Chapter 5: KITEN

"To ignore providence"

1983 1994

By Western standards, the Japanese election system seems very strange. The second so-called Lockheed Election in 1983, regardless of the unusual drama involved, still had to adhere to the system's unique parameters under article 138 of the Public Office Election Law. First, candidates and their supporters are prohibited from door-to-door canvassing, The forbidden practice is called Kobetsu-homon. Candidates are allowed federally financed air time on TV and radio, so long as the message is only a brief introduction like a schoolboy saying hello to his peers at a new school. Secondly, by law, political hopefuls running for the lower house have exactly fifteen days to campaign and to put up posters and to plaster bumper stickers. Upper house candidates have eighteen days. Head-start postering can result in criminal prosecution.

Next, each candidate is allotted one and only one "loudspeaker truck." With this vehicle the candidate is driven to wherever people congregate, such as train stations, bus stations, office buildings, supermarkets, department stores, apartment complexes and residential areas. Once the candidate arrives, the loudspeakers are set on maximum volume and the candidate, in name-imprinted sash and white gloves (a symbol of cleanliness) belts out his message. Whether anyone stops to listen to the candidate is irrelevant, insomuch as nobody for a radius of a hundred yards has any choice but to hear the message.

Once the message is delivered, the candidat jumps back into the truck. The "campaign girl" then takes control of the megaphone and screeches out the candidate's name and party as the truck cruises down the road.

The Rules Of War

This entire exercise in public disturbance is amazingly out of character for a nation that loves the sublime, but the practice has become tradition and still is followed today. In the Lockheed Election, the real politicking was, in fact, conducted at lower decibel levels prior to the fifteen-day pretense and it was conducted more than a year in advance. Every politician had come to parrot the Etsuzankai style, dissecting constituency voting records. The legislative hopeful using these numbers could pinpoint the most minute area of weakness. The process would then move into the second stage, shoring up strength. The candidate's local organization, or jiban, would reaffirm the loyalties of various civic and business groups. In rural Japan, at least, if the company president told his employees to vote a certain way, they would do so as matter of loyalty to the company.

By the time of the fifteen-day marathon, everything was completely organized and the candidate could, with exacting precision, total his or her votes. The fifteen-day district tour was reduced to formality. Style was very important and the time was used to conduct carefully synchronized, ten-minute tête-à-têtes with supporters. In one campaign day, nine to fifteen such meetings were organized. When a candidate rolled into a certain village, a couple dozen people would be lined up at an appointed curb or meeting hall, the candidate would jump out of the truck, give his thanks and be off to the next prearranged address. The loudspeaker truck would stop in public areas, serving primarily as an inefficient form of soliciting extra votes.

The nation's electoral districts had become so loyalized that a new or fading candidate had little chance of success. Political openings had become totally dependent on death, retirement or baishu.
or vote buying, was a time-honored practice that dated back to the Meiji period. In an effort to capture a portion of the small, independent voting population, campaign workers would travel from door to door in targeted areas offering unmarked envelopes of money, bottles of sake, or as in one case, a few holiday trips to Hong Kong, for anyone who could deliver ten votes.[1] It was reported that an Independent's vote cost anywhere from 1,000 yen ($8.9) in Kanagawa Prefecture to 10,000 yen ($89) in Chiba Prefecture.[2]

In the Second Lockeed Election, a fire-fighting squad sold its votes for 30,000 to 50,000 yen ($270 to $450).[3] It was rumored that Niigata assemblymen cost 7,200 yen($64) and mayors went for about 2.5 to 10 million yen ($20,000 to $80,000). The police in Japan were forbidden to conduct sting operations, and since baishu was simply an unsigned gift, proof of bribery was almost impossible. Additionally, baishu was sometimes given in the name of one's opponent, so without a confession, the true source of the gift was difficult to ascertain. On the whole, the election practice was viewed more as an early thank-you gift than as a bribe. The system began at the very top with factional bosses. Over and above the party funds, the bosses reaffirmed factional loyalty by doling out to their membership, according to need, money envelopes ranging from ten to forty thousand dollars. Money for campaign expenses was to be used at the candidates's own discretion.

