With the humble personality of Prime Minister-elect Yoshihiko Noda, who compared himself to a loach in a speech on the day of the Democratic Party of Japan presidential race, capturing the recent spotlight, attention is now being directed to the nation's newest first lady.
People who know Hitomi Noda say she is hardworking, modest and epitomizes what "the ideal Japanese woman" should be.
Takehiko Noda, the 50-year-old brother of the prime minister-elect and a Funabashi City Assembly member in Chiba Prefecture, described his sister-in-law as attentive and diligent.
According to him, the 48-year-old Hitomi hails from Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, and her parents ran a small factory. She majored in vocal music at a Tokyo university and worked in Tokyo after graduation.
Yoshihiko Noda, 54, became acquainted with Hitomi in the late 1980s when he was a member of the Chiba Prefectural Assembly. One of his local supporters introduced her to him. Noda fell in love with her, and on one occasion he took her to a yakiniku barbeque restaurant in Roppongi, Tokyo, after searching for eateries in a guidebook, according to his brother.
Noda, who lacked a political base and name recognition in his early days as a politician, is known for having stood in front of train stations to make speeches in the morning for about 25 years. After marrying him, Hitomi also stood before the stations with her husband and handed out fliers to passersby.
When Noda left the Diet after losing in the House of Representatives election in October 1996 by a margin of 105 votes, she continued to help him with his political activity, folding fliers and taking telephone calls at his local office.
A 78-year-old housewife who lives nearby said: "She doesn't act like the wife of a politician. When we pass each other, she casually greets me. She's friendly."
At home, Hitomi plays the role of mother, raising two sons: a 19-year-old medical student and a 16-year-old who attends a high school in Tokyo. A good cook, Hitomi usually prepares meals while listening to classical and jazz music. For the past several years, she has also taken care of Noda's 80-year-old father, Yoshinobu, after he suffered a stroke.
Outside home, she lends a hand to the Special Olympics Nippon, Chiba--a volunteer group that supports sporting activity for disabled people. Since the group was launched in 2002, she has served as a board of trustee member and an auditor secretary. She attends meetings, which are held about four times a year, and participates in events.
"She worked at a reception desk and readily helped the staff during events," an official of the group's secretariat said.
According to Noda's office, she also took part in volunteer work to remove debris in an area hit hard by the March 11 disaster.
One Funabashi City Assembly member said he remembers Hitomi offered cold towels and tea to Noda's supporters and thanked them for helping her husband's campaign for the lower house election in August 2009.
"She fits the description of Yamato Nadeshiko," Kazuko Seino, 69, who has volunteered at Noda's office for 18 years, said, referring to a term used to describe an ideal Japanese woman. "She is considerate and humble."
At a press conference after attending a Cabinet meeting as finance minister Tuesday, Noda was asked whether his wife would attend international conferences as the first lady. He replied: "I don't know. I have to start by making a coalition at home. [I called her, but] the answering machine was on."
His brother, Takehiko, said, "They're a good married couple."