TOKYO -- One of the surprises of the Japanese cabinet reshuffle Wednesday was the switch at the foreign ministry. Yoshimasa Hayashi, the 62-year-old Harvard-educated pianist viewed by some as a potential candidate for prime minister, was replaced by 70-year-old Yoko Kamikawa, a three-time justice minister with little foreign policy experience.
The change of the top diplomat comes just days after Hayashi visited Ukraine, with Japan as president of the Group of Seven, and days before the United Nations General Assembly. "This is not normal," said a retired foreign ministry official. "Hayashi himself must have been taken by surprise," the official said.