WELL-KNOWN JAPANESE POLITICIANS: WOMEN, COMEDIANS AND CELEBRETIES

POLITICIANS IN JAPAN

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Katsuya Okada
Yukio Edano is one of the most widely respected DPJ politicians. Under Hatoyama he headed the Policy research Committee and was involved in the hearings to reduce government waste. In February 2010 was given the cabinet position of government revitalization minster. In interviews and discussions he comes across as an affable, straight shooter who answers questions and describes polices and positions in a way that is straight forward and easy to understand. Edano was a founding member of the original DPJ in 1996. He is regarded as smart policy wonk who keeps his distance from Ozawa.

After Naoto Kan reigned as head of Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan, DPJ), in 2004, Katsuya Okada was named the President of Minshuto. Okada was 50 at the time. He graduated from Tokyo University in 1976 and entered the the former International Trade and Industry Ministry the same year. He was first elected t the lower house as a member of the LDP from Mie District in 1990. He left the LDP in 1993

Renho, a former television personality, is one of the more visible figures in the Kan government. She served as State Minister in Charge of Government Revitalization and was very active in the televised hearings to cut waste, making bureaucrats squirm as she asked them tough questions. Born in 1968, she is half Taiwanese and goes by only one name. In October 2010 she was criticized for doing a a fashion shoot for Vogue in the Diet building.

Popular politician Munroe Suzuki of Hokkaido---who was re-elected to the lower house even after being charged with accepting bribes---began serving a 17-month prison sentence in December 2010.

Websites and Resources

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Renho
Good Websites and Sources: CIA List of Current World Leaders /www.cia.gov/library ;Why Japanese Politicians Are So Bad Newsweek ; Political Inheritance Under Single Vote System allacademic.com ; Female Politicians in Japan elpweb.com/onjapan ; Inherited Seats news.bbc.co.uk ; Naoto Kan upi.com ; Wikipedia article on Ichiro Ozawa Wikipedia ; Ichiro Ozawa DPJ Profile pj.or.jp/english ; Shintaro Ishihara ezipangu.org ; Shintaro Ishihara at Internet Movie Database imdb.com ; Wikipedia article on Takako Doi Wikipedia

Links in this Website: GOVERNMENT AND SYMBOLS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER AND PARLIAMENT Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; POLITICS AND ELECTIONS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; POLITICIANS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; BUREAUCRACY IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CORRUPTION AND GOVERNMENT SCANDALS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TAXES, WELFARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ;

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political poster
Good Government Websites and Sources: Wikipedia article on the Government of Japan Wikipedia ; Wikipedia article on the Japanese Flag Wikipedia ; Government Organization Chart kantei.go.jp and kantei.go.jp/foreign/link/chart ; Statistical Handbook of Japan Government Chapter stat.go.jp/english/data/handbook ; 2010 Edition stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan ; News stat.go.jp Governments on the WWW--- Japan Linksgksoft.com ; Japan Echo, a Journal on Japanese Politics and Society japanecho.com ; Electronic Journal of Japanese Studies japanesestudies.org

Prime Minister, Legislature and Leaders: CIA List of Current World Leaders /www.cia.gov/library ; Kantei, Office of the Prime Minister kantei.go.jp ;Cabinet Office cao.go.jp ; House of Representatives (Shugiin) shugiin.go.jp ; House of Councillors (Sangiin) sangiin.go.jp/ ; National Diet Library ndl.go.jp/en National Diet Building in Tokyo Photos of National Diet Building at Japan-Photo Archive japan-photo.de ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Japan Visitor Japan Visitor ; Japanese Lifestyle japaneselifestyle.com.au Constitution Constitution of Japan solon.org/Constitutions/Japan ; Birth of the Constitution of Japan ndl.go.jp/constitution ; Research Commission on the Constitution shugiin.go.jp ;

Women Politicians in Japan

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Conservative party leader
Women politicians in Japan include Akiko Domoto, head of the New Party Sakigake; and Fusae Ota the former governor of Osaka. Renho, a former television personality, was one of the more visible figures in the DPJ government from 2009 to 2012. She served as State Minister in Charge of Government Revitalization and was very active in the televised hearings to cut waste, making bureaucrats squirm as she asked them tough questions. Born in 1968, she is half Taiwanese and goes by only one name. In October 2010 she was criticized for doing a a fashion shoot for Vogue in the Diet building.

Yasuo Tanaka---an acclaimed novelist and former journalist known for a column about the sexual adventures of a single man in Tokyo---was elected as governor of Nagano prefecture in October 2000 on a platform of reform the political system and fighting pork-barrel projects.Tanaka has said he wanted to create “the Sweden of Japan” in Nagano and criticized the bureaucracy for racking up such huge debts to secure and host the Olympics. When he took office he tried to live up to his pronouncements. After halting construction of a two expensive and controversial dam projects he was ousted by the local legislature, which had traditionally been supported by the construction industry. Tanaka ran for office again and was reelected with 65 percent of the vote.

