Chapter 4: ANTEN
"A dark change"
On the face of it, Eisaku Sato easily could be considered Japan's strongest postwar leader. Although he wasn't very popular with the masses because of his aristocratic disposition, he did manage to rule the country for seven years and eight months a prime ministerial record. His four terms as Prime Minister and four terms as President of the LDP were testimony to his political strength.
A master of factional manipulation, Sato became head of state on November 9, 1964, without competition. Within the old Yoshida camp, his perennial nemesis, Banboku Ono, who had sworn that Sato would never become Prime Minister as long as he was alive, died six months before Sato took office. Ikeda died of cancer the year after he resigned. Across the street in the old Hatoyama group, another one of Sato's arch rivals, Ichiro Kono, died at about the same time. Sato was the last of his generation. His ascension was a milestone in that it marked a point of entropy for the radical right. Both Ono and Kono had strong underworld ties. They were, like Sato's older brother, Nobusuke Kishi, strongly linked to Yoshio Kodama. With their passing, Kodama's influence was on the wane.
Under Sato, the LDP came to be characterized as one boss, four weaklings and one straggler. The weaklings being his own two heirs, Fukuda and Tanaka, Ikeda's heir, Masayoshi Ohira, and post-Hatoyama mini-faction leader, Takeo Miki. The straggler was will-of-the-wisp Yasuhiro Nakasone, who had picked up most of Kono's Faction after his death. None of these "New Generation Leaders" represented anything remotely resembling a challenge to Sato. Lacking strength, these youngsters had little choice but to wait for Sato's retirement, at a time and place of his own choosing.
The faction, by his own design, had five lieutenants: Takeo Fukuda, the economic expert; Kakuei Tanaka, the fund raiser and intra-party affairs manager; Shigeru Hori, the secret manipulator; Tomisaburo Hashimoto, the faithful retainer; and Kiichi Aichi, the political strategist.
As invaluable as Tanaka was to Sato, he truly believed that an elementary school graduate had no business aspiring to the Prime Ministership, and being omnipotent, Sato just assumed that this was understood within the party and even by Tanaka himself. Sato blindly rewarded Tanaka for his go-between role with Ikeda and later for his help with Ikeda's heir Ohira and Kono's heir Nakasone. At the same time he shuffled his Cabinets to keep everyone happy and to groom Fukuda for the Prime Ministership by giving him domestic, international and party experience. There were twenty or so Cabinet posts available; Sato provided his lieutenants with the following (others went to friends and factional leaders):
First Reorganization of the First Cabinet, 1965
Second Reorganization of the First Cabinet, 1967 (Black Mist)
Second Cabinet, 1968
Third Cabinet, 1971
Fukuda presupposed that he would become Prime Minister; Hori had no such
ambition. Where Tanaka again got lucky and where Sato made his mistake
was in granting Tanaka a full three years as Secretary General. Tanaka's
rule in this post, coupled with Sato's lengthy stay in office, allowed
Tanaka the time and gave him the party funds needed to build up his own
intra-party allegiance. As keeper of the party purse, he could make or
break careers as well as position others favorable to him.
Twelve years after the marriage of his stepdaughter, Shizuko, to the nephew of Hayato Ikeda, the time had come for Makiko to wed. Makiko was the only surviving child of Tanaka and Hana after the death of their son, Masanori, in 1947. She was very special. Against strong opposition by her father, she went to the United States to study when she was a senior high school student. In contrast to her mother, Makiko was outgoing and strong-willed. She often accompanied Tanaka on his trips abroad in the stead of her mother.
In 1969, at age twenty-five, Makiko married Naoki Suzuki, the second son of Naoto Suzuki, an LDP Dietman from Fukushima. When Tanaka was Vice Minister of Justice in Yoshida's second Cabinet, Naoto Suzuki was the Vice Minister of Communications. The two came to know each other well. Tanaka had been a go-between in the marriage of Naoto's daughter. It was at this wedding that Tanaka first met the young Naoki Suzuki. The suggestion that Naoki and Makiko should marry came from Eisaku Sato's wife. Tanaka consented to the proposal with one stipulation that Naoki change his last name from Suzuki to Tanaka. The social rule was clear enough, though Naoki was not pleased with the request. Tanaka had no sons to pass the family name to and Naoki was not the oldest son in the Suzuki family. Naoki Suzuki thus became Naoki Tanaka. He was a graduate of highly touted Keio University and at the time of the marriage worked as a salaryman for Nippon Kokan Heavy Industries. Makiko had taken an active interest in her father's affairs, but at this time Naoki had no political aspirations. In a little over a decades' time, all that would change.
