WELL-KNOWN JAPANESE POLITICIANS: WOMEN, COMEDIANS, ISHIHARA, HASHIMOTO, OZAWA 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.

SHINTARO ISHIHARA

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Shintaro Ishihara is one of Japan's most popular and controversial politicians. A former bestselling writer and government minister, he was a Liberal Democratic lawmaker until he was elected the governor of Tokyo in 1999 without the support of any political party, defeating the LDP candidate. Some say he has ambitions to be prime minister.

Ishihara has strong nationalist views. He wants Japan to be powerful once again and has advocated building a nuclear weapons arsenal and ending military relations with the United States. Hiroko Tabuchi wrote in the New York Times: “Ishihara achieved notoriety in the United States with his 1989 book, “The Japan That Can Say No,” which urged a more assertive policy toward America. Despite his high profile, he made few real inroads in national politics, prompting him to retire in 1995 after a quarter-century in office. He made a political comeback in 1999, however, as mayor of Tokyo, and has won four consecutive terms. More than once, Mr. Ishihara has landed in trouble for gaffes, notably after last year’s tsunami, when he called it “divine punishment” for what he saw as the country’s general decline amid economic stagnation. He was eventually forced to retract the statement.[Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, October 25, 2012]

Ishihara married Noriko Ishida in 1950s. They had known each other since they were children. They have four sons. The eldest, Nobuteru, was born in 1957. He is currently a member of lower house and a rising political star. The third is also a member of the lower house of parliament. The second is an actor. The forth is a painter.

Ishihara sees himself as a person who has lived a life on the edge who enjoys scuba diving and hunting, and has sailed a yacht across the Pacific, gone whoring in South America, shot a whale and grizzly bear in the back with rifle, traveled to the North Pole, rode a motorcycle across South America, raced a yacht to Corsica and encountered ghosts during drunken nights out at his favorite haunts in Ginza. Ishihara has a strange blink. He divides his time between his residence in Tokyo and his seaside home in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Book: Undercurrents: Episodes from a Life on the Edge by Shintaro Ishihara (Kodansha international , 2006)

Shintaro Ishihara’s Literary Career

In 1955, while a student at Hitotubashi University, Ishihara dashed off a short novel, Season in the Suns, in three days. The book was about decadent university students from affluent families who acted like yakuza gangsters. In the most memorable scene, one character thrust his penis through a shoji screen of a room containing his girlfriend.

The book received the Akutagawa Prize, Japan's most prestigious literary award, became a bestseller and continues to sell well today. It launched Ishihara's career as a writer. The film version helped make a star of Ishihara's younger brother Yujiro. Ishihara and his brother attracted a following of young men who dressed in Hawaiian shirts and called themselves the Sun tribe.

Ishihara wrote a number of bestsellers, including The Japan That Can Say No, written with the late chairman of Sony, in which he trumpets Japanese superiority and urges Japanese to stand up to Americans. Ishihara also tried his hand at directing films and running a theater.

Ishihara was a friend of Yukio Mishima, the controversial nationalist writer who committed suicide. Mishima introduced Ishihara to writers and intellectuals. Ishihara introduced Mishima to the seamy side of Tokyo.

Shintaro Ishihara's Political Career

In 1968, Ishihara was elected to the upper house. Four years later he was elected to the more powerful lower house as a member of the LDP. He served eight successive terms and served as Minister of Transportation in 1988. A year late he failed in a bid to become president of LDP. Ishihara left Parliament in 1995. In his four years off he wrote a novel about a motorcycle stunt man, bummed around the Mediterranean and painted.

In April 1999, Ishihara was elected governor of Tokyo as an independent. He received twice as many votes as his nearest rival. He decided not to live in the governor's mansion because he considered its decorating scheme in bad taste. He traveled everywhere surrounded by a large security force and was treated like a rock star. Ishihara was reelected for a third four-year term as Tokyo mayor in April 2007 with 51.1 percent of the vote He ran as an independent against 13 challengers. His closest rival won 30.8 percent of the vote.

As governor of Tokyo, Ishihara tax Tokyo's banks, which had repeatedly been bailed out by the government; turned mundane earthquake preparation drills into displays of Japanese military might; passed strict laws to reduce pollution from diesel vehicles; restructured the Tokyo government; and actively campaigned to bring the Olympics to Tokyo in 2016.