Tanaka was defeated in an election in August 2006. The defeat was blamed on Tanaka’s failure to provide an adequate vision for the prefecture as it tried to wean itself away from support from the national government and his confrontational approached with existing political parties hampered his effectiveness at achieving his goals. .

Takako Doi

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Takako Doi was the first woman to head a political party in Japan. She was head of the Japan Socialist Party, and almost became prime minister of Japan but was considered by some to be unfit to govern because she had never been married. Doi was a professor before became a politician and was admired for direct, no-nonsense style. She enjoyed playing pachinko and singing. On a seat in her office she kept a stuffed giant panda that she had won in a singing contest.

Doi was the first women speaker of the lower house. She served at that position from 1993 to 1996 and took the leadership of the SDP in September 1996. She was elected to her seat 12 times and was chairman of the Japan Socialist Party between 1986 and 1991. She resigned as head of the Socialist Party but kept her seat after the Socialist Party’s dismal showing in the November 2003 election. She was 74. Her party had been in trouble for a while but was dealt a severe blow when her secretary and a high-ranking SDP member were arrested.

Makiko Tanaka

Makiko Tanaka, the once popular daughter of Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, served as Foreign Ministry Koizumi. She had hopes of reforming the ministry, which had been plagued by scandals. She stirred up controversy in her efforts to reprimand bureaucrats within the Foreign Ministry but lost most of battles and made mistakes. Bureaucrats in the foreign ministry fought back by claiming Tanka had frequent temper tantrums, she was paranoid and recalled one incident in which blew her top because she wasn’t invited to the Emperors garden party. Tanaka retorted by claiming that foreign ministry members spread false rumors about her and even stole one of her rings. Tanaka was forced to resign as foreign minister and quit the LDP in August 2002 over allegations of misappropriating state-paid salaries. She returned to politics by winning a seat in the November 2003 as an independent.

Makiko Tanaka was born on January 14, 1944. Her hometown is Nagaoka-city, Niigata Prefecture. She was a member of the House of Representatives elected from the fifth constituency of Niigata Prefecture six times. She is married to Naoki Tanaka, a member of the House of Councillors and a Former Minster of Defense. Her father is Kakuei Tanaka, Former Prime Minister of Japan. She is a mother to a son and two daughters. Her hobbies include cooking, gardening and swimming. [Japanese government]

Tanaka’s professional career: 1) Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (2012); 2) Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the House of Representatives (2011); 3) Chair of the Committee on Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the House of Representatives (2009); 4) Minister for Foreign Affairs (2001); 4) Minister of State for Science and Technology (1994). [Ibid]

In August 2009, Tanaka was elected to the House of Representatives for the sixth time under the Democratic Party of Japan. In September 2005 she was elected for the fifth time as an independent. The same was true for the election in November 2003. In June 2000, she was elected to the the House of Representatives for the third time under the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. She was an LDP member when she was elected the first two times.

Tanaka was named Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology In October 2012. Soon afterwards she caused a big stir when she rejected to approve the establishment three new universities, including one to be named Akita Municipal College of Fine Arts, after they had been given tacit approval before. She disapproved of the new universities because she---and many others---feel that Japan has too many universities now and enrollment at many of them is declining. But later, in an about-face, Tanaka has decided to approve the establishment of the three universities because criticism of her initial decision was so strong.

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun editorial: Due to her misunderstanding of political leadership, Tanaka threw the universities' operators and prospective students into confusion and damaged people's trust in educational administration...We find it outrageous that she has said her latest stunt turned out to be good publicity for the universities. She should apologize to the three operators immediately.[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 10, 2012]

Tanaka lost her seat in the December 2012 lower house election

Celebrity Politicians in Japan

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Knock Yokohama
Being a celebrity seems to be the easiest way to launch one’s political career after inheriting a seat from one’s father. A number of politicians got their start in television. A popular Sunday night legal advise show produced two politicians: a Diet member and a governor of Osaka. Several female politicians, including a defense minister, got their start as anchorwomen on television news shows.

Masanori Murakawa, a professional wrestler known in his sport as the Great Sasuke. was voted to Iwate Prefectural Assembly. After taking his seat he continued with his wresting career and insisted that he wear the multi-colored mask he wore as a professional wrestler. Whether or not he could wear the mask while the assembly was in session was a hotly contested issue. During a rowdy session of Parliament another professional wrestler threw a glass of water at politicians that were heckling him.