The bullet train came two years later. Of all Tanaka's pork barrel projects, none would be so grand as this. Japan's Honshu had an island-long train service that, naturally, connected the important cities on the Omote (Pacific) side. In the late sixties, a decision was made to build a service over to Ura Nihon. The Bullet Train, unlike a normal line, required a special track that resembled the Great Wall of China. This cement cradle was a massive construction enterprise costing billions of dollars. The Pacific side had two such services, the Tokaido and Sanyo Lines, that went into operation in 1965. Many people thought that the next services would be placed on the Sea of Japan side in a fashion that would circle Japan's main island like a giant amusement park. This was not to be.
In 1971, the Japanese National Railroad announced its plans instead of one giant line, they would begin construction of two smaller lines. One would run up the northern Pacific side to sparsely populated Morioka. The other would be placed on the eastern side, however, it wouldn't run north and south, it would only go east to west, Tokyo to Niigata. This in itself was not so strange because Niigata City was, after all, a principle port on the Sea of Japan. What was strange, was that of the line's eight scheduled stops, four were in the Third District of Niigata (the other four were in Gunma and Saitama Prefectures). The Joetsu Shinkansen Line, or the "Tanaka Bullet Train" as it is often referred to, while disappointing to the people in Shimane, Tottori, Fukui, Ishikawa, Toyama, Yamagata, Akita and Aomori Prefectures, was still an amazing project that kept Etsuzankai busy for more than a decade. At a cost of 1.7 trillion yen ($15.5 billion), the 210 k.p.h., sixteen-car trains didn't go on line until November 15, 1982. The reason for construction delay was a prior necessity to first bore the world's longest string of tunnels twenty-three in all over a distance of almost fourteen miles. Takeo Fukuda and Yasuhiro Nakasone had no reason to complain about this Etsuzankai extravaganza, in that Tanaka's train had to pass through their prefecture (Gunma), which brings the story back to the political world and 1969.
His wife busy with affairs of the heart, Sato set out to resolve the Okinawa issue. (Sato had been the only postwar Prime Minister even to go there.) The island, some distance from mainland Honshu, had grown to be of tremendous strategic importance to the United States as a pivotal Pacific location in America's greater defense scheme and as a staging area for operations in Vietnam usage that didn't sit well with Tokyo university students. Domestic contortions notwithstanding, continued occupation of the island was counter to the national values of the United States as well as a financial burden and a diplomatic embarrassment. Japan wanted to get the island back as a natural process of putting World War II in the past.
In 1969, Sata flew to Washington and received a formal promise from then-President Richard Nixon to return the island, or at least that part of it lacking military value. Sato returned to Tokyo a triumphant hero and shrewdly used his executive power to call for Lower House national elections. Given his personality, he knew that his sudden popularity wouldn't last long. The timing was correct and the LDP scored a landslide victory securing 303 seats out of a possible 491. Tanaka, who had just turned fifty-one, upped his own voting total to 133,042, winning his tenth term. He also began another two years as Secretary General of the LDP, time enough to strengthen his ties with Ohira and Nakasone.
In 1970, the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty was renewed automatically, a political contrivance that went over like a lead balloon. It was successful only in that it didn't recreate the problems suffered by Kishi. By the end of the year, Sato finally began thinking about retirement and designed his last Cabinet to reflect that decision. It was his intention to shelve Tanaka by making Fukuda Minister of Foreign Affairs and placing Tanaka under him as Minister of MITI, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.
