Japan’s prime minister puts on the ritz

FILE’; Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images Most days, after all that dreary business of running a country, Japan’s new Prime Minister Taro Aso gets down to more important matters: a fine cigar to calm the nerves and perhaps a serving of grilled eel for $175 a pop. Newspapers report that since taking office a month ago, Aso ...

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591891_081023_Aso2.jpg

FILE'; Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Most days, after all that dreary business of running a country, Japan's new Prime Minister Taro Aso gets down to more important matters: a fine cigar to calm the nerves and perhaps a serving of grilled eel for $175 a pop. Newspapers report that since taking office a month ago, Aso has gone out to posh restaurants and hotel bars on all but four evenings. When asked about his high-flying habits, Aso, a political blueblood and "scion of a wealthy family," is unapologetic. From Asashi Shimbun:

How am I supposed to respond if people say I was disrupting business by showing up at places that are cheaper (than hotel bars) with reporters and police always around me?

FILE’; Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Most days, after all that dreary business of running a country, Japan’s new Prime Minister Taro Aso gets down to more important matters: a fine cigar to calm the nerves and perhaps a serving of grilled eel for $175 a pop. Newspapers report that since taking office a month ago, Aso has gone out to posh restaurants and hotel bars on all but four evenings. When asked about his high-flying habits, Aso, a political blueblood and “scion of a wealthy family,” is unapologetic. From Asashi Shimbun:

How am I supposed to respond if people say I was disrupting business by showing up at places that are cheaper (than hotel bars) with reporters and police always around me?

Lawmakers in his party are concerned that he will seem out of touch with average people and, if nothing else, a little scandalous. But Aso isn’t one to be pooh-poohed. Heads of state get to go have fun too, you know:

Don’t you know bars at hotels are not so expensive?” Aso told reporters on Wednesday night. “Fortunately, I’ve got money, so I’m paying the bills myself.”

In case spending his own money isn’t enough to appease average citizens, though, he dropped by a supermarket on Sunday to see how shoppers were coping with price increases. If you ask me, this is asking for it. If only Japanese politicians could remember Bush Sr.’s gaffe of appearing too amazed at a checkout scanner. Honestly, supermarkets are no place for the patrician type. And knowing all the gadgets and gizmos that the Japanese probably put in their supermarkets, it’s a virtual deathtrap for the 68-year-old Aso.

Jerome Chen is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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