The Horiemon Coup

Ampontan at Japundit has a fabulous (as always) run-down of what’s happening politically in Japan right now. Koizumi has thrown up quite a few nontraditional candidates to run against the LDP members he ousted, including several women and a popular entrepreneur, Takafumi Horie.

It would be nearly impossible to find a candidate anywhere in the country guaranteed to attract as much media attention as the man they call Horiemon. A high-school dropout and self-made millionaire in his early 30s, Horie is the president of the Internet company Livedoor. He first gained public attention last year during the furor over the planned contraction of Japanese League baseball teams from 12 to 11 (and possibly 10). Horie offered to buy one of the teams, but the owners, led by the autocratic Tsuneo Watanabe, rejected his bid out of hand. The public viewed the baseball owners’ rejection of Horie’s offer (and their efforts to contract the league) as perversely stubborn and typical of the shortcomings of the old way of doing things in Japan. This created a classic old/new, hidebound/progressive contrast that won Horie public and media sympathy and support. A new baseball team was eventually formed after two others were merged, and Horie, though denied the chance to buy the new team, was widely credited with rekindling public interest in Japanese baseball.

Media interest in Horie more than redoubled earlier this year with his 80s American-style attempt to take over the Fuji Television network. Backed by the American firm Salomon Brothers, Horie made his move by buying up stock during off-hours trading. The entire process became a continuing daily soap opera on Japanese television and a media sensation. Though Horie failed again, he forced Fuji to make concessions to shareholders, and Livedoor and Fuji formed a business partnership in May.

It’s not easy to compare Horie to public figures in other countries, but try to imagine a combination of the star power of a young, ungeeky Bill Gates with wide public support and a Donald Trump who wasn’t such a jerk.

Global Voices Online mentions Horie in a roundup of Japanese blogs.

All I can say is I’m rooting for Koizumi. The man is brilliant. Plus he’s got balls the size of the moon. He’s just what’s needed to shake up the Japanese political system. It’s very exciting and inspiring to me to see this kind of reform taking place in a government that has too long suffered from bloat and complacency. I’d rather like to see something similar happen here in the U.S., but I’m not sure that’s really possible.