Chapter 4: ANTEN continued

The Shiodani Tunnel


While pondering, Tanaka had his staff scouring the corridors of various ministries in an effort to dig up some federal money for the families in the hamlet of Shiodani in his district. What they wanted was a tunnel which they had begun petitioning him for in 1972. Ultimately, the money was found; construction started in 1977 and finished in 1983. Once discovered by the press, the project symbolically came to represent both Tanaka's extraordinary power within the federal bureaucracy and his waste of national tax dollars on Niigata-based public works. The problem was that the infamous 1.50 billion yen ($9.3 million)[35] Shiodani Tunnel only serviced sixty families or about two hundred people.

The Shiodani saga dates back to 1936 when a heavy snowfall blocked out the hamlet's only links to the outside world, a few agricultural paths. The area gets at least ten feet of snow every year. The hamlet is located at the bottom of a hollow completely circled by a mountain range that cuts it off from other surrounding hamlets and from the two nearest major towns, Ojiya and Horinouchi. Standing between the Shiodani and the nearest hamlet, Nigoro, is a 389-meter barrier, the Amagoi Mountain, easily traversed by foot in the spring or summer, but most cumbersome in winter and impossible for vehicles all year-round. In 1938, using a small prefectural grant, the Shiodanians men, women and children attempted to construct a home-made tunnel to free themselves from isolation. The work could only be done during the cold, snowy winter season; in spring, the people had to attend to cultivating carp and planting their little fields. In icy winds, employing only hand tools, they pounded away, moving toward Nigoro at a pace of nineteen inches a day. Already 262 feet into the mountain, just 1,377 feet short of their goal, they suddenly discovered that they had been digging at an upward angle, thereby allowing water to seep in and flood the fledgling cavern.[36] The only solution was to climb over the snow-packed mountain every day and begin from scratch, from the other side, digging in a downward angle toward the hollow. The Shiodani predicament was so pathetic and their determination so inspiring that the nearby Nigoro residents turned out to help them. Nigoro's empathy, however, was sapped by winter's numbing freeze and they soon abandoned their over-the-mountain neighbors. To shore up the tunnel, Shiodanians raped their hollow of its trees and dragged them painstakingly over the Amagoi Mountain to use them as support pillars. Apparently, this was not too wise, as one of the villagers was killed during a cave-in. It had been a bewildering display of perseverance. It took five years, but in 1943 they had their tunnel 546 yards long, 7.8 feet high and 4.9 feet wide.[37]

The war never came to this part of Japan, so a jubilant village could relax and enjoy their convenient approach to Nigoro and Ojiya, at least until 1954. In this year the area was rezoned and Shiodani was incorporated into Ojiya's jurisdiction. The city shut down Shiodani's school house and ordered all children of middle school age to attend Higashiyama Junior High School in Nigoro. That was no great problem in itself, Nigoro via the tunnel was only a thousand yards away. One difficulty did arise, however. The Ojiya education board declared the tunnel unsafe and forbade the Shiodani students from using it to get to school.[38] The kids were routed north up to Takezawa and Tanaka's Route 291, then down to Iwamagi village and on to Nigoro. The school board had given the children an extremely long detour and there were no public school buses to give them a ride. Shiodani hamlet fathers put up with this for eleven years before the situation finally seemed just too heavy a cross to bear. In 1965, the children, at their parents' behest, went on strike. The board wouldn't budge, offering only to put the children in a dormitory for the winter. The Shiodani residents gave in, accepted the offer and parted with their children when the temperatures dropped. After repeated appeals, the town of Ojiya at last reinforced the tunnel with iron mesh, solving this problem; but as soon as this problem disappeared, another cropped up. Japan had become a motorized society, leaving Shiodani in the dust. On a good day, one car at a time could be squeezed through the tunnel.