Against this backdrop, the fifteenth general election since the new postwar constitution kicked off. It began on Saturday, December 3, 1983, and ended on Saturday, December 17. Vacant seats numbered 511. The LDP had held 286 seats and needed to retain a minimum of 256 to hold a bare majority. Aside from the party's Tanaka problem, nineteen of its incumbents were retiring or had died. The LDP was in the unfortunate position of having to run new candidates. To this end, the party wisely fielded 339 official candidates, 38 unofficial candidates and 20 covertly funded Independents. Fifty-four new candidates to replace nineteen seats was overkill and in itself constituted a major party dilemma. Tanaka alone filed 84 factional candidates to protect his 64 seats and 20 Independents to protect other interests.
The media, opposition factions and political parties naturally decided that Tanaka was to be the major political issue, followed by Nakasone's leadership competency and avant-garde hawkishness. Next came the perennial issues of national prosperity, taxes, welfare for the aged, administrative reform and violence in the middle schools.

To the sorrow and consternation of Fukuda, Miki and Komoto, the LDP preferred to side-step the ethics issue and used "Lets Stimulate the Economy" as its official 1983 campaign slogan. The Japan Socialist Party predictably selected "Money Politics, You're Out!" The Communist Party chose "Cleanliness, Justice and Reform." The Democratic Socialist Party, in a similar vein, decided on "Act With Courage to Clean Up Politics." Most spiteful of all was the New Liberal Club's slogan "I Don't Like That Sly Man," referring to both Nakasone and Tanaka. The only group to break ranks was the thirty-four-member Buddhist Komeito Party; their slogan was "Give Us A Hug," in reference to the nation's juvenile delinquency problem. Even though they chose not to attack Tanaka with their official poster, they did not hesitate to do so in public speeches. These were the issues for campaign 1983. On December 3, 848 candidates, loudspeakers in hand, set out on their fifteen-day steeplechase.

The Great Misogi

Given the Lockheed conviction, Niigata Prefecture became the focal point of the election. Here, twenty-seven candidates and one comic vied for fifteen seats. The comic was Jiro Kageyama, who entered Tanaka's Third District as an Independent. Jiro, a toy store owner and detective story writer, felt that the campaign needed a little color. Far from critical, he felt that if Tanaka wanted to be emperor of Japan, he should be made "the official Emperor of Japan." To his credit, Jiro found ninety-three people in the Third District who agreed with him. In a similar light, Tokyo-based and nationally famous fiction writer Akiyuki Nosaka, declared that he would, like Don Quixote, personally journey to the district and single-handedly dethrone Tanaka.

The fact that Nosaka hadn't a prayer of defeating district incumbents, Murayama, Watanabe, Kobayashi or Sakurai, let alone Tanaka, was a detail lost on the media. They chose to believe that Niigata's Third District was a two-man race Nosaka and high principle versus Tanaka and black-money politics. Unlike Jiro Kageyama, Nosaka was taken seriously because six months earlier he had won a seat in the House of Councilors. That made him a semi-seasoned politician. Further, Nosaka's father was a personal friend of Tanaka's, as well as the former Deputy Governor of Niigata and a former Etsuzankai member. Akiyuki Nosaka himself had personal links to Tanaka. As a child Nosaka had made Tanaka's bed when he had stayed overnight at Tanaka's family home. Such sober points notwithstanding, Nosaka, a flunkout of Waseda University, comically arrived in the district aboard Tanaka's Joetsu Bullet Train surrounded by a press entourage, proclaiming to the constituency "Tanaka has done too much for you." This was an accurate point in that of the nation's forty-seven prefectures, Niigata had consistently ranked high in per capita public works investments. Nonetheless, it was a dubious campaign tactic considering that no one could believe seriously that it was "too much."
The candidate to be taken seriously was Shin Sakurai. He was highly critical of the Tanaka organization and had established himself in the district as a permanent thorn in Tanaka's side. Sakurai had been the former youth association chairman for Etsuzankai and despite repeated attempts, Tanaka could not dislodge him from one of the district's five seats. Sakurai, unlike Nosaka, had graduated from university (Waseda), but he didn't have any movie stars to campaign for him and consequently was given no media help in his challenge to balance the district's power structure.

Sakurai, in the Third District, was not Tanaka's only challenge. Niigata's Second District also had several troublesome spots for the Tanaka organization. One was the attempted comeback of seventy-four-year old Osamu Inaba, who had been dethroned in the previous election. Inaba was the nation's Justice Minister who had overseen the 1976 arrest of Tanaka. The two were not on friendly terms. For this election Tanaka dispatched two independent LDP types, Hirohisa Kurihara and Yamato Kogure, to the district to eat up some of Inaba's support. Another prefectural blemish was the low ranking of Tanaka Faction member Kozo Watanabe. The First and Fourth Districts both had Tanaka Faction candidates heading the polls; only the Second District prevented a clean sweep of the Prefecture. The Second District's top vote getter, Independent Takashi Sato, wasn't a serious problem in that Tanaka was on friendly terms with him, but it wasn't the image that Tanaka wanted. Tanaka, hoping to push Inaba out and confident of Sato's and Watanabe's political base, flooded the district with LDP supporters. As for the Prefecture's Socialists, they had never been taken very seriously and Tanaka even had been known to support them when it had suited his local strategies.

While all the other district candidates rushed around in their loudspeaker trucks, Tanaka quietly came up from Mejiro and attended several prearranged Etsuzankai meetings, going from place to place in his usual black motorcade. As other candidates desperately argued that the fate of the nation hinged on their votes and the national media scolded Niigata voters for being morally bankrupt, Tanaka confronted his supporters with a promise that he would stay in office for another twenty years (until 2004 A.D.). He made some jokes and talked about his son-in-law, Naoki Tanaka, who had made his first bid for the Diet in Fukushima Prefecture. Touching on his conviction, Tanaka lashed out, "Lockheed, Lockheed, I'm sick of Lockheed." So it went for thirteen days. On December 15, thirty-three-year-old Tetsuo Fukuda, a member of a Yakuza rightist syndicate, attempted to knife down Akiyuki Nosaka on the streets of Nagaoka. The cameras were rolling as Nosaka's body guard foiled the assassin. Campaign 1983 thus came to a dramatic ending. On Sunday, December 18, a mediocre 67.94 percent of the nation's registered voters went to the polls to decide on the "Tanaka Problem" one way or the other. In Niigata, 78.84 percent of the voters turned out in a vicious snow storm to render their verdict.[4]



Nakasone cautiously set the level of LDP victory at 266 seats. Fukuda proclaimed that anything less than than the pre-election 286 would be a defeat. Fukuda and Nakasone were from the same political district and both had what was jokingly called "reserved Diet seats." The interesting question in this election was whether Fukuda could place in the top spot above Nakasone. No incumbent Prime Minister had ever placed second in his own constituency. Fukuda had a golden opportunity to drive a spike through Nakasone's heart, by embarrassing him even worse than Tanaka's conviction had.

Tanaka's predictment in this election was that if he fell even one vote short of his prior 1980 total of 138,598 votes, the media would never let up. He also had to keep his sixty-four-member faction intact and pray that his son-in-law wouldn't embarrass him in Fukushima Prefecture.
Once again Tanaka had the Japanese glued to their television sets. On Monday morning, the answer came. The LDP lost thirty-six seats and its working majority in the Diet. It scored only 250 seats out of a possible 511.[5] Nakasone lost seven faction members and Fukuda humiliated him in their local race. Suzuki's Faction dropped thirteen members.[6] To date, it was the worst postwar showing ever suffered by the LDP, and the media stood poised, ready to give Tanaka the lambasting of his life, but...

Tanaka totaled 220,761 votes,[7] 38,000 more than he had received at the very peak of his popularity when he first became Prime Minister in 1972. Even more dramatic, it was the highest vote total scored by any of the 848 contestants. In addition, his son-in-law achieved an unheard of second place in his very first Diet bid. Tanaka hadn't even accomplished that in 1946-1947. Nationally, he won sixty-two seats for his faction (dropping only two). Not much of a judgment given the fact that Fukuda lost six seats. Locally, Tanaka won a clean sweep of Niigata Prefecture. Kozo Watanabe surpassed Sato, giving the Tanaka Faction first place in all four districts. However, to Tanaka's regret, Sakurai and Inaba won. Nosaka, naturally, lost.

Etsuzankai heralded the vote as absolute vindication. It was the Great Misogi. More retrospective local analysts thought it was more like ongaeshi. The national media, in their relentless attack, had reminded the voters of Niigata just how much Tanaka had done for them. They, in turn, offered their thanks by coming to his rescue in a blizzard, in his hour of need, and that is the truest meaning of ongaeshi. Tanaka remained as indestructible as ever. He was fushicho, the phoenix. Said Tanaka, "The Nakasone Government is like a fox riding on the back of an elephant. The elephant goes where it wants to, and if the fox doesn't like it, let it get off." As election 1983 unabashedly demonstrated, in Japan, Kakuei Tanaka was the system.

1984 The Year of the Weathercock

"What is most important in Japan now is the weathercock. A weathercock's legs are fixed, but its body is very flexible. Thus it can tell the direction of the wind. Those who become weathercocks are truly courageous people."[8]      Yasuhiro Nakasone

The big election was over, but as yet unfinished. By party rule, the LDP has to elect or re-elect a party president every two years. The election for LDP President and de facto Prime Minister was, by chance, scheduled for the end of October, 1984, only eleven months after the Great Misogi.