Ishihara’s most effective tactic as mayor was to criticize the central government and bulldoze through contentious polices with the support of the public, a method used by other politicians such as Toru Hashimoto (See Below). To get support from the public for his scheme to get diesel-powered trucks to install anti-emmision devices he held up a bottle containing soot collected from car exhaust at a press conference.

Ishihara's Controversial Remarks

Ishihara has been a major critic of the U.S. military presence in Japan---what he calls “50 years of subservience to the United States”---and is an advocate of making Japan self-reliant militarily. "Since we respond only to pressure from the outside, let the North Koreans drop a missile on Kyoto, and incinerate the Golden Palace again,” he once said. “That would open our eyes to the fact that the U.S. can't really protect us, and we could stop worshiping at that altar." Ishihara has called French a “failed international language,” financed a film that glorifies kamikaze pilots called I Will Only Die for You and once said a deputy foreign minister deserved to receive a bomb found in his house because his attitude towards North Korea was too lenient.

Ishihara also said, "Third-country nations and foreigners who have entered Japan illegally have perpetuated heinous crimes. In the event of a major earthquake, riots could break out, and there is a limit to the police's ability to cope with such a situation alone." He later apologized for this remark which was particularly insensitive in the light that as many as 7,000 Koreans were lynched after they were blamed for looting and setting fires and even causing the Great Tokyo Earthquake in 1923.

Ishihara angered the Chinese by calling Taiwan a state, saying the Rape of Nanking was a fabrication of the Chinese, and criticized Japan for giving money to China "so they can continue work on developing a hydrogen bomb." In November 2003, after China successfully launched its first spacecraft, Ishihara said, “The Chinese are ignorant, so they’re overjoyed. That [spaceship] was an outdated one. If Japan wanted to do it, we could do it one year.”

Ishihara called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics and encouraged Japan to considered embarking on a Falklands-style war with China occupies over some small islands, the Senkaku Island, claimed by both countries. He made a spectacle of himself by snorkeling off one of these very same disputed islands.

Ishihara used the word sangokujin, a derogatory term that means people from third countries, to refer to the immigrants. The term was used after World War II to tell Koreans and Chinese to leave Japan. He has also blamed Iranians in Japan for dealing drugs and Chinese immigrants for playing a major role in Japan's rising crime rate and warned of “genetic pollution” from China if too many Chinese immigrants were let in. These and other remarks won Ishihara the title of the Le Pen of Japan.

Ishihara’s Decline

By 2009 Ishihara, after 11 years as mayor, was being routinely criticized for failed policies such as the establishment of the Shinginko Tokyo bank. which racked up over $1 billion in losses after only three years of operation namely due to giving questionable loans. There was speculation that he might resign if Tokyo’s Olympic bid failed.

Ishihara has been accused of nepotism in and corruption. In 2004 he took his youngest son with him on a trip to the Swiss Alps to do a drum performance at a party hosted at Economic Forum in Davos by Ishihara in 2004 at taxpayers expense. The son, an artist, designed a back set for the drummers for which the government allocated $11,000. Ishihara himself took a $120,000 cruise on a luxury ship in the Galapagos Island as part of an “eco-tourism study.” One of Ishihara’s pledges as mayor was to eliminate wasteful spending. He oversaw the publication of a book called Mou Zeikin-no-Mudazukaiwa Yurusnai (“No Wasteful tax Spending Any More”).

Ishihara’s Nobuteru son became secretary general of the LDP.

Ishihara’s Plan to Buy the Disputed Islands Claimed by China and Japan

Hiroko Tabuchi wrote in the New York Times: “Ishihara made a return to the national stage by prompting the the flare-up over the islands that Japan calls the Senkaku and China calls the Diaoyu. In the spring of 2012 he said he wanted Tokyo to buy several of the islands from their owner, a Japanese citizen, to better defend them from China. Under pressure not to look weak, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda decided the central government would buy the islands instead, a move that apparently was meant to calm the situation but instead created protests across China and led to unofficial boycotts of Japanese goods. [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, October 25, 2012]