To the south of Shiodani, the answer to all the residents' troubles materialized. Villagers who lived along a road that winds up to Nigoro had become Etsuzankai members and were rewarded with a micro tunnel called the Araya and with other road improvements. Taking the cue, Shiodani residents joined Etsuzankai. Each family donated 10,000 yen ($208)[39] in 1972 and every year thereafter. Just before Tanaka was to become Prime Minister, village representatives went to Mejiro and presented their petition to him. Moved by Shiodani's plight, Tanaka promised that he would do something about it. He did, and the end result was the Shiodani Tunnel, located only fifty-four yards from the old one. It was a modest concrete effort, 561-yards long and an impressive twenty-three feet wide. It was solid as a rock, lined by eye-catching electric lights, and only one of countless such mini-projects completed through Etsuzankai. The Shiodani story does have a disheartening footnote. Once the tunnel was opened in 1983, the residents began finding jobs in the outside world, at first commuting and then gradually not returning. Those who stayed continued their annual New Year's Day sojourn to Mejiro, giving thanks and wishing Etsuzankai continued prosperity.

Miki The Clean

It was precisely that prosperity, or at least the ethics of it, that lead to Tanaka's downfall in 1974 and came to change the political scenery. After his resignation, the party needed a new leader. Had Tanaka not disgraced the party, Ohira would have been the natural choice. The two factions, while divided on paper, in truth were a united entity. Public opinion would not have been tolerant of Ohira as a replacement, nor would have Fukuda or Miki. The factional breakdown was as follows:

Faction Total House of Councilors House of Representatives[40]
Tanaka 90 43 47
Fukuda 79 23 56
Ohira 63 21 42
Miki 46 10 36
Nakasone 40 5 35

The numbers tell the story. Tanaka, unless he wanted to split the party and hand the Socialists control of the government, simply didn't have the power to make a Prime Minister. Conversely, Fukuda, without Tanaka's consent, also lacked the power to push himself into the top spot. That left only Miki and Nakasone. The latter lacked ministerial experience, and his faction's association with the "Blue Storm Group" as well as connections with the underworld made him completely unacceptable to everyone at the time. That left only Miki, who had the cleanest image. His factional weakness turned out to be his greatest strength. Until this ethics problem could be settled, he was the LDP's wisest choice. Miki became the interim Prime Minister on December 9, 1974.

Symbolically clean government, however, didn't stop the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office from picking up where the House of Councilors Audit Committee had left off. In June of 1975, the president of Shinsei Kigyo, Takezawa, and Tanaka's secretary, Taiji Yamada, were prosecuted for illegal land transactions. Yamada got one year and six months in prison as well as a 300,000-yen fine. Takezawa was only fined 300,000 yen. Neither appealed to a higher court. Several other scandals also surfaced, but little action was taken.

One scandal concerned a 1961 land purchase in the Komyo-ga-ike District of Osaka's Izumi City. It seemed that 2.47 acres of marsh was shuffled around by the Tanaka-controlled Nihon Denken real estate company. Two years later, in 1963, it was sold to Nippon Housing Corporation for an astronomical profit of 1 billion yen ($33.7 million),[41] far above the going value.

As a follow-on to his Joetsu Bullet Train and his Kan-etsu and Hokuriku national highway projects, Tanaka took on the challenge of bringing to Niigata two nuclear power plants, comprised of what was to be five or more generator stations. The two main plants were to be located in Maki, in the First District, and in Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, next to Tanaka's hometown in Nishiyama. The problem for Tanaka arose over a land sale to Tokyo Electric Company. In this instance, 128.44 acres of land belonging to the Hokuetsu Paper Company were sold to the Mayor of a little village called Kariwa, an appendage suburb of Kashiwazaki, in 1966. The Mayor, Hiroyasu Kimura, then sold the land to Muromachi Sangyo, one of Tanaka's front companies, overseen by Aki Sato. They transferred it back to Mayor Kimura, who then sold it to the Tokyo Electric Company who used it for the Kashiwazaki/Kariwa Atomic Power Station. Later, the Mayor is said to have confessed in several private town gatherings that he was acting under Tanaka's instructions.[42] Tanaka's profit from the land sale was 400 million yen ($11 million).[43] It was disclosed that Kimura had originally bought the land for 152 yen ($2.70) per 3.3 square meters[44] and after the Muromachi Sangyo juggling act sold it to Tokyo Electric for 2,600 yen ($72) per 3.3 square meters.[45] The punch line came in 1969 when it was announced that Tanaka had talked the government into planning construction of the atomic plants. Tokyo Electric's land purchase had been very timely, though not as timely as Aki and Tanaka's land sale.

