AS he walks down the street shaking hands, Kunio Hatoyama looks familiar to the people of Tokyo's eighth district. That's because, as a politician, Mr. Hatoyama is just following in the footsteps of his elder brother.
And of his father.
And of his grandfather.
And of his great-grandfather.
``People sometimes accuse me of just inheriting my family's name. But the name does have its advantages,'' says Hatoyama.
He is far from alone among the 953 candidates running in the Feb. 18 election for Japan's lower house. An estimated 40 percent of candidates are close kin of either past or present parliamentary members.
Among candidates endorsed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, more than 50 percent of the expected winners in Sunday's election will be relatives of older party members, says Shigezo Hayasaka, a political commentator and former aid to the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) saw a wave of retirements in the past year, which opened the way for a new generation of politicians - especially for those born into politics. In one district, known as Aomori-2, all three candidates are second-generation politicians.
One new member of the LDP's dynastic ``club'' will likely be Yasuo Fukuda, who is running for the seat of his famous father, former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda. His campaign promise is simple: to inherit his father's political organization.
To disband the large and lucrative support organization of a retiring politician might open up power struggles among his election professionals, so it is considered easier just to pass the organization on to a heir.
``People just expect the son to inherit his father's power,'' says Socialist Party campaign worker Kenji Kitagawa.