As with his Black Mist demotion, Tanaka once more found a way to turn dust into gold, this time by wrapping up a very messy U.S.-Japan Textile Agreement. In May of 1969, the United States asked Japan to restrict its wool and non-cotton exports. The request ballooned into the first of what has since become a long chain of trade friction problems between the two countries. Simply put, Japan's markets were wide open to imports of raw materials but closed to imports of finished products. So while the U.S. had little trouble selling grain or oil, it couldn't market the more profitable items. Conversely, Japan, taking advantage of its highly motivated and less costly work force, raided the patent offices of the free market countries and out-produced them, making cheaper and better finished products. While Japan was in a free-for-all competition with the West, the West ignored Japan. Nixon, the first U.S. President to really understand the problem that was being created trade imbalance asked MITI to put a cap on exports. The first round of what became an annual ritual began with textiles. Naturally, no one gives up advantages willingly. MITI discovered that by reversing the American negotiating style of settling the big issues first and letting the details take care of themselves, they could out-endure requests for fundamental change. Tanaka walked into the tail-end of the negotiating process. The Americans, tired of wrangling over minuscule points, settled for a 5-percent export growth ceiling on non-cotton materials and a 1-percent ceiling on wool. Tanaka, the defacto president of Riken Vinyl Industry, knew all too well the importance that synthetic materials would play in the seventies. His agreement with the U.S. protected Japan's investments in that field and he won a reputation for being a man capable of standing up to the Americans. The official signing was in January 1972.
During this same month, Sato was scheduled to meet Nixon in San Clemente to fix a date for the official restoration of Okinawa. Sato wasn't about to retire until he could personally oversee the final ceremony. Sato then decided that it might be useful to Fukuda if they dragged Tanaka along as an assistant to the Foreign Minister. The California meeting would be highly visible in the Japanese press and would give the home folks a chance to see Fukuda acting in a presidential manner. More importantly, the press cameras could capture Tanaka acting as an inferior to Fukuda.
What Sato hadn't realized was that, by the time they reached San Clemente, Tanaka had already won the support of the House of Councilors. This he had accomplished a year earlier when Sato loyalist, Yuzo Shigemune, was replaced as Chairman of the Upper House by Tanaka loyalist Kenzo Kono. In October of 1971, Takeo Kimura, under the auspices of creating a research council, had secretly organized 160 Dietman to support Tanaka and he had already started the formation of a secret alliance with Ohira and Nakasone's fifty-member group. At San Clemente, Tanaka, not Sato, was the strongman. Even Nixon was apparently aware of this and was careful not to meet with the three together in front of the press.
Immediately following their return to Tokyo, Tanaka sealed his pact with Ohira and Nakasone. Other than the usual quid pro quo "You help me now and I'll help you later." the price Tanaka had to pay for Ohira's support is unknown. Nakasone, no doubt, also received the same assurance and according to Japan's oldest weekly magazine, the Shukan Shincho, in an article published later in the year, Nakasone also got something else from Tanaka 700 million yen ($4,600,000). In April, twenty-six Dietmen conducted a preparatory meeting to form a faction; the following month, eighty-one Dietmen declared their membership in the Tanaka faction, later to be known as the Nanokakai (Seventh Day Club). On May 15, Sato got his Okinawa ceremony and on June 17, he announced his retirement. Two days following that, Nakasone made a public pledge of support for Tanaka. With almost perfect timing, in this same month, Tanaka's book, Nippon Retto Kaizo-Ron (Building a New Japan), hit the bookstores and was a bestseller.
By LDP rules, the selection process for Prime Minister had two stages.
First, the factional groups interested in putting up their boss would
hold a primary or "beauty contest" just to reaffirm factional
loyalties. After the factions had shown their true strength, the two front
runners would square off in head-to-head competition to see who would
persuade whom in the remaining factions to support them. The winner would
become Prime Minister then and the loser would become Prime Minister later.
In Tanaka's case, the primary was held on July 5. The day before, Sato
frantically telephoned LDP members in a last-ditch effort to keep Tanaka
out and to promote Fukuda. The results:
Though Tanaka and Fukuda were seemingly equal, the stark reality of Sato's power became crystal clear when Tanaka and Fukuda faced each other down on the same day. Fukuda received 190 votes, Tanaka 282 votes. It had taken twenty-six years, but on this day Tanaka was the Prime Minister. Perhaps most important to Tanaka himself, his mother, Fume, had lived long enough to see it. Tanaka, at age fifty-four, was the youngest postwar Prime Minister and, notably, the least educated.
The election had one other distinction it was the most costly and for that reason considered the dirtiest. Tanaka reportedly spent more than 10 billion yen or close to 30 million dollars; his tactics in the election forever branded him as the undisputed champion of money politics.
