Having spent more 25 years in this country, I’m still amazed at how many scandals involving political figures – including the Prime Minister – have surfaced from time-to-time. It is clear Japanese politicians can be bought. Money scandals have caused a few to have to resign, complete stupidity has forced others out and not being able to handle the pressure, still others. Let’s look back at some past Japanese Prime Ministers, that have resigned because of the aforementioned reasons.
Nixon welcomes Japanese Prime Minister, Tanaka, to the White House. (Two crooks, shaking hands) 1. Prime Minister Tanaka was arrested and tried for accepting bribes from American aircraft manufacturer, Lockheed. It was alleged that Tanaka made sure Lockheed would win a major order for new fleet of aircraft for domestic carrier, ANA. At the time ANA had already announced that a deal had been made with McDonnell Douglas for a fleet of DC-10's. Tanaka pressured the airline to order from Lockheed. ANA canceled its order with McDonnell Douglas and bent to the pressure of the Prime Minister. Tanaka was found guilty and sentenced to jail time. However, he never spent a day behind bars and remained under house arrest until his death in the early 1980's. When the above picture was taken, Nixon was also embroiled in the Watergate scandal when Tanaka visited the States. 2. Prime Minister TakeshitaPrime Minister Takeshita. Resigned over the Recruit Scandal.
Prime Minister Takeshita came to power in the mid-80’s, promising the nation sweeping positive changes. Unfortunately greed was far more important than reform as Takeshita accepted shares in the Human Resources company, Recruit, prior to it becoming a public company. Takeshita, a long with other governmental ministers, was offered shares through insider trading. He received millions of yen and tried to distance himself from the scandal by putting all his shares and cash “donations” in his wife’s name. The media learned of the secret dealings between Takeshita, many of his cabinet members, and opposition leaders and broke the news to the people of Japan. Takeshita, realizing his future in politics was over, resigned and avoided indicment. Others in his government weren’t so lucky and within weeks indicments were being issued like ” get-out-of-Jail-free “cards in a game of Monopoly. Takeshita until the day he died, refuse to accept his role in the scandal.
Prime Minister Takeshita. The Recruit Scandal was his downfall.
Prime Minister Mori. Resigned after a series of gaffes
3. Although Prime Minister Mori was never involved in a scandal, he wasn’t however, the brightest Prime Minister to lead the country. A series of stupid mistakes saw his downfall. His biggest gaffe – upon meeting then President Bill Clinton at the Okinawan Summit in the mid 90’s – was to ask “Who are you?” (What Mori meant to ask was, “How are you?”) Bill Clinton, believing Mori to be joking, answered “I’m Hillary’s husband.” To wit , Mori replied, “Me too”. The nation of Japan cringed with embarrassement when Mori’s stupidity was explained to the nation. A few months later, while Mori was in the middle of a round of golf, an American submarine, surfacing off the coast of Hawaii, struck and sank a small Japanese fishing and research ship, all on board were killed. The media converging, on the golf course hoping to get Prime Minister Mori’s reaction, were met with indifference. Not only did Mori seem unconcerned, he also ordered the gathered reporters and journalist out of his way as they were interrupting his game. The nation was again dumbfounded by Mori’s reaction, as were others in government and Mori’s position as Prime Minister ended.
Japanese shortest serving Prime Minister. Mr. Uno.
4. Prime Minister Uno was the leader of Japan for about two weeks. A scandal involving Uno with a Geisha, saw his downfall. According to accounts at the time, Uno was visiting the old capital of Kyoto. At some point during the evening, Mr. Uno got a little carried away with a ‘Maiko’ san. (Maiko are young girls who are learning the skills of geisha. These girls are basically serving an apprenticeship). The press, who was with the Prime Minister during this visit to Kyoto, took pictures of a drunken Uno trying to get his jollies with the young geisha. Once again, the country was up-in-arms over his conduct and the Prime Minister formally resigned a few days after the news broke.
Prime Minister Murayama. Famous for his ridiculously long eye-brows.
5. Prime Minister Murayama led Japan for couple of years at which time Japan was plunged into an economic slump. Although Murayama was never blamed for Japan’s economical woes, he did seem to take responsibility. Murayama was never involved in any scandal of any sort. On January 17th 1995, western Japan suffered a 7.7 earthquake. The city of Kobe fell down. Murayama resigned in the wake of the earthquake, seemingly taking responsible for the quake itself. If truth be known, Murayama was looking for a reason to resign before -hand and the Great Hanshin Earthquake was merely the excuse he was looking for.
- Prime Minister Abe. Youth was his enemy.
6. Prime Minister Abe. Seen as fresh blood and thus improving the image of Japanese political figures, the young (53 years old) Abe campaigned for reform. However, dogged by the North Korean kidnapping issue, Abe never seemed to get into his stride and resigned one year after becoming Prime Minister. Giving reasons for his resignation, Abe told the media that his health was suffering and therefore he was unable to perform his duties as Prime Minister. It has been speculated, however, that Abe was pressured by the conundrums within the government to stop his reforms and conform with party policy. It is said his age was against him and because of the Japanese anachronistic system, he was peer-pressured out of his job.
These are just some of the Prime Ministers this country has had over the years and as I write this, the current Prime Minister, Mr. Hatoyama, is justifying to the nation why he receives a huge amount of “pocket” money from his mother. Hatoyama’s mother is the daughter of Ishibashi the founder and owner of Bridgestone Tires.