Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone is seen during an interview in January 2010. Photo: REUTERS file
politics

Former Japanese Prime Minister Nakasone dies at 101

22 Comments
By Linda Sieg

Yasuhiro Nakasone, one of Japan's longest reigning prime ministers and known for his friendship with Ronald Reagan, has died at the age of 101, a top ruling party official said on Friday.

Nakasone, prime minister from 1982 to 1987, hobnobbed on the world stage with Reagan and Margaret Thatcher while battling with bureaucrats over domestic reforms.

He himself said he failed to achieve a dream of revising the country's pacifist, postwar constitution to clarify the ambiguous status of the military.

"Revising the constitution takes time. I stressed to the public that it was necessary, but it was not possible to begin the revision quickly," the straight-talking Nakasone told Reuters in an interview in January 2010.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made loosening the limits of the U.S.-drafted constitution a key goal but revising the charter's pacifist Article Nine remains contentious.

Known for his "Ron and Yasu" friendship with Reagan, Nakasone made headlines after taking office when he said that in event of a war, he would make Japan an unsinkable "aircraft carrier" for U.S. forces and bottle up the Soviet navy.

Nakasone also broke an unwritten rule on limiting the annual defense budget to 1 percent of gross national product.

In 1983, he became the first Japanese prime minister to officially visit South Korea, mending fences with a country that Japan had brutally colonized from 1910 to 1945.

Nakasone, a former lieutenant in the Imperial Navy who lost his younger brother in World War II, outraged Asian countries when he made an official visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, where convicted war criminals are honored along with Japan's war dead, on the 40th anniversary of Japan's surrender.

He decided not to repeat the pilgrimage after it sparked riots in China.

Nakasone's outspoken ways sometimes caused problems.

In 1986, he offended blacks, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans living in the United States by saying they brought the average intelligence level of Americans below that of Japan.

Nakasone pursued domestic reforms aggressively, privatizing Japan's state-run railway, tobacco and telecommunications monopolies. Critics say, however, that he failed to implement a landmark set of reform proposals to help Japan's economy grow.

He was also less successful at reforming Japan's education system, trying both to instill traditional morals and discipline while also nurturing individuals who could compete globally.

Nakasone won a rare fifth year in office after leading his Liberal Democratic Party to a landslide victory in 1986 elections. But his career was shadowed by links to a huge political scandal, a stocks-for-favors scam.

He quit the LDP in 1989 over the scandal but two years later was welcomed back as a senior adviser.

He was forced to retire in 2003 when he was 85 along with other elder statesmen by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who was keen to rejuvenate the LDP's image as a party of hidebound, elderly politicians.

Born in the hilly district of Takasaki, northwest of Tokyo, on May 27, 1918, to a wealthy timber trader, Nakasone graduated from Tokyo University before entering the Home Ministry in 1941.

He joined the Tokyo Police Department after Japan's surrender in 1945. Nakasone has two daughters and a politician son, Hirofumi.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

22 Comments
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Sad news. Like him or not, I admired him as one of the first Japanese Prime Ministers to stand large on the international stage.

7 ( +15 / -8 )

Nakasone was an influential right-wing "revanchist" politician whose dubious legacy lives on in Abe Shinzo's brand of Japanese nationalism. Sorry, but he was not my cup of ocha.

1 ( +14 / -13 )

Ironic he should die at this time. Was'nt forced prostitution his idea in occupied territory during WW2.

-7 ( +8 / -15 )

Thanks to "The Plaza Accord 1985"!  Many Japanese people should remember him!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Nakasone, the engineer of financial and nationalistic bubbles.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Nakasone was an influential right-wing "revanchist" politician whose dubious legacy lives on in Abe Shinzo's brand of Japanese nationalism. Sorry, but he was not my cup of ocha.

well said.

Nakasone, the engineer of financial and nationalistic bubbles.

yup.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

He engaged in that creepy brand of Japanese racism, which described the Japanese people as "warm and wet" (flexible, emotional and forgiving), and gaijin as "cold and dry" (rational, harsh, aloof). Yup, the wisdom of a world leader, head the world's second-biggest economy. LOL.

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

He certainly lived a long life, and a large one, but ultimately he was a bigoted fool who far too often let that be known. Let's hope Abe fails as badly as Nakasone did with trying to change the Constitution.

-4 ( +12 / -16 )

Never a good move to speak ill of the recently-deceased.

I’m saying nowt...,

8 ( +12 / -4 )

 But his career was shadowed by links to a huge political scandal, a stocks-for-favors scam.

Was that the Recruit scandal?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I admired him as one of the first Japanese Prime Ministers to stand large on the international stage

Yes, he was remarkable, a rarity among Japanese prime ministers, but I'm not sure he did it in a good way. Epitome of bubble economy, the man who completely forfeited any resemblance of independent foreign policy. Mediocrity with ambitions. In comparison to him Abe is an intellectual giant.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Wasn't he also responsible for taking the limits off of how many floors a building could be? This has led to the canyon-ization of Tokyo. I seem to recall that he was also responsible for removing zoning laws. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing. I rather like the chaotic mixture of Tokyo. At any rate, at 101, RIP.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I will always remember when have gave a New Years greeting to all Americans on national TV. I liked him. Thanks and RIP Mr. Nakasone

4 ( +9 / -5 )

 But his career was shadowed by links to a huge political scandal, a stocks-for-favors scam.

Was that the Recruit scandal?

The Recruit scandal occurred while Takeshita was prime minister.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@ W Slifko

But Nakasone was very much implicated....

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japanese will miss him . . . Ganbatte!

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

I was honored to meet former PM while visiting Japan in 90s as an officer serving in US military.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

He also said something about Blacks and other minorities, that made him, have to eat his words

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The comment that he made which made me laugh the most was that Japanese people were like Japanese rice, gluttonous and sticking together, unlike foreigners whose foreign rice was dry and falls apart between the chopsticks.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As the years went on, Nakasone's well-known reputation for being borderline unrepentant and unapologetic about Japan's imperial past looked increasingly negative, akin to some southern white American politician waxing nostalgic about the days of racial segregation south of the Mason-Dixon Line. His near-contemporary Murayama Tomiichi, Socialist prime minister a decade after Nakasone and still living at the age of 95, looks to many like the bigger man with the passage of time.

Being sympathetic to a "Lost Cause" is a lost cause, whether you're a white person in South Carolina thinking about the Civil War or a Japanese person in Tokyo thinking about World War II.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

A true leader. Sad to see him go.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Nakasone once said Japan would make use of U.S. troops stationed in Japan as guard dogs so that there wouldn't be any conflicts in East Asia. He might have uttered these words to palliate the nation's concerns that he had conceded too much to Washington as regards security, nuclear power and such.

Nakasone also vainly boasted how smart the Japanese people were. Looking at the current affairs in which the U.S. Forces Japan have every right to use bases and facilities in Japan with impunity, one cannot help but think otherwise.

Japan's nuclear power policy initiated by his government must also be scrutinized in detail.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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