Comment on Makiko Tanaka's Dismissal
J. Sean Curtin (Professor, Japanese Red Cross University, Japan)
This comment originally appeared in the "Japan-U.S. Discussion Fourm" (http://lists.nbr.org/japanforum) on January 30, 2002: posted here with the author's permission.
I think public opinion will play a key factor in the long-term political fallout. Although Tanaka does not seem to be admired much by the Japanese political establishment or commentators, she is immensely popular with ordinary voters, especially women. Opinion polls have consistently shown people like her style and spirit. Tanaka is seen as a colourful woman in a sea of grey-suited, boring men.
Even if it was not the case, many women seemed to think that having a female foreign minister created a good international image for Japan. Unfortunately, Tanaka was never actually abroad much due to her movements being restricted by her political enemies. This just goes to show that it is public perception that counts. A lot of women saw Tanaka as a symbol of a changing Japan. Many interpreted her battles with bureaucrats and politicians as a manifestation of the gender bias that most high-ranking Japanese women face in a male dominated world.
I wonder how female voters are going to feel about Koizumi now that he has dumped her? One thing is certain, if you were looking for proof of the difficulties women face in rising to the top, here it is.