Shinzo Abe has long been noted as Koizumi’s probable successor for years. Abe is a hawk who first become popular with the public for advocating sanctions against North Korea during the abduction controversy in 2002. He is on first-name terms with Dick Cheney and other US defense officials. Abe is now the Cabinet Secretary and is the favorite to become Prime Minister. It’s worth noting that the clamor for Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara to become Prime Minister died down after Abe was noted as Koizumi’s political heir.
For Japan’s neighbors who think Abe is too much, wait until they hear about new Foreign Minister Taro Aso. This is a guy who claims Koreans wanted to take Japanese names during colonial rule, that Japan helped make Korea literate, stated that one of his colleagues was unfit for the prime minister’s post because he was a member of the Burakumin minority, and that Japan is a country with one culture, one language, and one people. Imagine Pat Buchanan as Secretary of State (an extreme, but valid comparison).
The bottom line is that if you like Koizumi, you’ll love these guys. (And of course the reverse is also true). Both are the sons of political dynasties, proving that legacy political families are alive and well in Japan.