Japanese Prime Minister’s Fashion Faux Pas Makes International Headlines

If you didn’t know who Japan’s prime minister was before, you may by now. Last week, international headlines proclaimed that Hatoyama Yukio had worn a bizarre, multi-colored shirt to a barbeque at his home. Perhaps stranger than the fact that this made the news at all, let alone the international news, was that Hatoyama’s fashion faux pas had caused his approval rating to drop significantly, 33% to 24%1 in just one month.

This is not the first time the Japanese prime minister has decided to wear outfits that are a little bizarre. Japanese fashion critics go on to cite a heart-studded collared shirt over which the prime minister wore a pink blazer, mauve coats, and other multi-colored shirts. The prime minister and his wife are also known in the media for some odd behavior, such as a pigeon imitation the prime minister performed during an interview. There have also been interviews with his wife, Hatoyama Miyuki, in which she claims to have been abducted by aliens and taken to Venus twenty years ago. She also says she “eats” energy from the sun and is instructing her husband to do the same.

While some claim the odd behavior and fashion choices are just the eccentricities of an odd couple who never tried to hide who they were prior to Hatoyama’s election last autumn, the fact that this one bad shirt at a bbq was the one odd thing to inspire such a global discussion is actually fairly telling about what really caused the public opinion of Hatoyama to drop so quickly and so steeply. Hatoyama wore this shirt to a bbq hosted at his home that he called “The Real Hato Café,” as it was supposed to offer the public a chance to meet him, mingle with him, and see that he’s just an ordinary person like they are. Wearing such a bizarre shirt to the gathering, says Konishi Don, a Japanese fashion critic, shows that Hatoyama is actually quite out of touch with the rest of the country—at the very moment he was trying to show them that he’s just one of them. Says Konishi, “This shirt comes from the ‘80s or ‘90s. His ideas and philosophy are old. Japan is facing a crisis and we can’t overcome it with a prime minister like this.” 2

Hatoyama responded to the sudden drop in public approval by stating, “I take it seriously that my approval ratings are down significantly. But I’m not going to quit.” 3 Still, perhaps he’ll hire a fashion consultant—although if they’re unhappy with his policies, the public’s opinion is unlikely to go back up without serious political overhaul.

Did you see Hatoyama’s shirt? What did you think of it? Do you think it’s silly that his fashion choices have made international news? Do you agree with the idea that it shows that Hatoyama is out of touch? What do you think of the prime minister and his wife’s other examples of odd behavior?

1, 2, 3 Lah, Kyung. “Japan’s prime minister under fire for fashion choices.” CNN World. 12 May 2010. . 17 May 2010.

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Tags: fashion, hatoyama, japan, politics