Friday, November 10, 2017

A case of 'where are they now'?

Reflecting on research endeavours

Today was 3 November 2017. It is a public holiday in Japan, 'Culture Day' but also the anniversary of the promulgation of the 1946 Constitution. (Yes, there is also a public holiday, 3 May, for when it came into effect in 1947.) 

But we had classes as usual and today I planned to take my honours thesis to my seminar group to show them what a completed research project looks like. The students are in the midst of embarking on their 'graduation thesis', a similar sort of research endeavour. I noted on the title page that it had been submitted 'on this day' back in 1986--on the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the 1946 Constitution...

The project looked at the role of factions in the ruling LDP and in particular focussed on a cross-factional group of relatively newly-elected politicians who were seeking the end of factional rivalries and a focus on policy development--idealists all. During my exchange student studies at Daito Bunka University 1984-5, I happened to be introduced to a couple of the politicians and that's how it started...

A rather earnest student, I wrote a rather earnest thesis. Like most of us though, I guess if I had my time over, it would read very differently. Or I would do something completely different. But at the time it was exciting to have interviewed politicians so I stuck with it. 

Anyway...over the years I've kept a bit of an eye on the members of the group, watching their progress through Japan's political world. Some have reached great heights, some less so. But in the age of the internet and wikipedia, I thought it was too good a chance to pass up to look into their whereabouts now, particularly given the day, 3 November. There was something in that, I'm sure. 

So here is a brief rundown of 'where are they now'...I'll run through in the order they were listed in the thesis--basically from the founding group of four and the order in which they joined up. There may be a few surprises* in store...(*only for diehard followers of the Japanese political world, I don't imagine the rest of you have reached this far)

The Forum for a Fair Society : 自由主義経済推進構想

Hamada Takujiro (浜田卓二郎) b. 1941
Hamada was one of the four foundation members of the group. He was elected four times as a member of the House of Reps, and once as a member of the House of Councillors. Not too surprisingly, he found himself in the centre of the political changes in 1994-94, consistent with his 'new politics'. He quit the LDP and like others at the time, made his way through a number of the new parties that emerged and evolved at that time. He last stood as a candidate in 2004 but failed to get elected and returned to law, post-politics.

Funada Hajime (船田元) b. 1953
Funada is still a member of parliament, a member of the LDP. he entered the Cabinet (Miyazawa) in 1992 heading up the Economic Planning Bureau, the youngest to do so. In 1994, he too joined the LDP exodus to form and join new parties but returned to the fold in 1997. He was just re-elected for the 12th time. He has held some significant party posts along the way but also suffered from rather public marital issues as well.

Shirokawa Katsuhiro (白川勝彦) b. 1945
Shirokawa enjoyed six terms as an MP including a stint in cabinet as local government minister and chaired some committees. he two went through a few different parties and, heralding from the same prefecture as the Tanaka dynasty, Niigata, he made some political alliances with Tanaka Makiko, Kakuei's daughter, and her husband, who also became a politician. He returned to legal practicepost-politics as well as some time as a radio announcer.
Ota Seiichi ( 太田誠一) b. 1945
Ota was elected eight times and also reached Ministerial ranks (notably Agricultural minister). He was one of seven politicians who quit the LDP in 1994 and formed the Jiyuto though rejoined the LDP when the Jiyuto merged with the Shinshinto. (It was happening a lot between 1993-94...) He lost his seat in 2004 following awful comments about rapists, but returned to Parliament in 2005. He lost again in 2009 and after a short stint as advisor to the newly-elected Fukuoka mayor, retired from political life in 2011.

Sakurai Shin (桜井新) b. 1933
I had the most interaction with Sakurai Shin, interviewing him a few times, spending a bit of time in his office and learning of his political philosophy via a book he wrote. Also hailing from Niigata, and in fact the same electorate as Tanaka Kakuei, he had an interesting relationship with the former Prime Minister. For some years he led the local branch of the LDP Youth League before a falling out with Tanaka saw him stand for election without Tanaka's support... 
In the end, served one term in the Upper House, and six terms in the lower house. He managed just two months as a parliamentary secretary (Environment) in the Murayama Cabinet (1994) before a 'regrettable outburst'* forced his resignation. (*Wikipedia; in fact it was a denial of japan's invasion of Asian countries during world war two being a bad thing, rather it liberated countries from European colonialism.) So many revisionists...sad the subject of my study turned out to be one too.
He was opposed to the LDP's privatisation of the post office initially but came around post-election.
He didn't nominate for the 2007 election and thus retired from politics.

Ohshima Tadamori (大島理森 ) b. 1946
Ohshima has just been confirmed as Speaker of the House of Representatives, a post he first took up in 2015. That's about as high as it gets, besides Prime Minister of course. he has also held Cabinet positions and key party positions during his political career.
Somehwere in my archives I have a letter from Ohshima who kindly answered my letter of enquiry as a budding researcher...In Ohshima's case, I guess 'there is more to come'.

Kaneko Genjiro (金子原二郎) b. 1944
Kaneko spent five terms as a member of the lower house, and some time as Nagasaki Mayor before returning to national politics as a member of the Upper House, affiliated with the LDP. he remains in the upper house, having been re-elected in 2016. he brings a range of experience to his post.

Sasayama Tatsuo (笹山登生) b. 1941
Sasayama was elected for a total of five terms, representing Tohoku, the northern part of the main island of Honshu. He held some minor ministerial positions in the Takeshita Cabinet (1988) but lost the 1990 election. In 1993 he joined the new party headed by Ozawa Ichiro and Hata Tsutomu (later PM, briefly) and was re-elected. He joined the Jiyuto in 1997 (in the ongoing evolution of Japanese opposition parties around this time), stood for re-election in 2000 but failed to win hos seat.

Sato Eisaku ( 佐藤栄佐久) b. 1939 (Familiar name, but not the former PM)
Another member turned mayor, Sato had one term as a member of the House of Councillors before resigning in 1988 to stand as Fukushima Governor. He was successfully re-elected four times but had to resign during his fifth term following a scandal involving his brother. According to Wiki, he was arrested...

Tanigaki Sadakazu (谷垣禎一) b. 1945
Tanigaki will be familiar to Jpnpol nerd-types. He continued as a member of parliament until this last election in October. He suffered life-threatening injuries in a bicycle accident last year and despite courageous efforts at rehabilitation, he decided to retire from politics once the october election was called. He held several cabinet and senior party positions in the LDP and was considered a great loss to the parliament when he announced his retirement.

Nogami Toru (野上徹) b. 1937
Nogami served two terms as a member of parliament. A Tokyo University graduate, he was for a time a journalist for the Asahi Shimbun. He lost the 1986 election 8the same year I was writing about him...). He tried several more times in 1990, 1993, and 1996. He failed each time to get elected. His son, however, is presently a member of the Upper House...a second generation 'young turk'!

Noro Akihiko (野呂明彦) b. 1946
Noro had four terms as a member of the lower house, spent a term as mayor in his hometown in Mie Prefecture and later governor of the same prefecture until 2010. Interestingly, in his prefectural political life he was endorsed by the Democrats and the Socialists.   

Ishii Ichiji (石井一二) b. 1936
Ishii, first elected in 1983 was re-elected three times. In 1993, he joined the exodus from the LDP to one of the new parties formed at the time and despite holding executive positions and several attempts, he failed to be re-elected. He also tried his hand at local politics, with plans to stand for Kobe mayor in 1997. His last attempt at election was the 2001 election for the Upper House.

Komura Masahiko (高村正彦) b. 1942
Now for the Jpnpol nerdy-types who have reached this far, Komura will be a familiar face, or name. This is the same Komura who announced his retirement just prior to the 2017 election, the same Komura who became a significant and influential member of the LDP and several governments since his election in 1980. His bio mentions that shortly after his election, he 'quickly became one of the young turks, joining the new policy study group'...that would include the FFS.
Among several significant executive posts he was also Justice Minister, Defence Minister and Foreign Minister. He also held the post of LDP vice-president, which he held for a record 1586 days.
Ogawa Hajime (小川元) b. 1939
A latecomer to the group (at the time of the study), Ogawa was elected in 1986. He was re-elected in 1993, and 1996. Little more is said about Ogawa except that he developed close relations with Chile, taking up a special ambassadorial role in 2002 until 2007.


And what of that honours students 30 years ago? Well, I went back to Tokyo to do some postgraduate fieldwork at Tokyo University (1988-89), worked as a project officer in the Australia-Japan Foundation, went on to eventually complete postgraduate studies at the University of Queensland, taught Japanese Studies and politics in Brisbane universities, temporarily unemployed, worked for a Queensland senator and ended up at the University of the Sunshine Coast for longer than was necessary. In April 2016, I took up a new position at a university here in Tokyo, keeping a close eye on the politics of the day. That's a fair bit of work I guess. Is it what I expected way back in 1986? Pretty much, I've been rather fortunate.