Japanese people always fed up with their prime ministers within weeks or months, surely not within years. They hardly give them opportunity to complete their four-year tenure under the constitution. Since Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's resignation on September 21, 2006, the last week of the month of September has become the month of political change in world's second largest economy. On September 26, 2007, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned, followed by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's resignation on September 24, 2008 who was replaced by Taro Aso same day. Taro served as foreign minister under the administrations of Koizumi and Abe during 2005-7. He is the grandson of Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida who served seven years in five exceptional terms up to 1954. Fukuda took over on September last when Abe tendered his resignation on September 26, 2007. The bringing up of Aso is witnessing another change as the lower House of the Diet will be re-elected as snap elections will be held next month or so. The lawmakers of the traditional ruling Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP), known as Jimento in Japanese, expect that early elections will give them victory over opponents, especially over the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), known as Minshuto in Japanese, which runs majority in the House of Councillors (Upper House) of the Diet since last July's elections and has the power to block legislation. Nevertheless, the resignation of Fukuda and replacement by Aso reflects a change within the party and not within the behaviour of the voters. It has to be determined as to what extent change within the party will get voters' support for the LDP. Aso won the support of the LDP on September 23 to become its president. Normally, LDP presidential race determines who should lead the government as the party has been ruling Japan since 1955 with a small interval in the 1990s. In fact, no major change has been taking place in Japanese politics since the end of the World War II as the ruling LDP has been fielding leaders one after the other who always line-up for such position. This is a one-party politics for so long with rare or occasional changes. The ruling LDP for the past 53 years, after coming into power, has always acted as the 'political bureaucracy' in Japan that always resisted political changes and to maintain the status quo. The party never changed the contents and always preached the old script. It was under Koizumi (2001-06) that party re-gained its ascendancy. However, after his resignation, LDP could not maintain such a momentum and plunged into continuous chaos. It is also a test time for Aso that how he is going to improve the ranks and files of the LDP and restore public confidence, which the party perpetually lost in wake of a number of political and financial crises and scandals. Aso needs the strength to that of Koizumi and Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone (1982-87) in order to revitalise the party. This also means that Aso needs to be an economic reformer and a hawk to tackle the fast changing geo-strategic environment surrounding Japan. In reality both Koizumi and Nakasone were hawkish. How much strength Aso will gain or display, needs to be seen within weeks or months. Mere presidential changes within the LDP will not help the party. The leading newspaper, Asahi Shimbun (September 23), put it as follows: "Unless it [LDP] addresses these concerns and questions among voters head-on, the LDP cannot hope to regain strength, no matter how many times it may change its leader." There is a need to change the contents and substance and not the heads. Let's see, how LDP leadership will endorse such thinking within a short time. With all abrupt political changes, Japan is the oldest and the lead democracy in Asia along with its own fashion and style. Longevity has never been a tradition of Japanese politics. Apart from the seven oligarchs who monopolised the position of the prime minister during the Meiji (1885-1912) and the early Taisho period (1913-1927), the average tenure of the Japanese prime ministers has been two years. The longest serving prime minister was Katsura Tar, almost twelve years in office, followed by the first Prime Minister It Hirobumi (1885-1888, 1892-1896, and 1889-1889), who remained in office for seven years and two months. Moreover, parliamentary party politics is also a late starter in Japan which did not formally start until 1925; hitherto the Friends of Constitutional Government and on several occasions, military, formed the representative government after 1885. During 1945-55, Liberals, Democrats, or Socialists had formed the governments. After the formation of the LDP in 1955, it ruled Japan up to 1993 without any break. During 1993-96 three different parties namely; Japan New Party under Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, Renewal Party under Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata, and Japan Socialist party under Tomiichi Murayama, formed the governments. However, after 1996, LDP once again tightened its grip and has been forming the governments, albeit with frequent changes particularly since 2006. LDP is now pinning great hopes in Aso in the up-coming general elections. He has to make many popular and even unpopular decisions that include structural economic reforms and how to support the US War On Terror with Japanese resources and commitments in the Indian Ocean under the OEF-MIO as part of US mission in Afghanistan. Speaking to UN General Assembly session in New York on September 26, he vowed to keep the OEF-MIO mission. His two immediate predecessors, however, could not handle this issue and their popularity had quickly plummeted that eventually led them toward resignations. Reforming the economy would be a difficult task for Aso as Japan has been hard-hit by global recession, led by Japan's strongest economic partner, the United States. Personality traits of a leader also cannot be ignored. Aso is known as an outspoken and blunt leader. He has a tendency of making controversial statements with regard to China, Taiwan issue, nuclear and military issue, forced-labour during the war, Yasukuni Shrine, Burakumin, Jews, global warming, and a number of others. It has to be seen whether Aso is going to mend ties with China or going to see it as a 'threat to Japan'. Some of the ministers included in Aso's Cabinet such as Finance Minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, and Transport Minister, Nariaki Nakayama, are known as China's bashers. For Japan's close neighbours, Aso is termed as a 'pugnacious nationalist'. Critics say that as foreign minister under Koizumi and Abe, Aso soured ties with both of Japan's neighbours, China and South Korea, by praising the 'war-time colonial achievements' and 'justifying war atrocities' of Japan in that region. The rising nationalism in Japan has been causing disturbances with neighbouring Asian countries. Aso is also known for his distaste against Communism, extreme right-wing tendencies, and firm support for US-Japan alliance. It has to be seen within months as to how Aso will translate such thinking into policy-oriented actions. Moreover, following a fundamental shift with regard to Japan's nuclear policy by supporting one-time waiver to US-India nuclear deal at Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which gave a severe blow to anti-nuclear principles of Japan, Aso is nearing a final word about Japan's acquiring of nuclear power. Acquiring nuclear power under a belligerent nationalist leadership becomes relatively easier. More interestingly, Aso is the first Catholic prime minister of the country, and in that region, except the Philippines, there is no Christian country. One has to see whether or not Christian faith affiliations affect the state craftsmanship of the new Japanese leader, something never realised before in Japan's foreign relations. In sum, pragmatism of Aso depends on how he tackles vital and sensitive issues with Japan's neighbours, toeing alliance with the United States, deciding nuclear option, and introducing structural economic reforms in the stagnant Japanese economy. The writer is a research fellow (East Asia) at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI)