Mori is as unpopular as a leader could be. Recent surveys show a mere 15 percent of Japanese approve of him. Yet Kato badly miscalculated how many LDP lawmakers would join his coup and risk splitting the party that has ruled Japan for 42 of the last 45 years. He ended up walking away from the fight he started, in embarrassing fashion.
Which raised the question: Did Kato really intend to mount this challenge, or did he get carried away over the grilled fish and warm sake? Nonsense, say two pundits at the dinner, Hisayuki Miyake and Shigezo Hayasaka. He knew to whom he was talking, they say, and the session was on the record. More likely, the episode revealed that Kato is a creature of the very habits decision-making behind closed doors that he claims to want to change. He can take comfort from one thing. The LDP's most powerful deal-maker, Hiromu Nonaka, said the result doesn't mean Mori has the support of his party. In the end, Kato probably laid the groundwork for somebody else to push Mori aside.