In April 2012 Ishihara said he planned to use public money to buy the Senkaku Islands, a group of resource-rich islands controlled by Japan, but claimed by China and Taiwan. The islands have been at the centre of a dispute between Japan and China. The move was condemned by Chinese officials as illegal. “Ishihara, who is known for being outspoken, made the claim during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a think-tank in Washington, the BBC reported. He said that he was in discussions with the private Japanese owner of three of the islands in the disputed chain. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement that China had "indisputable sovereignty" over the islands, and that any unilateral action from Japan would be "illegal and invalid". [Source: BBC, April 16, 2012]

“Upon learning that Shin Shin, a 6-year-old female panda at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo, may be pregnant. Ishihara joked that possible giant panda cubs at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo should be named after Japanese islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by China. "Why not name the babies Sen Sen and Kaku Kaku?" Ishihara said at a press conference, referring to the Senkaku Islands."This will give China control [of the Senkakus] when the baby pandas return to China," he said. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 30, 2012]

Toru Hashimoto

Toru Hashimoto was elected governor of Osaka in 2007. Young and telegenic, he quickly made a name for himself trying to cut costs ad return the debt-ridden Osaka government---which pays $8 million per day on debt servicing alone---to fiscal health. Hashimoto later drew attention for his bold implementation of civil service reform and his dramatic move from the office of governor to that of mayor.

Among Hashimoto’s cost-cutting suggestions have been closing down Osaka airport, selling the main sumo arena, cutting subsidies for the elderly, infants and children, freezing planned public projects, reducing the number of police, ending subsidies to private schools and abolitioning nine facilities and 10 organizations. Many of these proposals were rejected but the ones that were approved went a long way to reducing Osaka’s debt.

Hashimoto pushed through education reform and was the first governor to disclose test results of primary students in his area and said he would take responsibility if students didn’t perform better. He has been at the forefront of the movement to release local governments from the burdens and financial obligations placed on them by the central government.

Before Hashimoto became governor he had little administrative experience. He achieved some notoriety as a lawyer and television personality. As might e expected there was a lot of resistance to his proposals, especially among those who would lose their jobs.

Hashimoto's Popularity

Hashimoto has won a attention and admiration for his aggressive and skillful administrative style, earning approval ratings of 80 percent and effectively battling the entreched bureaucracy and special interest groups by skillfully using the media an the get the public on his side. His skill with the media was developed during the years as a television lawyer and commentator.

Hashimoto has been able to inspire people and fill them with hope and get to take action. After he encouraged Osaka residents to make personal donations to help get the city out of debt one woman in her 80s responded by showed up at a prefectural government office building with two backpacks filled with $1 million in cash.

“As of June 2012 more than 760,000 people followed Hashimoto on Twitter. The figure is up from about 20,000 in February 2011 when he began tweeting, and is said to be increasing. He has by far the most registered followers among all Japanese politicians. A Yomiuri Shimbun public opinion survey of residents in Osaka Prefecture in March 2012 showed the group's support rating was a whopping 72 percent. "According to popular opinion, the prime minister of Japan is not Mr. Noda but already Mr. Hashimoto," brain scientist Kenichiro Mogi tweeted to Hashimoto in April. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 30, 2012]

“His ability to put words into action is compelling," said a 43-year-old patent attorney in Yokohama, who is one of the trainees. A 36-year-old trainee working at a manufacturing firm in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, said, "His use of radical rhetoric makes us believe he has a definite strategy, and I'm fascinated by his decisive power to realize it.” [Ibid]

Hashimoto Wins Osaka Elections in November 2011

In November 2011 Osaka mayoral and gubernatorial elections were held. Former Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto and Ichiro Matsui, a former member of the Osaka Prefectural Assembly, won their first terms as mayor and governor, respectively, in landslide victories for Hashimoto's party, Osaka Ishin no Kai (“Osaka Restoration Group”). Hashimoto's exchanges with established political parties have attracted attention, as he has hinted at fielding Osaka Ishin no Kai candidates in a national election to realize his plan to make Osaka Prefecture a metropolitan administrative region similar to Tokyo.

