An ambitious breaker of glass ceilings whose goal is to become prime minister

She is seen as aligned with Mr Abe to revise the country's Constitution, and said Japan and South Korea should not "obsess" about the comfort women issue. Ms Koike once compared herself to Mrs Clinton, but said that while Mrs Clinton used the phrase
Ms Koike once compared herself to Mrs Clinton, but said that while Mrs Clinton used the phrase "glass ceiling", it was more like a "sheet of steel" in Japan.
She is seen as aligned with Mr Abe to revise the country's Constitution, and said Japan and South Korea should not "obsess" about the comfort women issue. Ms Koike once compared herself to Mrs Clinton, but said that while Mrs Clinton used the phrase
She is seen as aligned with Mr Abe to revise the country's Constitution, and said Japan and South Korea should not "obsess" about the comfort women issue.

TOKYO • Tokyo's new governor is an ambitious conservative with a history of shattering glass ceilings. Ms Yoriko Koike, 64, is Tokyo's first female governor and only the seventh in the country, across 47 prefectures nationwide.

And before this, she was Japan's first female defence minister. But her term in 2007 was cut short after just 54 days when she quit to take responsibility for a military leak that did not happen during her term. She has since hinted her resignation was over party factional fights.

She once compared herself to US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, famously saying: "Hillary used the phrase 'glass ceiling'. It's often a sheet of steel in Japan."

Ms Koike, who is divorced, is a sociology graduate from Cairo University, having pursued the course of study on her parents' persuasions to "do what no one else has done".

Besides Japanese, she is fluent in English and Arabic, and worked as a translator and newscaster before stepping into politics in 1992.

She won a Diet seat on her first try, and would go on to be a parliamentarian until her resignation last month to run for Tokyo governor.

In 2003, she was named environment minister by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

She helmed the portfolio until 2006 and started the now regular "Cool Biz" campaign in 2005 to save energy during Japan's blazing summers. She urged salarymen to ditch the formal suit and tie for more casual attire to reduce dependency on air conditioning.

This year alone, Ms Koike has contributed seven commentaries on Japanese and international politics to global opinion site Project Syndicate. She praised Taiwan's newly elected President Tsai Ing-wen, and described US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign as "loutish".

Ms Koike is seen as aligned with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's vision to revise the pacifist Constitution to expand the military's role. On the comfort women issue, she has said Japan and South Korea need to "take responsibility for the future, not obsess about the past".

The woman of many firsts harbours big ambitions. In 2008, she became the first woman to run for president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party - whoever holds the post typically becomes premier if the party wins power. She was second in a popular vote.

"My goal has always been to become prime minister," she said in 2010. "If you don't have far-reaching ambitions, being a politician is meaningless."

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'An ambitious breaker of glass ceilings whose goal is to become prime minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe