Business, Finance & Economics

Japan's new prime minister calls himself a marine bottom-feeder

JAPAN'S new prime minister Yoshihiko Noda has likened himself to a marine bottom-feeder rather than a glittering goldfish - which he says is part of his appeal.

The 54-year-old, who as finance minister was careful to not make statements which might spook financial markets, stresses his credentials as a responsible, moderate and middle-of-the road leader at a time of national crisis, AFP reports.

Japan's parliament voted in a new prime minister on Tuesday, perhaps the last, best chance for the ruling Democratic Party to begin pulling the country out of decades of stagnation.

Noda today became the country's sixth prime minister in five years, succeeding Naoto Kan, who announced his resignation as Prime Minister last Friday.

"I am an ordinary man. I do not have large financial resources... I am not stylish and my looks are not my selling point", Noda wrote in a magazine essay announcing his candidacy.

On Monday, making his final pitch for the leadership of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, he used the fish metaphor, telling his fellow DPJ MPs: "I am a loach. I can't be a goldfish", AFP reports.

The son of a paratrooper in the Self-Defense Forces, Noda, a married father of two, holds broadly conservative political views, it reports.

AFP reports:

This month, on the anniversary of Japan's World War II surrender, he angered neighbor South Korea when he said that Japanese Class-A war criminals convicted by an Allied tribunal were in fact not war criminals.

On China, Noda wrote that the Asian giant gives Japan business opportunities but that its rapid military build-up and expanding naval reach spells "the biggest source of concern in the region".

Noda, a graduate of the prestigious Waseda University's School of Political Science and Economics, once talked into a megaphone for 13 straight hours at a public address.

He was trained by the elite Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, set up by Panasonic founder and business guru Konosuke Matsushita, which also teaches ancient arts such as the Japanese tea ceremony, kendo stick fighting and Zen meditation.

With the Democratic Party, he has served as Diet affairs chief, senior vice finance minister and since June 2010 as finance minister during which time he has struggled to bring down huge public debt.

Noda faces several serious challenges, namely coping with a strong yen that threatens to hit exports, forging a new energy policy while ending the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, rebuilding Japan's tsunami-devastated northeast and finding funds to pay for that and vast social security costs of the aging society, Reuters reports.

He acknowledged on Tuesday that the economy faces risks, but repeated his call for "prudent fiscal management", it reports.

Media said he was considering appointing DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada or ex-chief cabinet secretary Yoshito Sengoku, both fiscal conservatives, as finance minister.