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On the Streets of Tokyo, Hosokawa's Departure Is Greeted With Resignation

AFTER the shock of Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa's sudden decision to resign had worn off, Tokyoites this weekend regained their customary air of resignation about the ups and downs of their political system.

``It's natural,'' said one man as he waited for his wife at a store entrance in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district. ``People don't regard [the current turmoil] as such a big deal.''

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He praised Mr. Hosokawa for bringing a new, fresher style to Japanese politics and for opening the long-closed domestic rice market to cheaper, imported varieties, but said it was too soon to tell whether the process of political reform that Hosokawa started would amount to anything.

The man, who said he was a company executive but declined to give his name, applauded a new electoral system that creates single-representative voting districts in an effort to increase politicians' accountability. But he wondered ``whether the voters will be able to choose good politicians who don't depend on money.''

Others expressed frustration and disappointment at the unfinished business that Hosokawa leaves behind. ``Japanese politicians always resign as a way of taking moral responsibility,'' said Yuko Kuriyama as she stood in front of the department store's Emporio Armani boutique.

``But I don't think that's a real way of being responsible. I think that to take responsibility means that you should do what you were expected to do.'' In this case, she explained, Hosokawa should have pursued attempts to reform the country's politics.

Across the street, in front of a Dunkin' Donuts franchise, a black-clad hair stylist named Chiaki Ueno agreed: ``He should have done what he was expected to do.'' She called the resignation an attempt to ``escape'' responsibility.

Amid all the talk of political realignments, there was much skepticism about a return to power of the Liberal Democratic Party, whose 38-year rule was ended by Hosokawa's coalition. ``I don't want the LDP revived,'' said company worker Noboru Saga. ``I want to have a new leader like Hosokawa.''

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