Tanaka Is Prime Minister
A man of the people, Tanaka moved into his new office with the highest approval rating in history for a Prime Minister. Just for fun he couldn't resist using his official power to rub a little salt into Fukuda's wounds by calling on him last in consultations for the formation of his Cabinet and then selecting two of Fukuda's Faction members without Fukuda's consent. Fukuda may have lost the election but in route he assembled the second most powerful faction in the LDP, picking up Sato loyalists and linking with Kishi's group on the Hatoyama side of Japan's political world. (Fukuda, who entered the prewar Finance Ministry as bureaucratic staff, first entered politics four years after his arrest during the Ashida "Shoden Scandal" in 1948. His assembly seat by chance was next to Kishi and the two, over time, became close personal friends. Once Tanaka captured the majority of Sato people, Fukuda had little difficulty jumping over to the other side and taking over Kishi's group followed by his people in the Sato Faction.) Tanaka's breech of established protocol, for this reason, was a bit reckless. For factional bosses, their choice of subordinates for Cabinet officers was a prime source of influence on the Prime Minister and of power over their own faction. An infuriated Fukuda at first refused to allow Tanaka's selections within his faction to join the Cabinet, but he later surrendered to Tanaka's wishes. Domestically, Tanaka had a new Japan to build; internationally, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were providing a detailed prescription for him to follow in normalizing relations with China.
Unlike in the textile negotiations when Tanaka headed MITI and focused on negotiating the minor points first, with China, Tanaka adopted the American diplomatic style of reaching agreement on major points first. Given the history involved, the Chinese preconditions exceeded magnanimity. They asked only that the People's Republic of China be regarded as the sole legal government, that Japan recognize Formosa (Taiwan) as part of the P.R.C. and that the Japan/Formosa Treaty be annulled. This last point didn't go over very well with the right-wing elements in the LDP, nor did the Nixon/ Kissinger accelerated time table. Tanaka dealt with the dissenters by putting together a convincing show of Diet support through organizing a 316-member Diet "Conference for the Normalization of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and China." While he was doing this, he gave his blessing to a preliminary trip to Peking by Kozo Sasaki, the ex-Chairman of the Japan Socialist Party, to conduct talks with Chou En Lai. This was followed thirteen days later by Komei Party Chief, Yoshikatsu Takeiri, who made arrangements for Tanaka's arrival.
All this was done during the Prime Minister's first twenty days in office. He was scheduled to normalize relations in late September, after a two-day Hawaii conference with Nixon that began on August 31. Twenty-five days later, Tanaka, his new Foreign Affairs Minister Ohira, and his most trusted political aide-de-camp, Susumu Nikaido, flew to Peking. After a few days of haggling over whether the state of war between the two countries was over officially, they reached an agreement on September 29 and a joint statement was issued. It contained three major points: first, the Sino-Japan state of war was declared at an end; second, Japan accepted as a legal reality that Formosa was an appendage of the P.R.C.; and third, the P.R.C. gave up its claim to war compensation. After the document was sealed, Foreign Affairs Minister Ohira made a non-binding declaration that the Japan/Formosa Treaty was considered by Japan to be useless. The verbal statement meant nothing as far as business interests were concerned, but it made the P.R.C. happy. It had become tradition that Japanese Prime Ministers successfully complete at least one foreign policy objective. Yoshida oversaw the end of the American occupation, Hatoyama opened relations with the U.S.S.R, Kishi reapproved the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty over intense public opposition, Ikeda improved the nation's international image with the Olympics, Sato governed over the Okinawa restoration and Tanaka was given credit for the normalization of relations with the P.R.C.
Tanaka's foreign policy triumph was certainly equal to any of the others realized in the postwar era. In this sense he was extremely lucky to have been Prime Minister in 1972. Without U.S. normalization of relations with China, Japan would have had little hope of overcoming the hard feelings that existed between Japan and China and would not have been able to normalize relations with China on such favorable terms. For the Americans, the fact that it was Tanaka who was Prime Minister at this time was equally fortunate. Of the postwar leaders, Yoshida, Hatoyama, Kishi, Ikeda, Sato, Miki, Nakasone, Ohira and Fukuda, only Miki and Tanaka had had no role in prewar Japanese government. Ikeda, Sato, Ohira and Fukuda had been bureaucrats for Hideki Tojo, and Nakasone had served as a lieutenant commander in the Imperial Navy. Miki, while not a part of the prewar government, was first elected to the Diet in 1942 at age thirty. For the Chinese, Tanaka represented a new generation in Japanese leadership.
