Populism in Japan

Robert A. Fahey, Airo Hino, Robert J. Pekkanen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)


While populism has become a major force in many nations in recent decades, the extent to which the phenomenon is found in Japan’s politics is a contested topic on which scholars have asserted positions ranging from claims that it simply does not exist in Japan, to opposing claims that Japan’s most powerful and influential recent prime ministers have in fact been populists, with various positions in between those extremes also being represented. Some of this contestation arises from different definitions of “populism” that were developed in parallel in Japanese and Western literature, both of which also further differ from the vernacular usage of the term in Japanese political and media discourses. Consequently, scholars following different definitions have drawn quite different conclusions regarding the populist nature of Japanese political actors. This chapter outlines the correspondences and contrasts between the different definitions and uses them to examine claims that prominent contemporary political figures, including former prime ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzō Abe, as well as regional governors Toru Hashimoto, Yuriko Koike, and Takashi Kawamura, have been populists or have utilized populist rhetoric in their campaigns. We find that while overt populism in Japan-at least according to the definitions used internationally-is generally confined to regional politics, national leaders have also displayed proclivity to borrow limited aspects of populist rhetoric and strategy in support of their political campaigns and policy objectives.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Japanese Politics
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9780190050993
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 1


  • Japan
  • Manichaeism
  • Neoliberalism
  • Populism
  • Pork-barrel politics
  • Theatricality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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