Former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi, known as a staunch conservative with outspoken views on national security, is seeking to become Japan's first female prime minister.

The eighth-term lower house member has faced criticism in the past from China and South Korea for her frequent visits to Yasukuni shrine, a war-linked Shinto shrine in Tokyo seen by the neighboring countries as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

Takaichi, 60, has vowed to continue former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's signature "Abenomics" program, which relies on aggressive monetary easing and fiscal stimulus, with her own "Sanaenomics." She has gained Abe's support in the election.

Takaichi has long argued in favor of keeping a legal requirement in Japan that married couples should share the same surname, even though she has continued to use her maiden rather than legal name as a politician. The practice of sharing a surname has been widely criticized as violating the constitutional right to gender equality.

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