In national affairs, Tanaka's plan to build a new Japan didn't do well. On August 7, thirty-two days after his ascension, he set up a prime ministerial study group to carry out his well publicized domestic program. Most of the work had been completed while Tanaka headed MITI. The "Conference For Rebuilding Japan" research team now had to implement those programs. This required passing legislation on a series of tax proposals and government grants and giving requisite powers to various ministries:
All these programs were actually started, though it became immediately apparent that the government expenditures needed to follow through on the "Tanaka Vision" vastly exceeded the nation's wealth. Fukuda and numerous others in and out of the LDP thought that Tanaka was living in Disneyland. The news media soon dubbed the project Keizai Seicho Shinwa, or the grand illusion of economic development.
In less than three months following the establishment of the study group, 227,240 acres of land were snatched up by speculators. This caused real estate prices to skyrocket at an annual rate of 30 percent. The trend continued every year that Tanaka was in office. The attempt at fundamental social change ended almost as quickly as it had begun all within seven months. The entire dream was reduced to a modicum of research funds for a monorail system (An actual monorail system was begun in Kita-Kyushu City in 1984. Tanaka's dream can service 85,000 passengers per day in that community.) and the legislative passage of the National Land Agency. The Agency, however, was given a reverse role and reduced to policing the land speculation that Tanaka had started. Like the pine tree planted behind his parent's Nishiyama home as a testimonial to his father's grand Holstein debacle, the National Land Agency still stands like a monolith to the failure of Tanaka's program to rebuild Japan.
Tanaka decided to call early elections before the situation deteriorated further. On December 10, the nation went to the polls and handed the LDP a crushing defeat, reducing their power in the Lower House to just 271. As usual, national feelings didn't affect Niigata or Etsuzankai; they had their very first Prime Minister. They also had a bullet train under construction. Tanaka listed his biggest victory thus far, out-distancing his nearest competitor by 124,464 votes and gaining a 42-percent share of the electorate with a grand total of 182,681 votes.
In order to gain factional unity, Tanaka was compelled to give Fukuda a spot in his Second Cabinet. Fukuda, not wishing to be too closely linked with the "Grand Illusion," accepted a minor post as head of the Administrative Management Agency. For a year following this election, domestic politics only worsened. Finally, on November 25, 1973, party chieftains forced Tanaka into giving control of the Finance Ministry to Fukuda. To complete his revenge, the Gunma politician publicly pronounced the "Rebuilding of Japan" as Tanaka's individual opinion and private view. With that, the "Vision" was put aside.
Tanaka's whole life had been a vacillation between extremes of fortune. Being Prime Minister didn't help him in this regard. Before the year ended, he was cornered with another embarrassing scandal; this one was taken up in the Diet. It was disclosed that the nation's leader had a mistress, Kazuko Tsuji, and by her had produced two sons, and a daughter who had died. Tsuji was a geisha in Kagurazaka-Shinjuku; Shinjuku is the night-life area of Tokyo. In the early sixties, Tanaka had "purchased her," as was the custom, from her house of service and set her up in a nice home in the Ichigaya area. Owning a geisha, while an embarrassment to his family and the nation's women voters, is not what got him in trouble. The use of her name in a shady land transaction is what did. Through Tanaka's bogus Shinsei Kigyo real estate company, he had, in 1964, purchased one-quarter acre (2,700 square meters) in Ichigaya, Shinjuku. This was some of the most expensive land in Japan. Half of the land was registered under Tsuji's name, in exchange for her land in another part of Shinjuku. That land was sold at several times the going rate to "Asahi Real Estate," a front company that disguised Tanaka/Osano transactions. (Asahi Real Estate was also used in the Toranomon Park deal in 1963.) The land ended up with Osano. Tanaka sold the other half of the land to himself via Shinsei Kigyo. Then, while he was Finance Minister, he sold it back to the government through Asahi Real Estate, who then sold it to Nihon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT), a public corporation. They, in turn, passed it on to the Ministry of Finance in 1966. At this time, Tanaka was Sato's Secretary General of the LDP. It was all a bit irregular, but now that Tanaka was Prime Minister, the Diet disclosures resulted in no action, though it ended the year on a sour note and from there things really went downhill.
