TOKYO -- On Oct. 26, five days before Japan's lower house elections, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was in Higashimurayama, a Tokyo suburb, stumping for Seiji Kihara, his closest confidant. "Please help Kihara-san, whom I trust more than anyone else, win in the election," Kishida implored voters, lavishing praise on the deputy chief cabinet secretary, who was standing beside him.
The prime minister sees the 51-year-old elite bureaucrat-turned-lawmaker as "indispensable" to his political success. While Kishida was foreign minister, Kihara supported him as parliamentary vice-minister for foreign affairs and then as state minister for foreign affairs. When Kishida was chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council, Kihara was on hand as chief secretary.