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Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008

Young mom the star of Aso's old-boy team

Staff writer

News photo
Youngest ever: Lower House member Yuko Obuchi, a daughter of late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, walks through the prime minister's office Wednesday before her appointment as minister in charge of population issues. KYODO PHOTO

Prime Minister Taro Aso probably found it hard not to include Yuko Obuchi in his Cabinet lineup. Not only does the popular female representative bring youth to the group, she inherits a solid constituency from her late father, former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who died after suffering a stroke at the prime minister's office in April 2000.

It also doesn't hurt that she's the mother of a 1-year-old now that she's in charge of tackling Japan's declining population.

"I am young and have plenty of vigor and physical strength," said Obuchi, 34, who is a standout of Aso's Cabinet and the youngest to be appointed to a ministerial post. "I'm looking forward to listening to the opinions of my generation."

The previous youngest was current consumer affairs minister Seiko Noda, who was 37 when she was assigned the job of posts and telecommunications minister in 1998.

Obuchi, half the age of the 68-year-old Aso, blushed slightly and let out a sigh of relief after her inaugural news conference.

But her appearance at the podium following a string of Aso's veteran appointees was like a breath of fresh air.

"I didn't imagine that the prime minister actually makes the phone calls in person asking you to join the Cabinet," she told reporters, likening the call from Aso in the afternoon to "a scene I'd seen only on television."

The Tokyo native expressed confidence in making the most of her experience of giving birth while a member of the Lower House last year.

Obuchi said her experience as a mother would be put to good use in her new job.

Addressing the Democratic Party of Japan's proposal to provide monthly assistance of ¥26,000 for each child, she faulted the plan for its vagueness on financing.

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The Japan Times

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