One other scandal surfaced during the Miki Government, concerning 44.4 acres in the Ikarashi District of Niigata City. In 1961, Tanaka's Nihon Denken company bought this land for 100 million yen ($7.6 million)[46] on a tip that a race-track was going to be built there. The track never materialized, but with a little help from Tanaka, the Government's Ministry of Education chose the site for the location of a new Niigata University. In a simple procedure, Nihon Denken sold the 44.4 acres to the city of Niigata's Public Development Corporation in 1965 for 420 million yen ($25.2 million)[47]; the corporation then passed it on to the Ministry who in turn built Niigata University there. Even accounting for inflation, Nihon Denken, which in 1964 became the property of Osano, made a tidy profit.

Surviving such minor affairs had become routine for Tanaka. He was just quietly going about his affairs behind the heavy wooden gates of Mejiro, waiting for ill winds to blow over while plotting Miki's demise, when the roof collapsed. On February 6, 1976, almost 10,000 miles away in Washington, D.C., the Vice Chairman of Lockheed Aerospace Industry, Archibald Carl Kotchian, took the stand before the U.S. Senate Sub-Committee Public Hearings on U.S. Corporations Overseas Operations, whereupon he disclosed that a $1,800,000[48] bribe had been paid in 1973 and 1974 to the Prime Minister of Japan. That Prime Minister was Kakuei Tanaka. Certainly, U.S. officials must have known what such an accusation, once public, would mean in Japan. Just a bribe is one thing, but a foreign bribe, that was something quite different. Was there no esprit de corps among world leaders?

As it turned out, when Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the United States for the names of officials and other evidence concerning the Lockheed case, Henry Kissinger tried to prevent release of the information. Kissenger maintained that the political stability of U.S. allies would be threatened if the scandal were to spread abroad.

In Japan, a resolution asking the U.S. Senate for information was quickly passed through the Diet. Miki, without consulting party leaders, declared that he would write a personal letter to Gerald Ford asking for the evidence. As a consequence, Japanese prosecutors were able to get all the material they needed.

It was as if history conspired against Tanaka. Nixon's imperial presidency had been purged, Gerald Ford was an unelected lame-duck leader and Kenji Osano had no influence in the U.S. In addition, it was an election year in the U.S. and the people most interested in the case, the U.S. intelligence community, were in absolute disarray, having little if any credibility with the U.S. Senate and Congress. International corruption lacked Washington allies in 1976 and Tanaka fell into the vacuum. It was a question of timing. The same ingredient that had worked so well for him before, took an opposite direction.

In Japan, summons were issued. On July 27, 1976, some 10,082 days after being nabbed for "Tankan," the Tokyo Prosecutor's Office once again had Tanaka in their clutches. Kakuei Tanaka, age fifty-eight, was back in prison. A testimonial to his political influence, this time it took a super power to put him there. He sat in prison for twenty-one days, running up his life-time total to fifty-two. It was enough! On August 27, for 200 million yen ($2.46 million) he made bail.[49] Once back on the streets, he resigned from the LDP and became an "Independent Dietman," a purely cosmetic maneuver designed to quell public uproar.

It was the lowest point in his life. He was hounded by the press. His mother, family, Etsuzankai, faction and friends were all a little embarrassed. From this point on, his life and the course of politics in Japan would never be the same. Tanaka's world became split, alternating from politician to defendant. The Lockheed trial moved at glacial speeds, providing ample time for him to plot out his greatest comeback to date (the others had been in 1948, 1955 and 1967). Prophetically, he had declared in early April, 1985, "I've been chased by time for such a very long period, but now I am free to chase time."[50] Tanaka had nothing left to prove, except his innocence in the Lockheed case. He was too young to retire, and if he couldn't bask in the light of public adoration, he could be equally content in the political shadows. His first priority would be to dump Prime Minister Miki, who had made one rather fatal mistake, he had criticized Tanaka over Lockheed and pledged that his administration would get to the bottom of the matter.

Beginning his "Black Curtain" come-back, Tanaka rallied his forces and forged an unholy federation with Fukuda, who was the most likely successor to the Prime Ministership. Ohira would have been Tanaka's choice, but the public wouldn't have been very tolerant of that and given Lockheed, Ohira probably had little desire to become an unpopular Prime Minister just to save Tanaka's neck. Nakasone was LDP Secretary General for Miki, so Nakasone stood only to gain if Miki remained in office.

The Lockheed Election

Miki had grown to like his job and considered it his sworn duty to see the investigation of the Lockheed Scandal carried through to its conclusion. In a counterattack against the Tanaka-Ohira-Fukuda coalition, he attempted to revise party rules by making the party presidency an all-LDP election referendum. That meant that the party's one-and-a-half million card-carrying members would vote by mail-in ballots and thereby circumvent the completely predictable Upper and Lower House selection process. Both Houses are the party factions, which in reality left the selection of president in the hands of the factional bosses. On the other hand, to be an LDP member only required a 3,000 yen ($24) a year membership fee. Technically, this made the outcome of a large scale vote less predictable, though in truth the LDP membership was just as factionalized as was the Diet. Miki called the reform a great step forward for democracy, and surprisingly, all agreed that it was a worthwhile idea to be enacted after Miki was gone. The power of Tanaka, Ohira and Fukuda was too great. Miki's term expired, and he had to dissolve the House and call the thirty-fourth general election. This election was the first opportunity the voter's had had to express their opinion about Tanaka, the Bungei Shunju exposé of Tanaka, Lockheed and all the rest.

In preparation, Tanaka abandoned his usual style of speaking to Etsuzankai members at a handful of assembly halls and conducted a vigorous campaign. He reminded the locals how much he had done for them. He made acidic jabs at Tokyo intellectuals who had been busy trying to convince the country that Tanaka had corrupted the very roots of society with his black money politics. In Nagaoka, he said, "I've been bullied a lot by everybody. I'm just a single human being! I've grown weary and tired of being a politician, but then I recently consulted my old primary school teacher and he told me, 'If you want to be great and get over this small difficulty [LockheedScandal] you must be patient and strong. Don't ever give up!' I couldn't help thinking to myself, primary school teachers seem to be much, much greater than college professors."[51]

The "Lockheed Election" was held on December 5, and 168,522 Third District voters stuck by Tanaka.[52] It was enough for a first-place finish, but 14,159 voters had disappeared.[53] It was Tanaka's first drop in the rating in over twenty-one years. Nationally, his faction lost seven seats and Tanaka by himself cost the entire LDP twenty-two seats. The LDP dropped from a clear House majority to mere parity with the opposition camp, gaining only 249 seats. It was the first major loss for the LDP since its formation. Surprisingly, the Socialists only gained five seats. The big winner in 1976 was the "clean politics" Buddhist Komei Party. They won twenty-six seats.[53] The LDP quickly picked up eight "Independents" to bolster the party. It was a dreadful showing and all Tanaka's fault, but Miki paid for the party's defeat. Reduced to Tanaka's whipping boy, Miki, perhaps the cleanest Prime Minister in postwar Japan, declared his resignation from office on December 17. Fukuda took his place and the price of his new job became immediately apparent. He had worked out a deal with Tanaka to keep his hands off the ongoing Lockheed bribery case. Hajime Fukuda (no relation), an independent LDP member, was made the Justice Minister[54] in place of Osamu Inaba. Inaba was unwilling to show any sympathy for Tanaka's misfortune and in fact demonstrated a degree of pleasure in the exposure of the scandal. Futada gave the Tanaka Faction the important post of Director General of the Administrative Management Agency. This post went to Eiichi Nishimura, then Chairman of Tanaka's Nanokakai (Seventh Day Club). Chairmanship of the Executive Council of the LDP went to Tanaka Lieutenant, Masumi Esaki, and Ohira became LDP Secretary General. Given the circumstances surrounding the creation of Fukuda's First Cabinet, it was a blatant affirmation of the axiom: privilege protects privilege.

