Seiko Noda (野田 聖子 Noda Seiko?, born September 3, 1960) is a Japanese politician. As of 2005 she is a member of the House of Representatives (lower house), serving her fifth term and representing the 1st District of Gifu Prefecture; she was the State Minister in charge of Consumer Affairs. She is a self-described conservative who affiliates herself with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
She was born in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka. Her grandfather, Uichi Noda (1903–1997) was a Ministry of Finance Vice Minister, and later became an elected member of the lower house serving as Economic Planning Agency Chief Secretary and Minister of Construction. She was born Seiko Shima, but before entering politics she was officially adopted and took her grandfather's name.
While enrolled at Futaba Academy (雙葉学園) Secondary School in the Tokyo suburb of Denenchofu. She moved to the United States and attended Jonesville High School in Jonesville, Michigan for one year and graduated. In 1983 she graduated from the Sophia University (上智大学 jōchi daigaku) Foreign Language Department with a major in Comparative cultural studies, and took a job with the Imperial Hotel. In 1987, she campaigned for a Gifu Prefectural Assembly seat and won. With interest she watched the battle occurring at that time over the introduction of sales tax between the LDP and Socialist Party (the Socialist Party doubled their number of seats in the 1989 elections). She was impressed by the sudden popularity of the women's voice of the Socialist Party's Takako Doi, and gained a sense of urgency and self-awareness as a politician, thus decided to take aim at national issues.
In the 39th lower house general elections of 1990, she was unable to gain endorsement from the LDP, and lost in the former Gifu 1st District. In the 40th lower house general elections of 1993 she ran again under the slogan "An LDP lady in the lower house" and won (at the time there were no female LDP lower house members). She was reelected for the fifth time in the September 2005 snap election.
Following the 1993 elections the Hosokawa Cabinet took leadership and the LDP had slipped to the minority, so she began her lower house career as a member of the opposition party. In the second Hashimoto Cabinet she was inaugurated as Vice Minister of Posts (November 7, 1996). In the Obuchi Cabinet formed on July 30, 1998, she was selected as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, at 37 becoming the youngest post-war cabinet minister ever (a title formerly held by Kakuei Tanaka who was selected at age 39). After becoming minister, Prime Minister Obuchi called her "the future candidate for female Prime Minister". She also gained the attention of LDP Secretaries General Hiromu Nonaka and Makoto Koga. In 1999, she became LDP Diet Countermeasure (transl?) Committee Vice-chair and House Steering Committee Program Director. As the program director position often goes to a promising young Diet member, and being the first woman to be selected, she became well known. In 2000, she served as LDP Policy Research Council Deputy Chairman, and First Vice-Secretary General.
In 2001, she married Yōsuke Tsuruho (鶴保庸介 b. 1967) of the Conservative Party, and instead of a reception held a "New Year's Get-Together" in January 2002 at the Imperial Hotel (their common-law marriage dissolved in 2007). In a turning point of her 10 year career as Diet member, she quit the Kōmura faction in December 2003. It is thought that this was to break free from the restraints of the faction and widen her potential support base.
She and her husband put their common-law marriage to practical use by leading the movement of the "joint male and female-planned society". She is a proponent of the right of women to keep their family name after marriage. This is despite her husband taking a position against the idea at the time the law enabling it was established. She puts first priority on children's issues, and is also actively involved in issues such as prohibition of child prostitution/pornography and support for the developmentally disabled (a member of the non-partisan "Association of Diet Members That Value Support for the Developmentally Disabled", which established the Support for Developmentally Disabled Act on November 24, 2001).
Her interests include reading and watching movies, karaoke, and using the computer. As a lover of Japanese sake, she serves as President of the "Sake-Loving Female Diet Members Club" (Secretary-General Yuko Obuchi), and an advisor to the Sake Manufacturers' Association. Her mail magazine is called "Catherine's Report," Catherine being the name of her French Bulldog. It is said that she got the dog during the difficult times of her infertility treatment on the advice of Diet member Seiko Hashimoto.
Noda was appointed as State Minister in charge of Consumer Affairs by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on August 1, 2008. In the Cabinet of Prime Minister Taro Aso, appointed on September 24, 2008, Noda retained her post.
Policies and accomplishments
Noda herself acknowledges that she is a mainstream conservative, in the sense that she believes in upholding the spirit of the constitution, and the core principes of the LDP. She also says that the fortunes of the nation depend on the valuing its people (she uses the term "talent"), and that developing and nurturing this talent is essential.
Postal Privatization Bill
In 2005 she gained attention by voicing opposition to the postal privatization proposal pushed by Prime Minister Koizumi, an issue which dominated headlines that year.
Because of her opposition to the introduction of the Japan Post privatization bill on April 27, 2005 she is considered to be at the forefront of the anti-privatization group, but in response she explained "I'm just saying that the current Takenaka plan is useless" and that she is not opposed to the concept of privatization. She maintains that the bill would be a "direct hit on the people's way of life", pointing out that the United States, the model of deregulation, still keeps it under government control. She further criticizes the bill as a "mere wedge of confrontation" (transl?).
She has consistently opposed and criticized the bill from the time of introduction. She took part in the Diet protest against privatization held on June 14, 2005 by the Nationwide Special Post Office Postmaster Women's Association (Chiyoe Takada, president), reaffirming her position on the issue. At the vote on the bill at the same Diet session, despite a call for party unity by the LDP, she indicated her opposition to the bill. She was criticized by the Postmaster's Association and others for her opposition, labelled a classic postal politician (receiving political contributions from loyal postal workers).