After the victory, , the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, Hashimoto said he would soon begin pressing the central government and political parties to consider revising related laws to pave the way for the establishment of an Osaka metropolis. "I'd like to begin urging them by year-end to revise related laws so we can launch an Osaka metropolis in four years," the 42-year-old former Osaka governor said at a press conference Sunday night. As head of Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), a local party, Hashimoto also said, "If [political parties] hesitate to work on this issue, we'll start preparations to field our own candidates for a national election." [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 29, 2011] Hashimoto's remarks suggest the local party could influence how major political parties will campaign in the next House of Representatives election, expected to be held in 2013. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 29, 2011]

The election results were a blow to both the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, whose prefectural chapters supported opponents of the candidates fielded by the local party. Neither the DPJ nor the LDP fielded candidates on their own, instead supporting Hiramatsu in the mayoral election and Kaoru Kurata, 63, former mayor of Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, in the gubernatorial election. Their losses also suggest the two major parties are losing their influence.

Voter turnout in the mayoral election was 60.92 percent, up 17.31 percentage points from the previous election in 2007 and surpassing 60 percent for the first time since 1971, when gubernatorial and mayoral elections were last held on the same day. Turnout for the gubernatorial election was 52.88 percent, up from 48.95 percent in the 2008 election.

Hashimoto’s Proposal to Make Osaka a Metropolis Like Tokyo

Both Hashimoto and Matsui, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, made the party's Osaka metropolis proposal campaign pledges. They propose the Osaka prefectural government and the Osaka and Sakai municipal governments be reorganized into a metropolis similar to Tokyo. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 29, 2011]

Under the proposal, the two government ordinance-designated cities in the prefecture would be divided into special administrative wards--eight to nine for Osaka and two to three for Sakai. Each ward would introduce elections by popular vote to choose ward mayors and offer administrative services close to residents' lives, while the metropolis would be responsible for policies affecting wider areas. By reorganizing the prefecture and two ordinance-designated cities, the proposal aims at having a unified administrative head and consolidating revenues so the metropolis could make intensive investments to stimulate the local economy.

Hashimoto launched Osaka Ishin no Kai in spring last year with the aim of realizing his Osaka metropolis proposal. In unified local elections in spring of this year, the party won a majority in the Osaka prefectural assembly and became dominant in the Osaka and Sakai municipal assemblies. Hashimoto decided to run in the mayoral election against incumbent Kunio Hiramatsu, 63, because the latter opposed the Osaka metropolis proposal. Hashimoto resigned last month as Osaka governor before his four-year term was to expire, thus sparking a double election, while also naming Matsui his successor.

Hashimoto’s Remarks on Disputed Islands Draws Criticism from His Own Party

In October 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Hashimoto has ruffled feathers within the party by suggesting that the Senkaku Islands and Takeshima island be "jointly managed" with neighboring nations, according to political sources. Hashimoto's comments fly in the face of the government view that the Senkakus and Takeshima are Japanese territory. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 9, 2012]

China claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and South Korea effectively controls Takeshima in Shimane Prefecture. Tensions over the islands have flared in recent months. Japan also has been locked in a dispute with Russia over the northern territories off Hokkaido. [Ibid]

Although Hashimoto insisted that the islands are Japanese sovereign territories, he said, "They should be managed jointly with neighboring countries." Hashimoto also called for cooperative management of marine resources in areas around the islands. "Sovereignty and utilization are different matters," he said. Hashimoto added, "[Japan] should take the matters to the International Court of Justice," to end the disputes over the islands. Observers believe Hashimoto made these remarks because he is aware of his party's weakness in diplomatic and defense issues. Nippon Ishin no Kai started out as a regional party in Osaka with chiefly domestic concerns. [Ibid]

Kenzo Yoneda, former member of the House of Representatives and an adviser for the party's Tokyo office, has been critical of Hashimoto's remarks. "The territorial issue is a 'lifeline' for politicians. Hashimoto's remark on joint management misses the point, and it will affect [him] in a considerably negative way," he said. [Ibid]

ICHIRO OZAWA

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Ozawa is a 14th-term veteran lower house member elected from Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan. He is known to have wielded huge political clout as DPJ secretary general, while Yukio Hatoyama was party president between September 2009 and June 2010. Ozawa graduated from Keio University in economics and was a protégée of former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and other powerful lawmakers who were indIcted on corruption charges.

