishida should just avoiding talking about his wife on social media.

Illustrating the Japanese public’s lukewarm feeling about the current prime minister, Fuji News Network held a survey of over 1,000 adults to gauge Kishida’s approval rating as of late. The good news is that his approval rating, at 40.6 percent, has floated above the 40-percent line for the first time since last October. Disapproval has also taken a dip from 58.1 to 52.6 percent.

Granted, approval ratings can vary widely from source to source, but Kishida’s 40.6 is quite good compared to other world leaders. Still, it’s much lower than last May when it stood at about 69 percent according to FNN. His approval then plummeted from 62 to 42 percent between last July and September in the aftermath of the Shinzo Abe assassination, during which ties between the Liberal Democratic Party, of which Abe and Kishida are members, and the Unification Church came to light (Abe’s killer reportedly harbored resentment against the Unification Church regarding the sizable donations his mother had been pressured to make to the organization). Kishida’s approval has been lingering ever since.

To find out why this sudden uptick in Kishida’s approval might be occurring, FNN also asked respondents why they supported the prime minister. By a large margin, the most common response was “Because there are no other good people,” said by 45.2 percent of those who approved of him. The second-place response at 24.8 percent was “Bcause the cabinet is centered on the Liberal Democratic Party.” So, in other words, a solid 70 percent of Kishida supporters in the survey support him just because he’s the guy who’s already there.

I suppose one could take a glass-half-full look at those stats and say that it’s because Kishida is so good that no one else even compares. However, going further down the reasons for support, only 3.6 percent of his own supporters do so because they think his policies are good and a further 8.8 percent do so because they expect him to get things done.

That’s not the most flattering vote of confidence, and yet many readers of the news still expressed skepticism in comments that the results of the survey were skewed in Kishida’s favor.

“40.6 percent…really?”
“Approval ratings are easily faked.”
“It’s almost the same as [a] Yomiuri [newspaper] who said about 41 percent.”
“I read the other day that it was around 25 percent.”

“What did he do since the last poll? Did he do anything?”
“So basically 60 percent of respondents said all the opposition parties are crap.”

Validity of the poll aside, the issue of there being “no other good people” is glaringly obvious in Japan. In other countries, this kind of charisma vacuum in politics might be a prime opportunity for someone to jump in and win over the nation, but in Japan it’s trickier to rise above the pack and become a political darling without being overly scrutinized and immediately viewed with mistrust.

▼ Some politicians, like Yusuke Kawai in the video below, have realized this and really leaned into it.

The most prominent political figure at the moment is arguably Takashi Tachibana in that no one has galvanized and mobilized voters from the grassroots quite like he has. It’s just unfortunate that he has all the integrity and stoicism of a pro-wrestler’s manager. A more moderate example of a prominent and energizing politician would be Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, even though by most countries’ standards she would likely seem very reserved in her rhetoric.

Maybe someone will eventually tap into the zeitgeist just the right way and wow the population, but for now It seems that many people in Japan aren’t really looking for a moral leader to rally the people. Just someone who keeps the trains running on time and doesn’t completely wreck the place will suffice, and in this climate maybe being the guy who’s there because no one else is good is all one can aim for.

Source: FNN Online Prime, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/首相官邸ホームページ
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