In 1973, the first oil shock occurred, causing wholesale prices to jump by 31.4 percent. At the same time, the dollar was devalued. Reforms in the international monetary system floated the yen and created a sudden influx of available money that fueled real estate investment. This in turn fueled a runaway inflation spiral that deeply hurt the nation's salaried workers. Domestic affairs had been considered Tanaka's greatest forté; ironically it turned out to be his weakest ability. His public image took a severe beating in 1973. Further upsetting the public tranquility in this year was the right-wing, intra-party formation of Seirankai (the Blue Storm Group). The thirty-one-member group, which included such notable politicians as Michio Watanabe, Ichiro Nakagawa, Masayuki Fujio and Shintaro Ishihara, created a public sensation when they sealed a written pledge of unity in Yakuza style, with their blood. The group was staunchly anti-communist and deeply opposed to Tanaka's opening of China. The existence of such a group within the LDP was very frightening to the nation's union members.
The Seirankai success was followed in March of 1974 by the presentation of a bill that would have officially sanctioned Yasukuni Shrine as a memorial to the war dead. The Shrine seemed to symbolize, at least to a lot of Japanese, a return to prewar policies. Insofar as the young men who died for their country had little say in the government logic that lead to their deaths, a shrine to them wouldn't seem to be a horrible thing, but in Japan it was still an emotionally charged issue that cost Tanaka a lot of support, even though the bill was discarded before it reached the House of Councilors.
On a lighter note, Tanaka delivered what has become his most famous speech. The event occurred on May 13 at the Tanaka rally held in a large auditorium in Tokyo called Nippon Budo Kan. Attending the Prime Minister's address were mostly middle-aged Niigata residents. Thousands of them came to hear Tanaka speak on the evening's chosen topic of morality and society's youth. Also attending were representatives of the press, hoping to get a glimpse of any new administrative policy changes in the federally controlled school system. Whether because the speech was important or unimportant, Tanaka wrote this one himself and entitled it "Five Important Matters and Ten Reflections." Over the years, he had grown to be a unique and powerful speaker. He had a distinctive, low, gravelish, hoarse voice that for public consumption he liked to vary in tone, from thundering tirade to playful, childlike whispers. Taking the podium, he reminded his listeners of their grave responsibilities as parents and then set forth the following guidelines:
The artlessness of it shocked the nation. The speech was a page right out of a junior high school morals textbook and Tanaka quickly came to regret ever having promulgated the edicts, especially reflections nine and ten. His paternal sincerity was at once twisted and political pundits never hesitated to ridicule him for it.
Having belittled himself at the Budo Kan auditorium for his educational outlook, an amused nation found little humor in his management of the economy. A month or so after the speech, in the July House of Councilor's election, the citizenry reduced the LDP to mere parity with the opposition parties. Always an idealist, Vice Prime Minister Miki accused Tanaka and the party of corrupt ineptness and resigned. Fukuda followed, daring to travel even to Nagaoka and deliver an acidic denunciation of Tanaka's leadership. Shigeru Hori was the next to jump ship by resigning as head of the Administrative Management Agency.
In October, things went from bad to worse when the Bungei Shunju, a respectable and sizable journal, published a lengthy article entitled The Study of Kakuei Tanaka. The story gave its readers their first peek at Tanaka's long history of abusing his various public offices for personal profit using the Shinano Riverbed and Toranomon Park Scandals as its centerpiece. The story was supported by broad analysis of Tanaka's network of bogus companies. Curiously, the nation's mass media sat on the story. At this point, it was just Tanaka's word against a single journal. The nation's official dirt-digging industry, the Sokaiya, hadn't touched Tanaka in two years and such scandals were the root of their multi-million dollar blackmailing business. Tanaka's power was such that he only had to fear renegade journalists and the Sokaiya. As the former Minister of Posts and Telecommunications he had a lot of friends in the mass media and it was later revealed that just before Tanaka became Prime Minister, Kenji Osano sent his secretary around to all the major Sokaiya and paid them hush money to leave Tanaka alone while he held that position. By all accounts, the Bungei Shunju Study of Kakuei Tanaka should have suffered the same fate as the 1972 mistress story which remained a one-month annoyance. But an over-confident Tanaka foolishly attempted to explain away the allegations before the foreign press corps. Osano had no influence with them and they ran with the Bungei Shunju story. Japan was hypersensitive to foreign opinion and Tanaka's friends in the news media had little choice but to follow the lead of the correspondants or be accused of demonstrating a national censorship reminiscent of prewar autocracy.
