Literally, he says he will pick up chestnuts out of fire.
17th Century French poet La Fontaine wrote a fable, after Aesop, in which a cat is coerced by a monkey to pick up chestnuts in the hot embers. The cat did it, but burned its paws badly. The monkey ate all the chestnuts.
Mr. Kaieda is saying he will be the cat, even if he knows it will burn his paws - i.e. ruin his career as politician.
Mr. Kaieda, who lost to Mr. Noda in the second round of the leadership election in August last year, partly thanks to NHK's erroneous reporting, is so far the only candidate for the Democratic Party of Japan's leadership election scheduled for December 25.
Younger politicians with ambitions like Seiji Maehara and Goshi Hosono have already declared they are not running this time.
From Asahi Shinbun (12/22/2012):
Banri Kaieda, ex-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry and a Democratic Party of Japan member, held a press conference at a hotel in Tokyo on December 22 and declared his candidacy in the leadership election to be held on December 25. He said, "I have decided to enter the leadership election, to pick up chestnuts in the hot embers." Former Minister of Agriculture Hirotaka Akamatsu, former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Akihiro Ohata, and the former Democratic Socialist Party group are expected to support him. Mr. Kaieda is the first person to declare candidacy in the leadership election.
Meanwhile, Japan Future Party under Ms. Yukiko Kada, governor of Shiga Prefecture is planning to work very closely with Social Democratic Party in the Lower House, forming a parliamentary group. Ms. Kada's party managed to send 7 members to the Lower House in the December 16 election, and there are two Social Democrats who survived the election.
As I posted previously, Ms. Kada has expressed her intention to work closely with the boy wonder's party (Japan Restoration Party).
I do have a feeling that people may wish DPJ were still in power.