Kishida a politician who ‘listens’ and takes notes

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An illustration : Fumio Kishida

Fumio Kishida, 64, leads Kochikai, a faction in the Liberal Democratic Party that is also known as the Kishida faction. He lost to now outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in last year’s LDP presidential election.

Kishida was the first to file his candidacy in the latest presidential election, pledging to “present a new political option, staking my political career on it.”

Kishida has become the third LDP president to have been elected to the Diet from Hiroshima Prefecture since the World War II, following prime ministers Hayato Ikeda in the 1960s and Kiichi Miyazawa in the 1990s.

Born in Tokyo to a family of politicians — with his grandfather and father also having served as House of Representatives members — Kishida started his professional career as a banker before becoming a secretary for his father, Fumitake. The young Kishida was elected to the lower house for the first time in 1993, taking over his father’s constituency.

Kishida’s ambition to become a politician dates back to his days in the United States. He faced racism while attending elementary school there, an experience that made him determined “to change an unreasonable society” by pursing a political career.

In December 2012, Kishida was appointed as foreign minister when then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched his second administration. He was Japan’s second longest-serving foreign minister since the end of World War II, with a tenure spanning for four years and seven months.

In 2017, Kishida was concurrently serving as defense minister when North Korea launched a missile, so he shuttled between the two ministry buildings to deal with the incident.

Kishida has focused on his own “listening skills,” having written down the opinions of members of the public in notebooks since 2009, when the LDP was thrown out of power. Now he has about 30 such notebooks.

Known for his gentle and stable personality, Kishida is also regarded as too modest and is seen as lacking skills to effectively deliver his message.

However, Kishida showed confidence, saying that politicians today, amid the coronavirus pandemic, must be those “who can be there for the public.”

A bookworm, Kishida often visits bookstores on his way home. His daily routine includes having miso soup — his favorite — with every meal, and working out with dumbbells.