The rules were fairly simple. Ostensibly, each faction within the LDP would put up a candidate for a primary election, wherein the LDP's 1,900,000 members and 60,000 associate members would vote. However, if some factions chose not to field a candidate and the number of candidates did not exceed three, the primary would be discarded and only LDP Dietmen would vote in an election for the LDP President. The LDP President would automatically become Prime Minister of Japan. The LDP Dietmen were, for the most part, loyal faction members who voted as they were instructed by their factional bosses. Inasmuch as Tanaka had registered a stunning victory in the general election and controlled the largest faction with 119 members, normally the vote would come down to him. But these were not normal times. The LDP presidential election of 1984 would prove to be a prelude to a new era in Japanese politics, due to the death of Yoshio Kodama and the emergence of a new generation in factional leadership:

Tanaka Faction -- Noboru Takeshita
Suzuki Faction
-- Kiichi Miyazawa
Fukuda Faction
-- Shintaro Abe
Miki Faction
-- Toshio Komoto
Nakasone Faction
-- Incumbent

Following the Misogi election, Nakasone was able to avoid instant dismissal by patching together a shaky coalition between the New Liberal Club Party and the LDP, and by recruiting nine Independents. It was just enough to secure the LDP's continued House majority. The LDP's showing in the general election had been poor. Nakasone's showing in his own constituency had also been poor, but he was the last of his generation. The only way he even could be challenged in a bid for re-election was for Tanaka, Suzuki/Miyazawa, Fukuda/Abe, or the Miki Faction's new leader, Toshio Komoto, directly or by proxy, to run against him. Nakasone's bid to be the first Prime Minister in twelve years to win a second term in office appeared to be a sure thing.

Confident that the other factional leaders were not ready for a changing of the guard and that the public would not accept the candidacy of the old leaders, Nakasone, with unbridled hypocrisy, proclaimed that he would "eliminate Tanaka's influence on government and party affairs"[9] and then promptly appointed six Tanaka Faction members to his interim post-election Cabinet, the most of any faction:

  1. Noboru Takeshita Minister of Finance
  2. Kozo Watanabe Minister of Health and Welfare (no relation to Kozo Watanabe of Niigata's Second District)
  3. Shinjiro Yamamura Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
  4. Keiwa Okuda Minister of Posts and Telecommunications
  5. Masaharu Gotoda Director General of the Administrative Management Agency
  6. Minoru Ueda Director General of the Environment Agency

Shortly thereafter, Tanaka publicly proclaimed his faction's support for Nakasone in the upcoming LPD presidential election. The combined factional strength of Nakasone and Tanaka was enough to block any other candidate and led most commentators to believe that Nakasone was assured of a second term.
To placate an angry Fukuda, Nakasone removed Tanaka's principle lieutenant, Susumu Nikaido, from his position as LDP Secretary General. After a decent interval of four months, Nakasone revived the dormant post of LDP Vice President and gave the spot to an unhappy Nikaido. The Vice Presidency had been vacated since Eiichi Nishimura had resigned in July, 1980. In an additional move to calm a baffled society in awe of Tanaka's power, Nakasone appointed Seiichi Tagawa, a member of the New Liberal Club and a strong critic of Tanaka, as the Home Affairs Minister.

Tanaka had boasted, just prior to the Misogi Election, "One could even hold sway over our party's presidential election by using the telephone and nothing else."[10] At the beginning of 1984, Tanaka had made it clear that it was his intention to phone this one in 1984 would be the year of the weathercock.

The Death of Yoshio Kodama

On the night of January 17, 1984, at his home on Tokyo's Todoroki in Setagaya-Ku, Yoshio Kodama, at age seventy-two, quietly suffered a stroke that ended his life. The news was not unexpected. Kodama had not been seen in public since his June, 1977 appearance at the Tokyo District Court, where he pleaded not guilty to all charges of his involvement in the Lockheed Scandal. At that time, it was clear that he was in very poor health and still trying to recover from a stroke that he had survived in 1976. Dr. Koichi Kitamura, his personal physician, said Kodama had been mentally deranged since July 31, 1979. [11]
Kodama had stated that it would be his last desire to see Yasuhiro Nakasone, a protegé since the Kishi Cabinet in 1956, become Prime Minister.[12] Whether he understood that Nakasone had been Prime Minister for two years is a mystery.

