September 20, 2008 / 12:37 PM / 10 years ago

Tokyo shop sells PM favorite as "cool old dude"

TOKYO (Reuters) - Being old is apparently no bar to finding favor with the young — at least in the world of Japanese politics.

A store staff wearing masks of the former foreign minister Taro Aso tries to attract customers on a street at Tokyo's Akihabara district September 20, 2008. The store selling items featuring the frontrunner in the race to be Japan's next prime minister opened in Akihabara, a mecca for electronics and Japanese comics in central Tokyo. Outspoken Aso, known for his love of comics, is widely expected to win the Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party presidential election on next Monday to replace outgoing Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who quit this month. REUTERS/Issei Kato

From $6 bean buns to $1,200 kimono belts, a souvenir shop in Tokyo is offering a range of items all bearing the grinning face of “cool old dude” Taro Aso, 68-year-old frontrunner in the race to be Japan’s next prime minister.

Fans of Aso and droves of curious shoppers were drawn into the store on Saturday in Akihabara, a shopping district in central Tokyo, two days before the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) picks a new leader for Japan.

The winner of the party poll, which comes after a sudden resignation by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda this month, is sure to become the next prime minister because of the party’s majority in the Japanese parliament’s lower house.

“Aso is popular among my crowd of friends, too... I think it’s his policies and his leadership that draws popularity,” said Takayuki Hirano, a 20-year-old college student who bought plastic folders featuring the former foreign minister’s face.

An avid reader of youth-oriented “manga” comics and known for his dapper suits, the outspoken Aso has charmed some young Japanese, who find him different from Japan’s otherwise largely grey lawmakers.

Media polls suggest Aso has enough support around the country to become the next prime minister.

But while the shop labels Aso a “cool old dude” in its signs, not all his young backers are convinced he will be able to provide answers for a country sliding towards recession amid a global financial crisis.

“The election feels like it’s nothing related to me,” said 21-year-old university student Shiori Sato, as she clutched a bag with a box of Aso buns she had just bought.

“I don’t think I’ll vote because nothing is going to change even if I do.”

Editing by Rodney Joyce and Robert Hart

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