In a country where holidays are measured in days not weeks, Junichiro Koizumi is taking a lengthy summer break - but more for political convenience than from a need to recharge ahead of a winter of discontent. The Japanese prime minister has also instructed his cabinet 'to take long leave' before a planned reshuffle in September and further public spending cuts, which are expected to push up the 5.8 per cent unemployment rate. The timing and the length of the break have set political tongues wagging as Tokyo bakes. Mr Koizumi's planned 11-day vacation from August 12 means he will be absent for the August 15 commemoration at the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours the country's war dead and war criminals. The date, marking Japan's World War II surrender, is pivotal in the nationalists' calendar. Mr Koizumi visited the shrine last August, and made an unscheduled visit in April this year. Both trips were condemned in Japan and overseas, and forced the prime minister to publicly vow not to go to the shrine this August. By conveniently being on holiday, he appears to be ducking the issue, further weakening his political authority. This, after all, is a prime minister whose critics accuse him of dodging much-needed economic and political reforms. Mr Koizumi shows every indication of needing a holiday. His relationship with the media seems strained. After enjoying a performance of Shakespeare's Othello last week, he told waiting reporters pressing him on the state of the economy not to mention such matters now, as 'it shows what you can expect from people of no culture'. 'Koizumi reacts to things according to his mood and no longer seems capable of prioritising matters in terms of importance or triviality,' said Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) colleague and Diet member Junichi Yamaguchi. Veteran LDP legislator Hiromu Nonaka said Mr Koizumi's lackadaisical style was tantamount to playing with fire. 'We cannot allow this type of thing to go on,' he added ominously. Even Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, the very face of the administration, reportedly dismissed his boss as a lightweight. Nobody would deny Mr Koizumi a holiday, but a break over the critical mid-August period may send the wrong political signals.