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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Profile: Katsuya Okada
Katsuya Okada
Katsuya Okada is often seen as dull
The leader of Japan's main opposition party could not cut a more different figure from his rival, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Mr Koizumi is known for his eccentric behaviour and eclectic tastes, while Katsuya Okada has made his campaign slogan: "Upright and single minded".

Mr Okada, leader of the Democratic Party (DPJ), has even been nicknamed "Taleban", so principled is his approach.

But while critics lambaste his serious-minded style, his supporters say this may be the very trait his party needs to win back power.

Plunged into a snap election on 11 September, Mr Okada faces the challenge of quickly convincing the electorate that the DPJ is the best placed to rule Japan.

It is a battle he insists he can win - and one on which, like Mr Koizumi, he has staked his reputation. He has said he will resign if the DPJ fails to win power in the 11 September poll.

Elite beginnings

Katsuya Okada was born in 1953, the second son of Takuya Okada, the founder of the Aeon supermarket giant.

He graduated from Tokyo University's law faculty and worked for the Ministry of International Trade and Industry before standing as an candidate for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

He left the LDP in 1993, to join the Japan Renewal Party.

Then, through a series of splits and mergers between small opposition parties, he became a member of the Shinshinto Party, and finally the Minseito Party, which merged with the DPJ in 1998.

He became DPJ president in May 2004 after Naoto Kan resigned over his failure to pay pension premiums.

Iraq troops

Mr Koizumi is determined to make his postal reforms a key part of the election agenda, casting the LDP as the party of change.

Mr Okada disagrees, insisting that only the DPJ can transform Japan.

He is proposing to reform the childcare and pension systems, both of which he says are urgent priorities in light of Japan's falling population, and has promised 10 trillion yen ($90bn) in spending cuts over the next three years.

He also has pledged to withdraw Japanese troops from Iraq by the end of the year.

An indication of his determination to bring about reform is his hobby of collecting frog figurines - the word for frog is a homonym for "change" in Japanese.

Mr Okada seems keen to make his policies, rather than his personality, the governing factor in the election. He refrains from drinking alcohol and reportedly once left a party at 9pm so he could read a policy study.

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