With a wife like this, Japan's PM doesn't need enemies

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The Independent Online

As leader of the world's second largest economy, Naoto Kan may be one of the most powerful men on the planet, but his wife, for one, is not in the least impressed.

Japan's new Prime Minister is a poor speaker, a bad cook and can't dress for toffee, according to Nobuko Kan, his wife of 40 years. Worse for the ailing country, he simply isn't a leader.

"He's more of a No 2 or a No 3 person rather than being at the top," says Mrs Kan in a new book called Now You Are Prime Minister, How On Earth Is Japan Going to Change?

"Even as a family member, I could not give him even a passing grade for his delivery of a policy speech, or for the question-and-answer sessions after he became Prime Minister," she added.

Published this week, commentators are divided on whether the book will hurt or boost Mr Kan's political career, which stumbled this month after his party took a pasting in national elections. The 63-year-old Prime Minister told the press this week he is "too scared" to read it.

His straight-talking wife, 64, has rarely fitted the stereotype of the demure Japanese wife. A formidable campaign speaker in her own right, she has been by Mr Kan's side since he was a left-wing citizens' activist in the early 1970s. She is widely credited with being the driving force behind the incident that established Mr Kan's political reputation, when he confronted health minister bureaucrats in the 1990s over their cover up of HIV-tainted blood products.

The marriage almost hit the rocks about a decade ago when a tabloid magazine alleged that Mr Kan had spent a night in a hotel with a TV presenter. "My wife told me I was an idiot," he said afterwards.

Mr Kan, who calls his wife "my most powerful supporter and most critical voter", says the book is partly a record of the political discussions the pair have at home.

She recounts that the Prime Minister "said the other day that 'markets are like a selfish woman'. He may have learned this from his relationships with me," she went on. "They are difficult to handle because they will just snub you if you do something to please them."

Written before he became leader last month, the book also reveals that Mr Kan had no great ambitions for the job and was catapulted into office by the resignation of Yukio Hatoyama.

Mr Hatoyama's wife also made headlines when she told a startled Japan that her soul had taken a ride on a UFO with aliens and travelled to Venus. Miyuki Hatoyama also said she had met Tom Cruise in a previous life – when he was Japanese.

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