Fukuda's Dismemberment

As far as Tanaka was concerned, Fukuda, like Miki, was just another Lockheed interim Prime Minister, the question being when to get rid of him. Fukuda, unlike Miki, controlled a powerful faction and 1977 was another election year. In July, the faction's seats in the House of Councilors would be up for election. Lockheed wouldn't go away the new year brought with it the indictment of Kenji Osano and a National Assembly interrogation of Nakasone's possible role in the scandal. This was the year the trial began, exploring the Marubeni, All Nippon Airways, Kodama and Osano money routes. To meet the year's political challenges, Tanaka decided to go underground by disbanding his eighty-seven-member Nanokakai [56] in the hope that his pretense would make them less conspicuous. The ploy didn't work and Tanaka's non-faction took a real beating in the summer election. For the very first time, Fukuda surpassed Tanaka in factional strength though only for the record. Tanaka and Ohira still had the lion's share, even though Tanaka's faction was technically non-existent at the time of the election:

1977

Faction Total House of Councilors House of Representatives[40]
Fukuda 78 27 51
Tanaka 73 31 42
Ohira 56 19 37
Nakasone 43 6 37
Miki 41 9 32[57]

So went 1977. The next year a far greater tragedy struck. Tanaka's mother, Fume, died at age eighty-seven, just when her son looked like he was about to lose everything. He was a man without a party or faction, on trial for an international bribery scandal. At the funeral, Tanaka said; "I could not be with my father when he died (1969), but I could take care of my mother while she was dying. She was a very strong woman and even though her heart stopped twice, it started again; on the third time it failed. My mother would have been eighty-eight years old this New Year's Day (by the old Chinese calendar); we were planning to have a big celebration. It's a great pity."[58] In Japan, one's eighty-eighth birthday is called Beiju. It is a magical day that holds a deep meaning in the culture.

Fume missed one of her son's most sublime political achievements, the dismemberment of the Fukuda regime after only twenty-three months in office. During Fukuda's term, Miki's all-LDP-member election system for LDP president went into effect. One of the new rules required that every two terms (with one extra year if needed, for a total of five years) the standing Prime Minister face a write-in straw poll. The opinion of the party's 1.5 million supporters was only a preliminary to the factional party vote. It was not binding, but it gave the membership something to do. Tanaka and Ohira (whose combined strength only equaled 129) used this mechanism to challenge Fukuda. However, in doing so, they were treading on thin ice for two reasons: first the LDP, as a party, could not afford a direct factional confrontation because any weakness would lessen their power in relation to that of the Socialists and other opposition groups. Secondly, Fukuda and Miki were teamed with a factional power base of 119, only ten fewer than Tanaka-Ohira.
Fukuda pompously declared that the second-place finisher in the membership poll should step aside gracefully and the winner of this preliminary, void of a factional vote, should be the Prime Minister. After numerous party machinations, this was precisely what occurred. Only contrary to Fukuda's expectations, Ohira won. The vote result came on November 27, 1978:

Ohira -- 550,891 votes
Fukuda -- 472,503 votes
Nakasone -- 200,951 votes
Komoto -- 88,091 votes

True to his word, Fukuda withdrew. Masayoshi Ohira became Prime Minister on December 1, 1978. Kakuei Tanaka was back in business.

Ohira and Tanaka Versus Everybody

The year 1979 brought with it the third year of the Lockheed trial. Fukuda, in an attempt to regain the Prime Ministership, linked with Nakasone, Miki and the opposition parties. After nine months of the Ohira Prime Ministership they successfully rammed a no-confidence vote through the House. This event coincided with the 35th general election for the House of Representatives which gave the nation's voters a second chance to make their opinions known. In 1976, they passed judgment on Tanaka. This time, the issue was a little bigger Tanaka's black money politics and the LDP, or the Socialists and a whole new way of life. The voters couldn't decide and the factional problems inside the LDP remained the same. Before the election, the party controlled 249 seats; after the election they controlled 248 a loss of only one.[59] To his horror, Tanaka slipped in his own district by loosing 27,237 supporters.[60] It was his second decline, though he still hung on to first place.
On May 16, 1980, the Japan Socialist Party, as was their routine practice, asked for an obligatory vote of no confidence in the Ohira Government. Unexpectedly, the Fukuda, Miki and Nakagawa Factions boycotted the assembly and the vote passed.