Nakasone, in a somewhat embarrassed response to media questions, said he "felt sympathy for the bereaved family,"[13] but he would not call on the Kodama home to give condolences. Such a gesture is expected in Japanese culture, yet of the fifty mourners who waded through the press, no politician paid his last respects publicly. Underworld Kingpin Ryoichi Sasagawa commented "Kodama was a hard worker and would go to paradise."[14]

Kodama's rightist association, called Seishikai, was comprised of twenty-three groups, with a combined membership of fifteen hundred.[15] One of Kodama's legacies, and that of Seishikai, was the re-organization of Sokaiya industries in 1965. Sokaiya, or white collar racketeering, became such a plague to the nation's top politicians and corporations that in 1982, Japan's commercial code had to be revised. From that point forward, it became illegal to pay Sokaiya for services that were not tangible. This curbed a variety of payoff schemes, such as phony research institutes, over-priced golf tournaments and bogus booster clubs.

In fairness to Kodama, many of the extortionist activities and mayhem had begun in the early sixties when the Yakuza had jumped on the Kodama bandwagon. Despite the competition, Kodama was no stranger to Yakuza organizations. In the early 1960s, he had acted as a behind-the-scenes fixer between feuding gangs and unsuccessfully attempted to create an all-Japan Yakuza federation. The Yakuza was very useful to Kodama's labor strike-busting activities at that time. Kodama and the Yakuza chieftains also shared a deep cultural commitment to the ethics of imperial Japan chivalry, loyalty and obligation a commitment that can be translated only within their unique view of the world.

There was no question that Kodama was one of the most powerful and wealthy men in Japanese history, yet his life ended sadly. He died a Lockheed defendant, shrouded in guilt. His home had been under media siege for eight years. Over fifty investigative books had been published about him since his residence was raided by public investigators in 1976. His known financial assets had been frozen. Even his Asian art collection had been impounded. Public prosecutors routinely arrived to conduct bedside inquests. In one such interrogation, Kodama told prosecutors that he had received "divine punishment"[16] for acting as an agent for Lockheed not because of the scandal, but because Lockheed had built planes that killed Japanese soldiers in the Pacific War. Lockheed, of course, cut off their elaborate payments to Kodama after the Kotchian testimony.

Toward the end, even the right wing began to demonstrate in front of his home. Splinter groups classified as "new rightists" vocally accused Kodama of being pro-establishment, which he had been since financially founding the liberal party with a 160-million-yen ($46 million) grant.

As discussed in Chapter Two, Yomei, Kodama supported Ichiro Hatoyama. Tanaka came from the Yoshida camp and his connection to Kodama came through Kenji Osano. Osano's relationship to Kodama dated back to 1965 when Kodama solicited a 200-million-yen ($6 million) political loan from him.[17] In retrospect, this meeting in 1965 set the stage for their demise. Three men, each a giant in his own right, were set on an historical collision course. Kodama had created the party that Tanaka so artfully manipulated. Kodama understood politics and Tanaka understood men like Kodama and Osano. Kodama, through Osano, involved Tanaka in Lockheed. Lockheed was the only postwar scandal that involved foreigners a fact that caused the nation to lose face. The fate of these three men, united in a quest for Lockheed's black money, easily qualified as a national tragedy of Shakespearean proportions that is the Kodama legacy. A less innocent electorate and a vibrant, if not vicious press corps, is also his legacy. Prior to Lockheed, no media entity would have dared to expose Kodama, but Kodama crossed cultural lines and for that, he and those in his web did suffer "divine punishment."

The New Leaders

Hoshu Honryu
or Conservative Mainstream Faction, was the name given to the Yoshida side of politics back when the LDP was first formed. After Yoshida, the Ikeda/Sato coalition and then the Tanaka/Ohira alliance became the conservative mainstream factions. Zenko Suzuki inherited Ohira's position and worked with Tanaka to get Nakasone elected in 1982. After that, Suzuki, in all but title, turned over the chairmanship of his party to Kiichi Miyazawa.

As acting chairman of Kochikai (Suzuki Faction), Hoshu Honryu, at the beginning of 1984, consisted of whatever partnership existed between Tanaka and Miyazawa. None did. Miyazawa and Tanaka had not spoken, one-on-one, for over ten years. Only four years Tanaka's junior, the sixty-four year-old Miyazawa was no rubber stamp. Given the Lockheed guilty verdict, it was natural that someone would attempt to test Tanaka's power. To that end, Miyazawa began the year by declaring his independence and soliciting endorsements. Support groups were organized and Miyazawa reintroduced Ikeda's old "income-doubling plan," under the new name of "asset doubling," as a political platform. Miyazawa made it clear that he was perfectly prepared to challenge Nakasone, and thereby Tanaka, in the upcoming election.
Tanaka had often said that politics was just a numbers game. Miyazawa's independence represented a potentially sober number if he aligned Kochikai with Fukuda and Abe. A Fukuda/Miyazawa alliance would equal 145 Diet seats to the Tanaka/Nakasone coalition of 184. Further, if Fukuda and Miyazawa joined forces with Komoto, the tally would be 170 to 184. Such a split would make it very difficult for Nakasone to gain re-election. Conversely, Miyazawa also would be unelectable. Nonetheless, Miyazawa was in a position to play politics and strengthen his role within the LDP.