Ozawa is a skilled political organizer. For several decades he was known as an LDP deal maker, associated with some shady deals and disgraced politician. Ozawa quit the LDP in 1993 in part to escape associations with corruption. In April 2006, at the age of 63, Ozawa became the DJP leader after easily defeating Naoto Kan in a party poll 119-72. Ozawa had been the leaders of the parties: the Japan Renewal Party, the New Frontier Party and the Liberal Party. Ozawa named Kan as his deputy president. Ozawa was initially seen as the first choice in 2004 but he was passed over because he failed to make some pension payments.

Ozawa’s Political Career

Ozawa won a lower house seat for the first time in 1969 and was re-elected 13 times after that. As an LDP member he served as home affairs minister from 1985 to 1986 and was the LDP party secretary, the party’s No. 2 post, from 1989 to 1991.

Ozawa has been called the “the destroyer” of political parties.” He founded three political parties that disintegrated. Ozawa defected from the LDP in 1993 over disagreements with other LDP members over electoral system reforms and played a key role in the creation of the cabinet of Morihiro Hosokawa, prime minister from August 1993 to April 1994 and the leader of the first non-LDP administration since 1955.

Ozawa has been called the “Destroyer” and “Party breaker” because of his habit of forming parties only to have them merge with other parties. He helped former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata form the breakaway but now defunct Japan Renewal party., which successfully topped the LDP in 1993. In 1998, Ozawa formed the Liberal Party, which formed a coalition with the LDP in 1999. After leaving the coalition he let the party merge with the DPJ in 2003.

Ozawa has suggested “disenshrining” the war criminals at Yasukuni shrine.

Ozawa After the 2009 Election

Ichiro Ozawa was selected as the head of the DPJ in the Hatoyama government. On Ozawa’s section as party head, Hatoyama said, Ozawa’s ability to devise shrewd election tactics would be indispensable for the DPJ’s attempt to gain a working majority of seats in the upper house in next year’s election.

Ozawa was described as a “shadow Prime Minister” or “shadow shogun.” His office was put in charge of screening all petitions from industrial associations, local governments and others. Ozawa had a hand in picking the Cabinet and coached first term representatives. Those that were late to his seminars were punished like school children. Many worried that Ozawa would take over the DPJ or divide it. Some of his allies took key positions in the government. A very close ally of Ozawa’s, 77-year-old Hirohisa Fujii, was named Finance Mister but was forced to resign only a few months after taking his post due to poor health.

Hatoyama was advised by his aides to pick cabinet members with a certain amount of distance from Ozawa and not ask permission to enact policies, simply tell him. Ozawa gave high positions in the DPJ to members of the upper house in anticipation of doing well and gaining supporters in the upper house elections.

In December 2009, Ozawa went to China, accompanied by 600 people, including 143 DPJ party members, each of whom had his or her photograph taken shaking hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The visit came across as a publicity stunt with no real purpose. Ozawa insisting it was part of the “Great Wall Plan” that he launched when he was a member of the LDP in the 1990s. Around the same time Ozawa drew criticism for putting pressure on the Japanese Emperor to meet the Chinese Vice President in a hastily-prepared meeting and for calling Christianity a “self righteous” religion.

Ozawa Money Politics

Ozawa was regarded as an “election strategic genius” within the DPJ but also a dictator who had withheld funds from some lawmakers. In December 2010, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “A government report on political funds clearly shows that Ozawa's political clout is based on his abundant financial resources and his funds management organization, Rikuzan-kai, still had the highest total revenue of any political organization in 2010. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, December 2, 2011]

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The report highlighted the process by which Ozawa collected a huge amount of campaign funds, distributed them to candidates in the House of Representatives election and formed the largest group of supporters within the DPJ. When the lower house was dissolved on July 2010, heavyweights of both the ruling DPJ and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party scrambled to raise funds to finance the campaigns of candidates close to them. [Ibid]

On day parliament was dissolved, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported “dozens of DPJ incumbent and first-time candidates visited a hotel near JR Tokyo Station in small groups, sources said. All of them had blank receipts from their own political funds management organizations in their pockets. One of Ozawa's secretaries was waiting for them in a room at the hotel.” "If you issue a receipt to Rikuzan-kai, it will eventually become public," the secretary was quoted as saying by several of the candidates. "Is that all right with you?" [Ibid]