Fukuda had badly miscalculated the political scene, as had the Socialists. Behind the scenes, Nakasone had aligned himself with Tanaka and Ohira, creating an LDP mainstream. The Socialists had spent all their money on the prior election and were not in any financial shape to begin another political campaign.

Tanaka seized the moment and persuaded Ohira to dissolve the Diet. By coincidence, the election for the House of Councilors was scheduled for June 22, 1980. With Nakasone's defection and the financial weakness of the opposition parties caused by the election seven months earlier, it was the perfect chance to try something new double election.[61] Every seat would be up for election and the entire political malaise could be definitively resolved. It was a fierce election campaign that took an unexpected turn just ten days before the national vote. Masayoshi Ohira died of heart failure. Zenko Suzuki inherited his faction.

Zenko the Ignorant

Eisaku Sato and Hayato Ikeda had strong individualistic personalities. Even though they had graduated from the same high school, the relationship between their respective heirs, Tanaka and Ohira, was far more cordial. With Suzuki, the situation changed. At best, he was only marginally competent, certainly not a leadership type and lacking the slightest ambition to be Prime Minister. He was in all respects a perfect factional leader to front Tanaka's come-back effort. With Ohira dead, everybody but Nakasone had been given a turn at the nation's helm. Tanaka, however, wasn't ready for a Nakasone Government yet and backed Suzuki. Only a few days before the election, society was giving the LDP great sympathy over its loss of Ohira. Lockheed, now in its fourth year, had lost its sense of urgency and the double election idea reaped huge dividends for the party and Tanaka.

The vote was held on June 22, 1980. Tanaka himself once again declined in his district, but retained first place with a 30-percent share that totaled 138,598.[62] It was a minor defeat offset by his reemergence as the LDP factional patriarch:
Faction Total House of Councilors House of Representatives[63]
Tanaka 92 39 53
Ohira/Suzuki 77 22 55
Fukuda 73 28 45
Nakasone 49 6 43
Miki 43 10 33

As a party, the LDP scored a landslide victory, winning a clear majority of 284 seats in the Lower House and 135 in the House of Councilors.[64] The voters had made a choice. The LDP was, despite its shortcomings, a superior form of leadership compared to any of the opposition groups. In a demonstration of egalitarianism, the voters dropped Fukuda from the number one faction to number three. It had become a new narcissistic age where self-made men like Tanaka were easier to appreciate than silver-spoon aristocrats like Fukuda. The 1980 election also dawned the age of new factional leadership. After the vote, Miki retired, passing his power on to faction money man Toshio Komoto, age sixty-eight, and defacto president of Sanko Steamship Company.[65]

The post-election formality of selecting a Prime Minister required only one vote, Tanaka's. In Tanaka's view, it was still too soon for Nakasone and way too early for Komoto, and besides, Tanaka enjoyed Suzuki's absence of character. On July 17, against his own will, Suzuki became head of state. Dubbed "King Zenko the Ignorant,"[66] he had an awful time in office and was unable to gain respect from any quarter. There was no doubt in the space of his twenty-eight months in office, who was running the country Kakuei Tanaka. Unable to bear the criticism and weary of the insults, Suzuki suddenly declared his resignation on October 12, 1982, as the Lockheed case continued into its sixth year. Fukuda also retreated and began promoting his chosen heir, Shintaro Abe. Abe was the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi.