The bad blood between Miyazawa and Tanaka stemmed from Miyazawa's friendship with Tanaka's arch rival, Takeo Fukuda. Both Fukuda and his protegé Shintaro Abe, like Miyazawa, were all graduates of Tokyo University. That college bond produced a barrier of elitist rancor among all parties. Miyazawa's willingness to crack the Hoshu Honryu-ha and his electioneering activities provided Tanaka with an unwelcome set of political problems.

In March of 1984, fate intervened. A Hokkaido-based, unemployed Sokaiya -type racketeer by the name of Hirosato Higashiyama, contacted Miyazawa by phone. Higashiyama, age fifty-six, pretended to be Nikkyo Niwano, Chairman of the one-million-member Rissho Koseikai, a Buddhist organization. Miyazawa agreed to meet the phony Niwano in Room 386 at the Hotel New Otani. Once there, the racketeer convinced Miyazawa's secretary to wait in the hallway. Higashiyama gave Miyazawa a letter that outlined his blackmail scheme and when Miyazawa balked, Higashiyama struck him violently with an ashtray. Miyazawa collapsed with a three-centimeter-wide slash on his forehead. Higashiyama then attempted to commit suicide by slashing his own throat.
Miyazawa was rushed to the Toranomon Hospital. He suffered no permanent skull damage. This unfortunate event provided Tanaka with an opportunity to visit Miyazawa at his hospital bedside and re-establish a direct line of communication. As an icebreaker it worked and lead to an important golf course summit between the two men at Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture on August 16. While the content of that meeting is unknown, Tanaka emerged from it and announced that the political situation would be calm in autumn. Inexplicably, Miyazawa, through inaction, ended his challenge to Tanaka and Nakasone. The political situation was anything but calm.

Tanaka publicly proclaimed that it was ten years too soon for the new leaders to assume power.[18] That point was not taken well by Noboru Takeshita, who at sixty years old could hardly be expected to wait until 1994. In addition, the faction had dominated the political stage for over a decade and had only Tanaka's two-year Prime Ministership to show for it. Many of the faction members felt that Tanaka should quietly step aside, particularly given the Lockheed guilty verdict. Tanaka didn't see it that way and was determined to remain the Kingmaker a while longer, even if it did force an intrafactional showdown with Takeshita.

Prior to the Lockheed verdict, it would have been unthinkable to view Takeshita in the role of challenger, but the guilty verdict forced Tanaka to adopt two separate fund-raising systems. Because of the Lockheed trial outcome, Tanaka, for image reasons, had difficulty collecting political contributions from large corporations. This created a need to switch from a general contribution to the faction as a whole, to a dual system of contributions to the faction and to individuals within the faction. It had been known for a long time that Takeshita would be the heir apparent to the Tanaka Faction. So naturally, large corporations gave their money to him instead of to Tanaka. As of September, 1984, Takeshita had brought 998 million yen ($8.9 million) of officially reported money into the faction. Tanaka had only generated 617 million yen($5.5 million) of official money and half of that was from Etsuzankai.[19] Takeshita's new-found strength was obvious to all. While abiding by Tanaka's wish to remain low key in this upcoming election, Takeshita put Tanaka on notice that his patience was coming to an end. He did this by openly meeting Fukuda's heir, Shintaro Abe, in New York to discuss an anti-Miyazawa strategy for the post-Nakasone era.
A party presidential election is always a showcase for intrigue. Almost as a right of passage, each of the new leaders made their existence known. The old leaders responded in kind with their own shenanigans.
Tanaka, for his part, created a firestorm by commenting on the role of the Komeito in politics. The Komeito, having won eighty-six seats in election, was the second largest opposition party in government. The party was chaired by Yoshikatsu Takeiri, who stated that the remarks Tanaka made to the Tanaka Faction on September 10, made him extremely angry and were a serious defamation of Komeito. Tanaka's comments were as follows:

"The younger members of the LDP dislike Komeito. If anything, I rather like this party. The reason is that its members neither are definitely Communists nor Socialists. Komeito is a branch of the Nichiren (Buddhist) sect, whose followers mainly support the LDP. Members of Komeito get angry when I tell them that they are a branch of the LDP, but there is no reason why they should."[20]

Tanaka had had very good relations with Komeito leadership up to this point. Takeiri, whose party campaigned for clean government, would have preferred that Tanaka had said nothing.
got even by supporting an eleventh-hour plot to dethrone Nakasone. The plot, surprisingly, was engineered by Zenko Suzuki. Nakasone had gotten into the habit of publicly making fun of the Suzuki Government he had replaced. The humiliation had upset Suzuki to the point that he had approached Takeo Fukuda with a plan to make Tanaka's first lieutenant, Susumu Nikaido, Prime Minister. Fukuda had spent the summer in a faction numbers race with Tanaka, who had upped his faction to 120 members. Fukuda successfully absorbed the Shintaro Ishihara mini-faction of six, thereby controlling seventy-three LDP Dietmen. From Fukuda's perspective, creating a united Suzuki/Fukuda front to put a Tanaka Faction member in power would have been an ideal way to drive a wedge into Tanaka's Mokuyo Club. The plan hinged on Nikaido's willingness to defy his boss. To the amazement of everyone, Nikaido liked the idea, and immediately suffered the wrath of Tanaka, who proclaimed, "It is not good to decide on something without obtaining the approval of all people concerned."[21] Tanaka went on to denounce Takeo Fukuda for his role in the plot, stating that Fukuda had worked to worsen politics over the last ten years. Nikaido quickly withdrew from the plot and Nakasone was reappointed to the LDP presidency without further incident on October 31. On November 1, Nakasone reshuffled his Cabinet again, giving Tanaka six Cabinet Minister posts. In the end, everything turned out as expected and Tanaka retained his title as Kingmaker. Perhaps sensing the moment, Tanaka's private secretary, Shigezo Hayasaka, mailed to the private homes of several Tokyo District Court Judges who would decide Tanaka's appeal, the book, What Is Power? The Media Also Do the Lynching, written by former Justice Minister Akira Hatano. The ploy did little more than give the press something to write about. All this aside, something was very different this time around Tanaka's power had shifted away from him and to his faction, the Mokuyo Club.

Soseikai The Showdown at Mejiro

Tanaka's Mokuyo Club consisted of seven strong lieutenants. First among them was Susumu Nikaido, who chaired the faction. Always a second to Tanaka, Nikaido was once quoted as saying that his "hobby was Kakuei Tanaka." [22] Despite the rift he created by his temptation to challenge Nakasone, he patched up his differences with Tanaka and remained forever loyal. Virtually equal in factional stature to Nikaido was Shin Kanemaru, whose son had married Noboru Takeshita's daughter. The remainder of the old guard consisted of Ganri Yamashita, Masaharu Gotoda and Masumi Esaki. Takeshita represented the new guard.
Nakasone, upon re-election, appointed the two most senior members of the Tanaka Faction to the two most important posts in the LDP. Shin Kanemaru was given the job as LDP Secretary General and Nikaido was surprisingly retained as LDP Vice President. The Fukuda/Abe Faction raised strong objections, arguing that the appointments destroyed any sense of interfactional balance. To placate Fukuda, Kanemaru seceded from the Tanaka Faction on November 28, 1984. At the time, it seemed a cosmetic gesture.
Since Eisaku Sato's tenure, four terms lasting seven years and four months , the Prime Minister had been limited by law to two terms in office. Nakasone was now a lame duck and the era of the new leaders began in earnest. Miyazawa was Acting Chairman of the Suzuki Faction and Shintaro Abe was Acting Chairman of the Fukuda Faction. Each had only two years to make all the political preparations for assuming factional leadership and making a run for the office of Prime Minister.

Noboru Takeshita was in a far less enviable position. He was not even Acting Chairman of the Mokuyo Club; Susumu Nikaido had that job. Tanaka had not publicly endorsed Takeshita as his successor. In fact, not only had he made it clear that the whole issue should be shelved for ten years, but he had hinted that maybe Nikaido should succeed him. The situation as it existed for Takeshita was intolerable. His was the strongest faction, he was the top fund raiser, and he had loyally waited for his turn since Tanaka had resigned from the Prime Ministership in disgrace. Takeshita had further suffered the onus that the Lockheed Scandal had wrought upon the Mokuyo Club. Now it was 1985 and Takeshita found himself third banana behind Miyazawa and Abe. Something had to give and on Sunday evening, January 27, 1985, it did.

