Yukio Hatoyama, 63, does not look like a revolutionary. Scion of an old political family and heir to a fortune made in tires, the Japanese Prime Minister was entirely predictable in his early career as a rising politician in the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
But while no revolutionary himself, Hatoyama has become the leader of a revolution of a kind. He left the LDP in 1993 and started a new party, which, after merging with other groups, finally broke the LDP's virtual monopoly on power in 2009. The party's goals a more equal partnership with the U.S., more power to elected politicians, more transparency are all commendable. But even if they are not swiftly and entirely achieved, Hatoyama has helped change his country from a de facto one-party state into a functioning democracy. That is reason enough for celebration.
Buruma is Henry R. Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College