Of the old guard only Tanaka remained, a spry sixty-five years old. He had used the Suzuki years to build clubs, all kinds of clubs. He had taken his old Seventh Day Club (Nanokakai) and reformed it into a forty-one-member, Less-than-Five-Elected-Terms Club, followed by a fifteen-member More-than-Five-Terms-Less-than-Ten-Terms group called the Happiness Club. This was followed by a House of Councilors Fifth Day Club (fifty-three members), a five hundred-member kind of auxiliary Secretaries Club and an Ex-ministers' Club. He then combined them into the all-new, Tanaka Faction Mokuyokai (Thursday Club).[67] He came out of the dark, a little, by signing on as the boss. Though he didn't rejoin the LDP, it was enough just to be "Shadow Lord." Not yet finished, Tanaka enveloped his Thursday Club with his 1977 creation, the Shin Sogo Seisaku Kenkyu Kai, a political business research organ consisting of 274 members which included his faction, other politicians, leading scholars and business tycoons. It was the largest research body in the LDP.[68]
The Suzuki years also had a few new Tanaka scandals. Niigata-based Yoshiwara-Gumi Construction Company, a top member of Etsuzankai, was caught monopolizing government highway contracts.[69] Tanaka's brother-in-law, the president of Echigo Road Service (a sub-division of Echigo Kotsu), was caught illegally receiving bids from Niigata Prefecture.[70] Echigo Kotsu and Sakae-Equipment Industry were caught infringing on the Construction Business Law.[71] And last but most profitable was the Niigata Kotsu affiliate "Niigata Amusement Park," that sold 900 million yen ($8.4 million) in real estate to Niigata City in 1981 under questionable circumstances. Just prior to the sale, Niigata Amusement Park and Tanaka's deficit-ridden Tokyo New House merged, allegedly to elude taxes.[72]

The Tanakasone Election

By the time Suzuki quit, Tanaka had no worthy rival. Now it was Nakasone's turn, but if he wanted to be Prime Minister he would have to pay homage. Another one-vote election, Nakasone cruised to victory over a field of newcomers Abe, Komoto and Ichiro Nakagawa, a micro-faction remnant of the old Banboku Ono group. Tanaka wasn't finished building power and so he gave no thought to promoting an heir of his own. The Lockheed case was slowly winding down to a conclusion and out of a sense of propriety he didn't want to upset the public by putting up one of his own faction members. Nakasone, like Miki, eight years before, was controllable and safe. He took office on November 27, 1982, giving Tanaka six ministries, (Tanaka ministries included: Noboru Takeshita Finance Minister, Yoshiro Hayashi Health and Welfare Minister, Hideo Utsumi Construction Minister, Sachio Yamamoto Home Affairs Minister, Masaharu Gotoda Chief Cabinet Secretary and Matazo Kajiki Director General of the Environmental Agency. Susumu Nikaido was given the party post of Secretary General of the LDP.) not including the Ministry of Justice which went to Tanaka's close friend Akira Hatano, the former Superintendent General of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. Nakasone took control of his desk and little else:

1982

Faction Total House of Councilors House of Representatives[73]
Tanaka 105 41 64
Suzuki 87 25 62
(Abe) Fukuda 72 27 45
Nakasone 49 6 43
Komoto (Miki) 39 9 30


 

Like all the other "Lockheed Interim Prime Ministers," Nakasone played his part. As it turned out, 1983 became the watershed for all pending issues. October 12 was scheduled as Lockheed "Judgment Day." In the summer elections, in Niigata Prefecture all fifteen of the candidates supported by Etsuzankai won and in the House of Councilors all members supported by the Tanaka Faction were victorious. The summer also brought another new scandal as disclosed by the National Tax Agency. Ten of Tanaka's private employees were caught receiving wages, over a three-year period, from Muromachi Sangyo and Niigata Yuen (Niigata Amusement Park), even though none of them worked with either business. The tax office kindly advised Tanaka's two companies to refile their income forms and list the 38 million yen ($168,888) in question as a political contribution and not as employee wages.[74] That was that.
By October, Tanaka was ready. He had upped his faction to 119, making it the third largest group in Japanese politics,
Faction Total House of Councilors House of Representatives[75]
Tanaka 118+1 53 65 + 1 (Tanaka)
Suzuki 88 26 62
(Abe) Fukuda 70 24 46
Nakasone 53 6 47
Komoto (Miki) 39 9 30
Independent and Others 55 19 36
LDP Total 423 137 286


just behind the Socialist Party with 144 members. The LDP had 423 seats, of which 207 belonged to Tanaka-Suzuki and 260 belonged to the new mainstream of Tanaka-Suzuki-Nakasone. Even back when Tanaka was Prime Minister, at the very zenith of his popularity, he had not controlled this kind of power. His escape from the Prime Ministership wasn't a demotion, it was a promotion! By October, 1983, Tanaka was indisputably the most powerful man in Japan.


[ Chapter 4is continued. The next section is 'The Lockheed Scandal'. ]

© Steven Hunziker.