Takeshita, still Finance Minister, made a call on Tanaka at Mejiro. The purpose of the meeting was to inform Tanaka that he was going to organize an interfactional study group to be called Soseikai (Creative Politics Society). Ostensibly, Soseikai was created to address the generation gap problem in the Mokuyo Club and the growing interfactional expectation that Tanaka recognize Takeshita as his heir. The mere fact that Takeshita was telling Tanaka meant that it was a fait accompli.

Takeshita had learned from the master. He was doing to Tanaka what Tanaka had done to Sato and Fukuda in 1972. Even though there was a brief period of pretense in which numerous denials were issued to the press, Soseikai was not a study group, but a faction within a faction. Specifically, it was the Takeshita Faction. It was reported by various Tanaka Faction members, that during the 1983 election Tanaka was giving individual members three times more campaign money than Takeshita was. Tanaka was still very much a real power. Takeshita's willingness to confront him head on, was a big gamble. Takeshita was attempting to do what the press, The Tokyo Prosecutor's Office, all the opposition parties, and the Fukuda Faction had failed to do dethrone Kakuei Tanaka. Later, news reports of the January 27 meeting painted a picture of a very angry Tanaka, confronted with his own mortality, versus a very determined Takeshita.[23] Tanaka's daughter, Makiko, told a Bungei Shunju reporter several years later that on that night, Tanaka had screamed at Takeshita, "Study group is quite alright. I'll also study throughout my life. But I will never approve of a faction within a faction of any kind. If you are going to do such a thing, remember, I'll never make you my successor."[24]

News of the event hit the front page of every newspaper the next day. Takeshita's would-be study group sent shock waves through the political world and brought to a halt the normal operation of the Diet. Just as with the Lockheed verdict, the media pundits wrote Tanaka's epitaph.

Four days after the showdown at Mejiro, the headlines read, "Kanemaru Briefs Tanaka on Takeshita Study Group." Translated, this meant that Kanemaru had told Tanaka that Takeshita had his full support and the support of eighty-three other members of the Mokuyo Club. In addition, unbeknownst to Tanaka, Takeshita had covertly organized thirty-four support groups in prefectures across the nation. Takeshita had been swift and well organized. A shocked Tanaka was left with very few options. As he was so often quoted, it was all just numbers and Takeshita, not Tanaka, had the numbers:

Takeshita -- 83 House members
-- 79 House members
-- 73 House members
-- 67 House members
-- 37 House members
-- 35 House members

Given the above reality and the fact that the Tanaka Faction's power had always been derived from its monolithic unity, Tanaka was forced to move quickly or pack his bags for Nishiyama. Tanaka and his still loyal lieutenants began arm twisting immediately in an attempt to dissuade faction members from joining Soseikai. Under the banner of "Don't Split the Faction," Tanaka regained some of his equilibrium. Takeshita posted his deadline as Thursday, February 7, 1985. On that day, Soseikai would hold its first meeting. With less than one week to work with, Tanaka was able to regain enough bargaining power to forge the following:

  1. Soseikai membership would be limited to forty junior members and no more.
  2. All Soseikai meetings would be held at the Tanaka Faction offices in Hirakawa-cho, not at neutral hotels.
  3. Faction leadership would defer any endorsement of Takeshita as a new leader, but would give him a more prominent role in faction management.
  4. Susumu Nikaido would attend the inaugural meeting of Soseikai as an observer.

In exchange for these concessions, Tanaka would recognize the legitimacy of Soseikai. Takeshita, not wishing to push his luck, agreed to Tanaka's conditions. With the birth of Soseikai, he got what he had wanted, a platform from which he could join the other new leaders in their bid for post-Nakasone leadership. On February 7, Soseikai was inaugurated without a hitch. Takeshita told his membership that his relationship with Tanaka had been tense, but now it was time to study policy within the framework of the Tanaka Faction. Belying that call for harmony, Takeshita joined up with Shintaro Abe in a ninety-minute return train ride from a political stumping tour of Fukushima. The two reported that they were working out a strategy to defeat Miyazawa. Abe stated that he was thrilled with Soseikai. Needless to say, this political stunt did not sit well with Tanaka. It was a very visible declaration of independence by Takeshita. Not only was he openly preparing to run for Prime Minister, but he was also shamelessly cavorting with Fukuda's heir. The insult to Tanaka was clearly noted.


[ Chapter 5: KITEN is continued. The next section is 'Noboru Takeshita' ]

© Steven Hunziker.