By Ishizaki Naoto
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio is stepping up his use of social networking sites (SNS) to communicate with the public. His followers on Twitter, which had numbered around 30,000 through August, surged during the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election in September. As of Oct. 25, Kishida has over 400,000 followers, far surpassing the 180,000 of Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Edano Yukio. Although Kishida is far behind former vaccine czar Kono Taro, who has 2.4 million followers, and former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who has 2.29 million, Kishida is gradually increasing his presence on social networking sites.
“I dissolved the House of Representatives today,” Kishida tweeted on the night of Oct. 14. The post immediately received more than 10,000 “likes.” When an earthquake with a maximum intensity of 5.0 on the Richter scale struck the Kanto region on the night of Oct. 7, Kishida posted a series of messages: “Please check the latest information and take action to protect yourself” and “I am at the Prime Minister’s Office.”
In addition to messages on policy, Kishida posts messages to make himself seem approachable. On the night of Sept. 29, the day he was elected president of the LDP, he posted a photo of okonomiyaki [a Japanese-style omelet-pancake] cooked by his wife, Yuko, with a message, saying, “Unforgettably delicious!” This garnered more than 370,000 “likes.” On Oct. 11, Kishida posted a message of encouragement to the draft picks of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, a professional baseball team. In contrast to former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, whose posts were mainly of a serious nature, Kishida seems to be trying to convey not only his policies but also his “sincerity.”
There is the risk, however, of getting “burned” if you overuse or misuse social networking sites. When then-Prime Minister Abe posted a video of himself relaxing on his couch at home in April last year and called for people to stay home as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it set off a controversy that had Abe scrambling to subdue.
Since social networking sites are easy to use and spread information quickly, it is easy for messages to reach a large number of people, but one wrong move could result in a major blow to an administration. Kishida, who has been described as “lacking in the ability to communicate,” will be put to the test here.