Like a snowball going downhill, once the local press took up the issue,
the LDP had to respond and did so by opening an investigation through
the House of Councilors Audit Committee. They started issuing summonses.
The first witness was a mystery woman, Aki Sato, the Tokyo Etsuzankai
Treasurer and first president of Muromachi Sangyo. Aki knew everything
about Tanaka's covert organization and she would have to account for many
of the previously mentioned shady real estate transactions. Tanaka had
very deep feelings for this woman and certainly had no desire to see her
placed in a situation in which she would be forced to choose between confession
and perjury. Aki was scheduled to appear before the Committee on November
26, but on that day the Audit Committee suddenly dissolved the investigation.
No mystery here on the same day, Kakuei Tanaka declared his resignation
as Prime Minister. In an apparently prearranged deal, the Committee explained
that it was ending the investigation because Tanaka had been punished
enough. The Tanaka network, Aki and Etsuzankai were spared. The
citizens of Niigata were obviously bitter in disappointment. They had
seen a two-year term with only a few months of happiness at the very beginning.
In that time, Tanaka had gone from the most popular Prime Minister in
history to the least. His mother, always the saint, said he should come
back home and get away from all those high-faluting city slickers. Tanaka
himself remained temperate, saying:
Ironically, he had begun his brief reign by following Nixon to China
and now, 110 days after the Nixon resignation, Tanaka followed Nixon into
disgrace. Perhaps, like the Naniwabushi stories he so admired,
it was poetic justice that he should be brought down by the shadowy footwork
that had lifted him from the very bottom to the top of society.
Aki Sato Queen of Etsuzankai
Western medieval chivalry and the code of the Samurai share many common features; where they part ways, is on the issue of women. The Samurai sacrifices only for his master and personal honor. To surrender the Prime Ministership for love of Aki defies cultural roots. A more cynical view might dismiss the linkage as pretense, reasonable only if forgotten that Tanaka himself was so totally unique to the island landscape. Etsuzankai would be fast to point out that Tanaka, for all his faults, had a heart. Aki Sato is one case in point, the Shiodani hillbillies is another.
Aki was born in Kashiwazaki, just to the south of Tanaka's Nishiyama, in 1928. What began as a large family was ravaged by tuberculosis. When Aki reached the age of sixteen, she was alone and homeless; her whole family had been wiped out. Educated in an all-girls school, she hastily married Ieji Kato, who just happened to be an underling acquaintance of Tanaka. The newlyweds campaigned for him in his 1946 losing effort. In gratitude, the Tanaka staff helped the couple move to Tokyo and open a small construction parts store in 1947. Neither had a flare for business, however, and the store failed. The couple had one child, but when their economic situation deteriorated, so did their marriage. Ieji found a mistress and the two soon divorced; he kept the child. Aki was still young, a country girl in the big city for the first time, and she had nobody to care for her. She became a hostess in a Shinbashi cabaret and remarried in 1954. The ill-fated relationship produced a child who was kept by her second husband when the marriage dissolved. By chance, Tanaka liked to frequent the cabaret where Aki worked and it was here that Aki and Tanaka met for the second time and eventually established an intimate entente.
Aki's life up to that point had been one huge tragedy. Tanaka took her in, giving her simple secretarial duties, such as serving tea and sharpening pencils. After his most trusted personal secretary, Teruji Hikita, died in 1957, Aki began taking up many of his tasks, proving herself invaluable to many of Tanaka's business ventures. In 1962, when Tanaka became the Minister of Finance, she was finally registered as an official secretary. By 1965, she graduated to treasurer of Tokyo Etsuzankai and was put in charge of handing out covert campaign funds to young Dietmen and to others wanting to be under Tanaka's spell. Adjunct to these responsibilities, she was installed as the first president of Muromachi Sangyo (real estate company) Tanaka's link to Osano and other sources of hidden money which brings us back to 1972 and the Audit Committee summons. Given Aki's sad early history, Tanaka wouldn't have been so cruel as to throw her to the press and a ceaseless barrage of verbal torture. He loved her and their relationship had spanned two decades. After his resignation, her name was removed from all public organizational lists (Shigezo Hayasaka and others took her place) and together Aki and Tanaka retreated into the shadows to ponder their future.
|© Steven Hunziker.|