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OPINION

Kotaro Tamura: Chicken banks and The Selfish Gene

The flamboyant stage presence and forthright views of Kotaro Tamura are becoming something of an annual highlight at Euromoney’s Japan Capital Markets Congress, and this year the LDP senator in charge of the sovereign wealth fund committee surpassed himself during an onstage interview that at times reduced a packed auditorium to helpless, if somewhat nervous, laughter.

Resplendent this year in a striped blue suit and gleaming tie that seemed relatively discreet by his standards, Tamura revealed that he had come straight from the Diet (Japan’s parliament) where the new Japanese cabinet was being sworn in. "I’ve been waiting for the call myself all day," he joked, before launching into a spirited rendition of his arguments for a Japanese sovereign fund. Asked about the perception that the finance ministry opposed the plan, Tamura conceded that he had "two enemies" (referring to the finance ministry and another ministry) and said that "when you have two strong enemies, you must shake hands with one of them", before inviting Euromoney to tell the audience which it would choose were it in Tamura’s (very smart) shoes.

Asked about the recent round of acquisitions by Japanese banks, Tamura managed to create a momentary stunned silence that gave way to laughter by calling them "chickens" that had been cowardly rather than wise in their refusal to be more involved with foreign markets. He invoked the science author Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene for an analogy about cowardly individuals in a species sometimes surviving when the strong wipe each other out, before urging the Japanese banks not to take the wrong lesson from their recent success. The energetic senator has of course written these events up already on his constantly updated blog, kotarotamura.net.