He came, he saw - and he changed the face of Japanese politics irrevocably. With the curtain about to fall on the last act of Junichiro Koizumi's reign as prime minister, opinion is divided on his failures and successes, but few can deny that he has introduced a splash of colour to the nation's political proceedings. The hair was wavy and shoulder-length, the talks with other world leaders were often informal, and the stiff suits left hung up - at least for the duration of Japan's summers. Mr Koizumi, 64, has let the leader-as-media star genie out of the bottle - something unthinkable before he was first elected in April 2001. As leaders such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton soon discovered, it will be difficult to coax it back again. 'From the outset he has been very good in front of the cameras and that is a lead that any politician who wants to come after him will have to follow,' said Noriko Hama, a professor of economics at Kyoto's Doshisha University. But has his adroitness in front of the cameras - complete with the carefully managed 'Lionheart' image - grabbed the limelight rather than his actual achievements? In the past five years and five months, several areas of Japanese society and politics that were previously considered untouchable have been rendered almost unrecognisable, according to Go Ito, a professor of political science at Tokyo's Meiji University. 'Mr Koizumi has initiated many changes, all of which are important in their own way and have a wide-ranging impact on the general public, but if I had to choose a single one it would have to be the impact he has had on domestic politics with his dismantling of the faction system of his Liberal Democratic Party,' said Mr Ito. The longest-serving Japanese leader for more than two decades, Mr Koizumi had long intended to shed the factionalism of the party and end the sometimes murky tradition of cash in return for electoral support, particularly through the construction industry. By doing so, he may also have weakened the faction headed by one of his predecessors as party leader, Ryutaro Hashimoto - an implacable enemy until his death in July. Moves were already afoot to achieve that, but Mr Koizumi seized his opportunity by dissolving the 500-seat lower house of parliament last year when rebel members of his party opposed passage of a bill to privatise the post office. Describing them as the 'old guard' that wanted to protect the system of patronage politics, he forced 14 members to leave the party and won a resounding victory in the September general election - with the opposition Democratic Party of Japan paying the price for his popularity at the ballot box. Even his critics admit that out-manoeuvring the older generation within the party was something of a master stroke. 'He has got away with things - like stirring up the LDP - that no one else would even have tried to do,' said Professor Hama. 'It has caused a lot of soul-searching in the highest reaches of the party and brought about more transparency. One of Mr Koizumi's key legacies will prove to be leaving the old guard in such a mess.' The biggest beneficiaries of the culling have been the LDP's younger generation, who could accurately be labelled Koizumi's Kids. 'Within the party there is still a tug of war between the young and old generations, representatives of rural areas and urban-based politicians, but I think the momentum reflects the way people voted at the last election,' said Keisuke Suzuki, at 29 the third-youngest politician in the Diet. 'The bottom line is that the LDP is committed to continuing structural reforms.' Mr Koizumi has changed a society which has long expected equality of opportunity. By introducing free competition and genuine liberalism he hopes he will make the Japanese people more ambitious and energetic. Mr Suzuki also applauds Mr Koizumi's commitment to making Japan a key player on the world stage, but he agrees that structural reforms still have some way to go before they can be described as a success. There are some who believe that Mr Koizumi will be content with a place on the Diet back benches, content to watch the hustle and bustle as one of the few prime ministers not hurried out of office by circumstances or his political foes. But Professor Hama disagrees. 'He's not the type to stay in politics to pull strings from the background, so I can see him becoming a chat-show presenter,' she said. 'He's a populist and that's just about his level. I'm sure he would attract some great speakers and get very good reviews. But I also think he would probably end up talking too much himself.'