TOKYO (AFP) — Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso complained on Sunday he cannot find enough time to devote himself to his lifelong hobby -- reading comics.
Aso, who takes comics on trips abroad, said he finished reading two weekly magazines last week but has yet to find time to read two others.
"It's hard to read comic books as my time is now restricted," a smiling Aso told an audience of hundreds in his first street speech since taking office on September 24.
The conservative, often gruff lawmaker has eagerly sought to soften his image in recent years by casting himself as one of Japan's "otaku" -- nerds whose hobbies border on obsession.
Aso used the speech in Tokyo's Akihabara district to hail Japan's subculture, notably comic books, as a key export from the country.
"Japan's subculture of animation has been overwhelmingly accepted in the world," Aso said.
"Japan's culture is not only kabuki or no play," he said, referring to Japanese traditional drama. "Comic books, our subculture power, have been widely read in not only Asia but Europe, the United States, Latin America."
Akihabara, long known for major electronics shops, has become the top gathering point for the otaku, with stores selling the latest comic books and animation DVDs. Waitresses dress up as characters from hit video games.
"I can cheer up when I come to Akihabara," Aso said as supporters, mostly in their 20s and 30s, yelled in chorus: "Aso, Aso, Aso."
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