Having obtained their agreement, the secretary handed over envelopes containing cash, according to the candidates. After counting through the bundles of bills inside the envelope, each candidate filled out a receipt stating their political funds management organization had received 5 million yen from Rikuzan-kai. "We'll count on you in the future when it comes to a showdown," the secretary was quoted as saying. [Ibid]

On the same day, the DPJ headquarters distributed 5 million yen to each party-endorsed candidate. “I was told the amount of campaign funds the DPJ provided to a candidate on the party ticket was 10 million yen, so I was disappointed to find it was just 5 million yen," a DPJ lower house member told the Yomiuri Shimbun. "But because Mr. Ozawa gave an additional 5 million yen, I was sure I could mount a good campaign." [Ibid]

Rikuzan-kai provided a total of 449 million yen in election campaign funds to 91 candidates, including two who received only 2 million yen each. Of those 91 candidates, 88 won a seat in the lower house election, with 49 being elected for the first time. On July 20, the day before the meetings at the Tokyo hotel, Ozawa lent 370 million yen to Rikuzan-kai. It is highly likely that the campaign funds given to candidates came from this money. [Ibid]

Before the DPJ presidential election in September, The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed the DPJ lawmakers who had received money from Ozawa. Sixty-six said they would vote for Ozawa in the party election, with six insisting on anonymity. Thirteen-three of whom spoke on condition of anonymity’said they would vote for Prime Minister Naoto Kan. [Ibid]

Ozawa Not Guilty of Fund Conspiracy

In April 2012, Ozawa was acquitted of conspiring with former aides to make false financial reports, citing a lack of evidence to establish his alleged role in the false reporting of funds related to a land purchase by Ozawa's political fund management body, Rikuzan-kai, in 2004 and 2005. The ruling was the first involving a politician facing charges after a citizen panel overrode a decision by prosecutors not to indict. Ozawa maintained his innocence throughout his trial, which began in October. Court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors sought a three-year prison term without labor for Ozawa. [Source: Masami Ito and Setsuko Kamiya, Japan Times, April 27, 2012]

“Ozawa expressed happiness over the acquittal. "Today's ruling is in line with what I have been stating all this time---that I did not conspire (with the former secretaries) to make false entries," he said in a statement. "I would like to honor the court for being sensible and fair and would like to express my gratitude to my comrades and the people all over Japan for their support up to today.” The court-appointed lawyers said they will review the ruling and decide whether to file an appeal in the next two weeks. [Ibid]

“Masami Ito and Setsuko Kamiya wrote in the Japan Times: “The focus of the trial was whether the DPJ powerbroker knowingly conspired with his former aides to falsify Rikuzankai's reports over a ¥400 million land deal in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo. The ex-secretaries, Tomohiro Ishikawa, Mitsutomo Ikeda and Takanori Okubo, were found guilty in a separate trial in September and all three have appealed the verdict. All received suspended prison sentences. [Ibid]

“Presiding Judge Fumio Daizen ruled that even though there were grounds to the court-appointed lawyers' argument that Ozawa was involved in the conspiracy, evidence was lacking. "The court-appointed lawyers bore the responsibility of proving the defendant's criminal intent, but in this case, they did not establish (Ozawa's guilt), leaving behind reasonable doubt," Daizen said. Without evidence of criminal intent, "I must state that the defendant cannot be held criminally accountable by law.” [Ibid]

“Reporters stampeded out of the courtroom upon Daizen's declaration of Ozawa's innocence to spread the news, prompting the judge to repeat the verdict to make sure Ozawa heard it. "The defendant is found innocent. Do you understand?" Daizen asked Ozawa, who answered in a clear, steady voice, "Yes." In the ruling, which took 2 hours and 25 minutes to read out, Daizen pointed out that parts of Ozawa's testimony were questionable, including how the kingpin repeatedly insisted he never looked at his political funds reports. "There were some points where the defendant's testimony shifted or was unnatural," Daizen said. "I must say that generally speaking, his testimony . . . that he has never been told about the deal or the contents of the funds reports upon their drafting or submission, lacks credibility.” [Ibid]

