Tokyo Notes

Japan’s Poorest PM

Gov’t data has revealed Japan’s current prime minister is the ‘poorest’ leader in decades.

When Naoto Kan took over as prime minister in May, one of his selling points was his grassroots, down-to-earth background. In contrast to Yukio Hatoyama, he was not a political blueblood, had never been a member of the Liberal Democratic Party and had no family fortune to underwrite his political career.

Government data released just before the holiday weekend here put figures on just how much of a gulf in wealth exists between the two. Kan’s disclosed family assets were reported to be 22.4 million yen when he became prime minister compared with the 1.44 billion yen declared by Hatoyama when he took office last September. While Kan can hardly be described as poor financially, on this measure at least, he is Japan’s ‘poorest’ prime minister since cabinet member family asset disclosure began in 1989. By contrast, Hatoyama, with his family connection to Bridgestone, was Japan’s richest premier, with assets 64 times greater in value than his successor.

Still, the figures don’t even tell the whole story since share holdings have not been included in the figures since 2001 and this would make the difference between the two even greater.

Of recent LDP prime ministers, Taro Aso had the largest disclosed family assets at 455 million yen.