Among the athlete that have become politicians are professional wrestler Atushi Onita, Olympic figure skater Emi Watanabe, television personality Kyosen Ohashi, J-League soccer player Yoshinori Taguchi. a baseball star, the father of a famous pro golfer and a woman she competed in seven Olympics as a speed skater and bicycle race.

Candidates on the July 2007 upper house election included the former president of Peru, the granddaughter of the man who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor, an inventor who calls himself Dr. Nakamata who claims he has developed a way to force North Korea missiles to change direction in mid air and a street musician who performs at shopping center “against evil government policies.”

Comedian Politicians in Japan

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Sonomamma Higashi
A number of celebrities have had success in politics. The comic actor Ukio Aoshima was elected the governor of Tokyo in 1995. On television, he used to dress up in a wig to play a character called the "Nasty Grandmother," who among other things took her grandchildren to watch porno movies. Running as an independent, he criticized a long-serving prime minister of being a "male concubine" and spent the campaign period at home "studying public administration" rather than spending campaign funds.

Aoshima ran on a platform of reform and cutting public spending. He proposed ending free subway passes for the elderly and raising schools fees but his reform efforts were defeated by members of the LDP and other established parties. He didn't run for another term in 1999.

The comedian Knock Yokohama was reelected in 1999 as the governor of Osaka and then forced to resign after being accused of groping a 21-year-old campaign worker for 30 minutes in a back of van. As a comedian he was known by names Hook and Punch and used to appear in a tutu during comic sketch on television.

Particularly annoying are comedians that continue being a television celebrities after they become politicians. Such is the case with former television personality and comedian Sonomamma Higashi (Hideo Higashikokubaru) was elected governor of Miyazaki Prefecture In January 2007. After he became governor one TV analyst calculated, he made 500 television appearances in one year.

Higashikokubaru tried to promote himself as the LDP’s savior before the general election in 2009, The move made him look foolish and angered people in his constituency who felt he was betraying them for national attention.

Politicians and Violence in Japan

Victims of political violence include Prime Minister Takeo Miki, punched in the face at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo in June 1975; LDP lawmaker Kiichi Miyazawa, struck with an ashtray in a Tokyo hotel in March 1984; and the lawmaker Hyosuke Niwa, stabbed to death by a mentally ill man in Nagoya in October 1990.

See Right Wing Groups, Political Parties

In April 2007, Nagasaki mayor Itcho Ito died after being shot in the back twice outside his election campaign office by a gangster, Tetsuta Shiroo. Shiroo, a member of the yakuza group Sishin-kai, an affiliate of the Yamaguchi-gumi, harbored a grudges over Nagasaki government rebuffs of his shakedown attempts.

Shiroo was particularly angered by the rejection of his attempt to retrieve ¥2.7 million in “damages” for a car “accidents” in which his car was damaged by pothole on city road under construction and the rejection of public works proposals to demolish a hot spring resort. Shiroo was quoted as saying, “I was ticked off about various things, so I decided to shoot the mayor. I intended to kill him from the beginning.” In 2007, Shiroo was sentenced to death.

In December 2010, a masked driver killed the uncle of a candidate in an Ibaraki Prefectural assembly election by ramming a refrigerator truck into the candidates office. The victim, Toshio Toita, was the uncle of Kazuyuki Toita, who was running for an assembly seat. Witnesses said the driver drove the truck through a fence and rammed the office with the truck twice.

In December 2011, Kyodo reported: The Mito District Court sentenced a former member of an organized crime group to 20 years in prison for ramming a truck into the campaign office of a candidate in the Ibaraki prefectural assembly election in December 2010. The candidate's uncle was killed in the attack.[Source: Kyodo, December 23, 2011]

The court found Keiichi Shitara, 44, from Ishioka in the prefecture, guilty of crashing a 4-ton truck into the office and running down and killing Toshio Toita, the then 62-year-old uncle of candidate Kazuyuki Toita, who is now a prefectural assemblyman. Shitara and his defense lawyers denied involvement in the incident. Shitara's lawyers said they will appeal the ruling.

Presiding Judge Wataru Nemoto said in the ruling the court had no doubt Shitara was the perpetrator as testimony from witnesses is ''creditable and fingerprints detected from the refrigerator truck are those of the defendant.'' The ruling said Shitara was well aware the victim was in front of the truck, but he continued to apply pressure to the accelerator pedal while being aware that there was a high risk he would run down and kill Toita. According to the ruling, Shitara rammed the stolen refrigerator truck into the campaign office of Toita, 47, and then ran over his uncle who tried to stop the vehicle as it fled the scene.

Image Sources: Japan Zone except Hatayama (Minshuto) and Conservative leader (Kantei) and posters (Japan-Photo.de)

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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