A remote and charisma-challenged lawmaker who has never held high office is poised to become Japan's new leader later this month. Yukio Hatoyama, 62, is head of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), a broad coalition that on Aug. 31 won a commanding victory over the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had governed the nation almost continuously since 1955. The DPJ has pledged to revive Japan's sagging economy and strengthen ties with Asian neighbors, signaling a potential weakening of the close military and economic relationship with the U.S. A Stanford-trained engineer, Hatoyama was born into a wealthy political dynasty sometimes compared to the Kennedys his grandfather was a Prime Minister, his father a Foreign Minister, his brother a Cabinet member, and the whole clan is related to the founder of the Bridgestone tire company. Hatoyama has been nicknamed "the alien" (some say because of his aloof nature, others because of his prominent eyes), and one of the most interesting things about him is his wife, a former actress who says her soul once visited Venus and found it "really green."
Born Feb. 11, 1947, in Tokyo. His grandfather, Ichiro Hatoyama, was Prime Minister from 1954 to '56, and his father, Iichiro Hatoyama, served as Japan's Foreign Minister. His younger brother was until recently a Cabinet member of the outgoing LDP government.
Heirs to the Bridgestone tire fortune, he and his younger brother Kunio Hatoyama are believed to be worth a combined $100 million or more.
Studied engineering at the University of Tokyo and Stanford University, where he earned a Ph.D. Went on to teach management at Tokyo's Senshu University.
Left teaching in 1983 to work as his father's private secretary. Three years later, assumed his father's seat in parliament and was re-elected seven times. Ironically, Hatoyama's party seeks to end the tradition of inherited parliament posts.
Helped found the Democratic Party of Japan and served as its head from 1999 to 2002. Took over again in May.
Has worried some U.S. analysts by calling for a more "equal" relation with the global superpower. Has also endorsed ending an agreement to refuel U.S. military ships in the Indian Ocean and expressed interest in potentially relocating some of the 50,000 U.S. troops currently deployed in Japan.
In a Sept. 2 phone call, told President Obama he wants to take more leadership in addressing climate change and nuclear disarmament.
In a move to placate China, pledged last month not to visit Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine. The shrine honors millions of Japan's war dead, including many considered war criminals; visits by high-ranking officials often spark outrage among Japan's neighbors.
Married to Miyuki Hatoyama, a designer, cookbook author and former actress whom he met in California. The two have a son in his 30s who is studying engineering in Russia.
His wife is an energetic and quirky figure who gives inspirational talks and calls herself a "life composer." In a book she wrote called Very Strange Things I've Encountered, she said her soul visited Venus on a triangular-shaped UFO. "It was a very beautiful place and it was really green," she wrote.
"I told him that the Democratic Party's victory is thanks to President Obama ... That change required courage, and U.S. citizens and President Obama across the ocean gave the Japanese people that courage."
After a phone call with President Obama. (Reuters, Sept. 2, 2009)
"It will be a revolutionary election that will end the leadership of bureaucrats and put the focus on the people."
Speaking hours after his win. (BBC, Aug. 26, 2009)
"[A]s a result of the failure of the Iraq war and the financial crisis, the era of U.S.-led globalism is coming to an end and ... we are moving toward an era of multipolarity."
In an opinion article published in the New York Times, Aug. 26, 2009
"When [unpopular governments] appear in other countries, there are movements in which people express their anger and demand change. But this doesn't happen in Japan because the LDP has held power for so long that the people have abandoned the possibility of standing up. Unfortunately, it seems that Japanese are not capable of showing what you call 'people power.' "
Newsweek, March 19, 2001
"He is a miserable candidate. He is wooden, he is stiff, he can't improvise. His image is that he is not a very decisive leader, somebody who's not so charismatic, not so strong-willed."
Jeff Kingston, Temple University Director of Asian Studies. (AP, Aug. 27, 2009)
"It's impossible to change Japan in a day or two, but I'm convinced that the public will acknowledge it if he keeps plodding along."
Hatoyama's wife, Miyuki Hatoyama. (Japan Today, Sept. 2, 2009)
"I'm not sure if Mr. Hatoyama can be a strong leader. But let's give him a chance, and we'll see how he does."
Tomio Ogura, a 72-year-old Japanese retiree. (AP, Aug. 27, 2009)