“Meanwhile, the court ruled that Ishikawa broke the law by not entering the ¥400 million used to purchase the land in the 2004 funds report, and instead reported it a year later to avoid media attention during a politically sensitive time when Ozawa was getting ready to run in an upcoming DPJ presidential poll. "If reported and disclosed (in the 2004 report), the defendant may very well have been pursued by the media and become the object of criticism. . . . It can be said that there was a strong possibility that defendant's political career would have suffered a disadvantage," Daizen said, explaining the court's decision regarding Ishikawa's motives. But Daizen said the court recognized that there was no direct evidence to prove Ozawa conspired with the former secretaries with criminal intent. [Ibid]

“Ozawa's victory was partly influenced by the court's decision in February to reject key depositions made by the former aides that supported the court-appointed lawyers' argument after finding that prosecutors had used illegal tactics to pressure Ishikawa into sticking to a false confession that implicated his boss. Daizen once again slammed the prosecutors, saying such acts are "inexcusable.” [Ibid]

Ozawa is Reinstated Into the DPJ and Then Expelled

The DPJ quickly decided to reinstate Ozawa as a member after he was found not guilty of falsely reporting political funds. The DPJ suspended Ozawa after he was indicted in January 2011 on charges of violating the political funds control law. Jiji Press reported the DPJ's No. 2 leader, Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi, led support for lifting the suspension, brushing aside the caution shown by some DPJ members, including Policy Research Committee Chairman Seiji Maehara. At that time about 120 DPJ lawmakers supported Ozawa, the largest single group within the party. [Source: Jiji Press, May 9, 2012]

“In early July 2012, the DPJ decided to expel 37 House of Representatives members, including Ozawa, after they voted against legislation for a consumption tax hike in the lower house of the Diet last week. Jiji Press reported the decision came a day after the 37 lawmakers, together with another lower house member and 12 members of the House of Councillors submitted their resignations to the DPJ over their opposition to the planned doubling of the tax rate to 10 percent by October 2015, a centerpiece of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's social security and tax reform agenda. The DPJ maintains a majority in the lower house even without the 37 members. Still, the mass defection split up the DPJ nearly three years after the party swept to power, and weakened Noda's grip on power. The upper house is already controlled by the opposition camp. [Source: Jiji Press, July 4, 2012]

“Despite opposition from a total of 57 DPJ lawmakers, the tax hike legislation passed the lower house on June 26, with support from the DPJ and the two largest opposition parties--the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito--following a three-party agreement. The DPJ leadership apparently found it necessary to punish the rebels in order not to jeopardize the cooperation of the two opposition parties on the tax hike legislation in the upper house, which will shortly begin deliberations on it. [Ibid]

“We decided on disciplinary action in order to restore party discipline as soon as possible," Noda, also DPJ president, told reporters. Cabinet ministers have also called for reaffirming party unity. "We should be united more than ever to enact legislation for comprehensive reforms" of the tax and social security systems, including the tax hike, Finance Minister Jun Azumi said at a press conference in Tokyo. [Ibid]

Ozawa, DPJ Rebels Create New Party

In late July 2012, Ozawa and other DPJ defectors created a new party aiming to block the planned consumption tax increase on which Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has staked his political career.An inaugural meeting was held in the Parliamentary Museum near the Diet Building in Tokyo with 49 former DPJ members who left the party in opposition to the plan to raise the current 5 percent tax rate to 8 percent in April 2014 and 10 percent in October 2015. The new party was named "Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi," after a key DPJ slogan that means "putting people's lives first." The party is the fourth created by Ozawa during a political career spanning more than four decades. [Source: Jiji Press, July 12, 2012]

“As well as its opposition to the consumption tax increase, Ozawa plans to set the goal of lowering Japan's dependence on nuclear energy to zero as a key campaign pledge for the new party. The new party's members include 37 of the 57 DPJ rebels who voted against the tax bills in the lower house and 12 upper house members who left the DPJ to follow Ozawa. [Ibid]

“According to a Yomiuri Shimbun poll 79 percent of Japanese are against the idea of an “Ozawa party.” The DPJ's split is expected to increase the risk of a political impasse, as a minority ruling coalition would not be able to vote down a no-confidence motion against the Noda Cabinet. If 42 or more lawmakers leave the DPJ and join with the Kizuna Party, a small party that was formed by DPJ defectors last year and has nine seats in the lower house, the total number is enough for a no-confidence motion under the chamber's rules. [Ibid]

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.

Last updated January 2013


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