His previous tenure, a one-year stint in 2006-2007, was marked by a nationalistic agenda, pressing for more patriotic education and upgrading the defense agency to ministry status. Abe also said there was no proof Japan’s military had coerced Chinese, Korean and other women into prostitution in military brothels during World War II. He later apologized but lately has suggested that a landmark 1993 apology for sex slavery may need revising.
The LDP platform calls developing fisheries and posting permanent staffing of public officials on the islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, and for revising Japan’s pacifist constitution to strengthen Japan’s military posture.
Beset with a host of domestic problems, Japan has been receding behind China as the region’s most important economic player, and the promise of a strong, assertive country resonates with many voters, even if they are suspicious of doing that through military power.
‘‘We want somebody who can be a tough diplomatic negotiator and who can exhibit strong leadership,’’ said Seishi Kobayashi, a company employee in his 40s who is wavering between voting for the LDP or the upstart Japan Restoration Party.
But he cautioned that ‘‘whoever you vote may team up with parties with totally different policies, so you have to be careful.’’
With so much turnover in Japan’s leadership — one prime minister a year over the last six years — Kataoka, the retiree from Chiba, wonders if the public’s expectations are too high.
‘‘It seems like we’re searching for a messiah,’’ he said.