On July 5, 2005 at the regular session of the lower house she placed her vote of opposition to the bill, which passed by five votes but failed to pass the upper house vote. Her husband Tsuruho deferred to the judgement of his mentor Toshihiro Nikai and voted for the bill at the upper house vote, but announced his intention to leave Nikai's New Faction at a Diet news conference on August 19, 2005. As for the reason, he stated that "as a husband, naturally I must support my wife," and that he didn't want to cause a distraction to Party Affairs Director Nikai, who also serves as Secretariat Chief of the Party Election Task Force Headquarters. In addition, he added that, "everything I've voted against were those that hinted to reform opposition advocacy, and I have doubts about and the words and actions of the prime minister."
At the luncheon of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan on July 6, she spoke about postal privatization and the declining birthrate problem, in English. When asked about the future of the postal privatization bill, she expressed her hope that it will be stopped, adding (in English), "I don't know [if there will be political confusion], but one thing I can tell is, Mr. Koizumi is no longer dynamite." The nearly 100 reporters and correspondents responded to the bold statement with a round of applause.
Upon learning that Noda and other LDP members who voted against the bill would not receive party endorsement in the September 2005 elections, on August 10, 2005, the LDP Gifu Prefecture branch association held a joint meeting, and revised association rules to allow support for a candidate not officially endorsed by the LDP. Kazuyoshi Kaneko, who supported the bill, voiced opposition to the decision, but another stated that "The association is united against the bill. It is the Diet representatives who answer to the voice of the region." Following the breakup of the lower house, at the first election strategy meeting on August 12 the association officially decided to support postal reform opponents Noda, Takao Fujii, and Keiji Furuya, and announced that association members who supported the candidates fielded by LDP headquarters would be disposed of.
Koizumi kept Noda and other privatization opponents off of the LDP ticket. He sent Yukari Sato as an "assassin" candidate against Noda. Running as an independent, Noda won the election in what was described in the press as a war between two "madonna" candidates. Noda later returned to the LDP.
Following the snap elections in which Koizumi won a mandate on privatization with the LDP gaining an overwhelming majority, Noda changed her stance. Noting that "...I understand (the LDP's success in the Sept. 11 House of Representatives election) was the voice of the people saying that privatization had to be sped up..." she voiced her intention for vote for the proposal.
Women retaining their name after marriage
As chair of the Ruling Party Female Diet Member Policy Proposal Committee's "Project Team on the System to Optionally Keep Separate Names After Marriage", on November 5, 2001, after receiving the agreement of Hiromu Nonaka, Kōichi Katoo, Yūko Obuchi and 45 others (including Noda), the proposal for the System to Optionally Keep Separate Names After Marriage was submitted. An LDP "Committee to Realize the Right To Keep Separate Names in Exceptional Cases" was formed and gained great attention. This was because Sadanori Yamanaka, who stood in opposition with the comment "As long as I live I will never "realize" this (law)", was made chief advisor. A proposal was submitted by the committee on July 24, 2002. On February 22, 2005 she took part in a non-partisan Diet member "Emergency Diet Meeting on the Right To Keep Separate Names". Out of concern that it might not gain unanimous agreement of all party members as generally required, she said that she was "tempted to pushing the bill as a non-partisan proposal".
Declining birthrate issue
Despite having taken eight external fertilization treatments in three years and undergoing infertility treatment while a Diet member, she turned her attention to the declining birthrate issue. In the fall of 2002 she expressed her intention to especially put energy into the issue. In regards to the plan of the Koizumi administration, she criticized it as being "10 points out of a possible 100". Coming from friction with her husband over external fertilization treatments, the difficulties of commuting to the hospital as a Diet member, and having experienced the pain of miscarriage, she published "I want to give birth" in December 2004 through Shinchōsha after even considering publishing out of her own pocket. The following year in May 2005 she published "Who is taking away the future - taking on the declining birthrate" through Kodansha. She disputed comments within the party like "women don't have babies because they have chosen careers instead" with data on high birthrates in places where women often work, such as western nations. Taking on the issues of the declining birthrate, the aging of Japan, and population decrease, she proposed countermeasures to increase the population while criticizing the traditional values of fellow party members.
- Dec 1987 『アイアム聖イング』 (I am Seiing) 海越出版社、ISBN 4-906203-52-3
- Jun 1994 『改革という美名の下で』 (Under the pretext of reform), 海越出版社、ISBN 4-87697-188-9
- Feb 1996 『国民のみなさまにお伝えしたいこと ホンネで語る政治学』 (Things I want to get across to the people - politics spoken with sincerity), PHP研究所、ISBN 4-569-55017-7
- Dec 2004 『私は、産みたい』 (I want to give birth) 新潮社、ISBN 4-10-472901-9
- May 2005 『だれが未来を奪うのか 少子化と闘う』 (Who is taking away our future - fighting the declining birthrate), 講談社、ISBN 4-06-212833-0
- Oct 2001 『ポストITは日本が勝つ！ トップランナー7人の提言』 (Japan will win the post-IT era! - proposals of seven leading figures), （杉山知之編）、アスキー、ISBN 4-7561-3918-3
- Mar 2005 『よくわかる改正児童買春・児童ポルノ禁止法』 (Easy-to-understand guide to the revised child prostitution/pornography law), （森山眞弓と共編）ぎょうせい、ISBN 4-324-07587-5
- Japan Times, "Fukuda's new lineup", August 3, 2008.
- "Fukuda overhauls Cabinet / LDP executive shakeup also elevates Aso to party No. 2", The Yomiuri Shimbun, August 2, 2008.
- "Aso elected premier / Announces Cabinet lineup himself; poll likely on Nov. 2", The Yomiuri Shimbun, September 25, 2008.
- Japan Times, "Fukuda's new lineup", August 3, 2008.
- Seiko Noda's mail magazine (back issues) (Japanese)