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Profiles Of Japan's New Bigwigs

Here's a closer look at some key members of the new Japanese cabinet:

Kiichi Miyazawa, Finance Minister

A 78-year-old former prime minister heralded by some as an expert on finance, Miyazawa assumes the most crucial portfolio in Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi's "economic reform cabinet."

The selection of Miyazawa, a main architect of the party's plan to reform Japan's banking system, has boosted markets skeptical of Obuchi's ability to turn around the slumping economy.

Despite the praise, when Miyazawa was finance minister in 1986-88, he presided over a disastrous bubble in land and stock prices. As prime minister in 1991-93, he played down the severity of the bubble's crash. And he has been accused of delaying the cleanup.

Miyazawa is the first former premier to be named finance minister since 1927, when financial expert Korekiyo Takahashi came out of retirement to lead Japan out of an economic crisis.

Masahiko Komura, Foreign Affairs Minister

Komura, 56, served as vice minister under Obuchi while the latter was foreign affairs minister in the previous cabinet.

As Japan's top diplomat, Komura is widely expected to continue Obuchi's efforts to seek warmer ties with Russia, which have been frigid since the Soviet army seized four islands off Japan's northern coast at the end of World War II.

Taichi Sakaiya, Director-General of the Economic Planning Agency

The only non-politician in the new cabinet, Sakaiya is a noted author on economic issues who has warned that Japan's economy suffers from a "terminal sickness."

Sakaiya, who assumes the second-most prominent economic post in the cabinet after the finance minister, is reportedly Obuchi's longtime confidant and one of his closest advisers.

In his books, the 63-year-old former official of the prestigious Ministry of International Trade and Industry has called for curtailing the powers of Japan's bureaucrats.

Sakaiya is his pen name. His real name is Kotaro Ikeguchi.

Kaoru Yosano, Minister of International Trade and Industry

A favorite of ruling party elders, Yosano is reportedly an opponent of younger members trying to reform the ruling Liberal Democratic Party from within.

The 59-year-old veteran lawmaker from Tokyo will take charge of a ministry widely credited with leading Japan's emergence as an industrial powerhouse but now lacking a sense of purpose.

He has experience in industrial policy, having served as chairman of the lower house's Committee on Commerce and Industry and as an MITI vice minister.

Seiko Noda, Post and Telecommunications Minister

Noda is the cabinet's only female member. A former hotel employee, she entered politics at age 26 after inheriting the campaign support group of her grandfather, a noted parliamentarian.

The 37-year-old becomes the youngest cabinet minister in Japanese history.