Yasuhiro Nakasone, the former Prime Minister of Japan, has passed away at the age of 101, according to a statement released on November 29.
The fifth Japanese Prime Minister after the end of the Second World War, he stood on the world stage with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher as a united front for democracy in the 1980’s, providing the peg on the Soviet Union’s eastern front in their bid to end the Cold War.
One of the main themes of his life as a politician was amendment of the constitution – so much so that in 1956 he even composed The Constitution Amendment Song. He was a proponent of the introduction of the prime minister electoral system and an advocate for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. In reshaping Japan’s energy policy, he led the effort to lay a legal framework for the country’s use of nuclear energy.
Nakasone’s first Cabinet post was in 1959, as head of the science and technology agency under Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. Following that, he was tasked to head several other agencies, including as Minister of Transportation, Minister of Trade and Industry and Defense Agency Chief. He also served as Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party. In 1980, while heading the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, he became an outspoken advocate for administrative reform.
In 1982, Nakasone became the 71st Prime Minister of Japan, serving until 1987. His politics were said to be based on neo-conservatism.
In foreign affairs, Nakasone sought to turn around the soured relations with South Korea and the United States, visiting each country in turn and working hard to reestablish good relations.
He was especially successful with his American foreign policy. With then- President Ronald Reagan, he managed to build a good friendship and solid bilateral relationship. The two leaders, notorious for calling each other “Ron” and Yasu”, came together with Margaret Thatcher of the UK as a global democratic alliance to face-off with the Soviet Union.
At the same time, Nakasone cultivated improved relations with the USSR, attending the funeral of former Soviet leader Konstantin Chernenko and meeting his successor, Mikhail Gorbachev.
In the field of economics, Nakasone was an important proponent of revising the burden of government administrative costs after the Second World War. He promoted the privatization of industries held in the public sector, including state monopolies on telephone and telegraph, salt, tobacco, and railways.
In 1985, Nakasone was the first postwar Prime Minister to visit Yasukuni Shrine, where the souls of those who died in wars during Japan’s long history are enshrined. Due to the heavy criticism he received from China, as well as from part of the media inside Japan, he refrained from visiting thereafter.
At the beginning of his administration, Nakasone’s influence was relatively weak as the impact of former LDP leader Kakuei Tanaka was still strongly felt. Indeed, some criticized the government by saying “this is the Ta-Nakasone Administration.”
However, in 1986, in order to put up a fight with the opposition, the parliament was dissolved to make way for a double election of Upper and Lower house members. The election redefined the politics of the LDP as the Prime Minister led his party to a solid victory. As a consequence, Nakasone’s term was extended by a year. He was succeeded by Noburo Takeshita in November 1987.
Nakasone was in office for 1806 days, the fifth longest of any prime minister, exceeded only by Shinzo Abe, Eisaku Sato, Shigeru Yoshida and Junichiro Koizumi.
He received many honors during his career, including the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum in 1997. He was only the third postwar Prime Minister to receive such an accolade, after Yoshida Shigeru and Eisaku Sato.
Nakasone is associated with statements such as “in my heart, I have my country”, “a politician is a defendant in the court of history.”
He was born in 1918 in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture. Following his graduation from Tokyo Imperial University in 1941, he took a job at what was known then at the Home Ministry. During the Second World War, he served as a naval officer. After the war, he briefly worked for a government ministry, but three months after starting the job he won election to the lower house of the National Diet as a representatives for Gunma prefecture, where he kept his position for a record-breaking 20 terms – 56 years.
Even after retiring from political life, he was a lifelong politician. He resigned from the LPD in 2003, but after that still continued his efforts as head of the Nakasone Peace Institute. In February 2010 he wrote an essay published in The Sankei Shimbun called “Challenge to Conversion,” for which he won the Special Seiron Prize in 2012.
Nakasone was also the President of Taishoku University between 1967 and 1971, as well as International Advisor of the Praemium Imperiale, the cultural prize instituted in honor of Prince Takamatsu. He worked tirelessly as the head of an association for the revision of the constitution and head of the NPO, “National Council on Fujisan World Heritage.”
Author: Sankei Shimbun