Die-hard conservative hopes to be Japan’s first female ruler

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Mr. Abe is widely seen as failing to deliver on his promises to advance women in society. In the World Economic Forum’s annual gender gap analysis, Japan, which has the world’s third-largest economy, ranks 120th out of 156 countries.

Women still struggle to gain traction in Japanese politics, especially at the national level. Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo, founded a party in 2017 to try to disrupt a national election that year, but Mr Abe led the Lib Dems to victory, while Ms Koike’s party failed. received only mixed support.

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Another woman in the Liberal Democrat leadership race, Seiko Noda, 61, has explicitly promoted gender equality, as well as the rights of older people and people with disabilities. But she barely got enough signatures from party lawmakers to qualify as a candidate.

The far-right Liberal Democrats have ruled for a decade, and analysts have said women in particular have to turn right to get into the party. “To compensate for this inconvenience of being a woman, you have to show excessive loyalty to conservatives,” said Mari Miura, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo. “And that means you have to be hawkish and anti-feminist.”

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Gender aside, Ms Takaichi is an unusual leadership contestant as she does not come from a prominent political family. The main contenders, Taro Kono, 58, and Fumio Kishida, 64, are both sons and grandsons of MPs. Mr Abe’s grandfather was also prime minister.

Ms. Takaichi’s mother was a police officer in Nara and her father worked for an automobile company affiliated with Toyota. In a memoir, Ms Takaichi wrote that she had been admitted to two top private universities, Waseda and Keio, but her parents wanted to save the tuition money for her younger brother.

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Instead, she attended Kobe University, a public school, where she played drums in a band and rode a motorcycle. After graduation, she spent a year in the United States, where she interned with Patricia Schroeder, then MP from Colorado, a Democrat.