Chapter 5: KITEN continued

Noboru Takeshita


In many ways, Takeshita was everything that Tanaka despised. He had been born with a silver spoon, assigned political mentors from childhood, educated in the best schools, and confronted with the singular task of not straying from the golden path that had been paved for him. It is ironic that Takeshita stood as the heir apparent to the Tanaka political legacy. Perhaps as Tanaka had always suspected, he was from the very beginning an uninvited guest at a very elite party a party that Takeshita had been invited to from birth.

Takeshita was born on February 26, 1924 in the village of Kakeya in Shimane Prefecture. His family owned a prestigious sake brewery. His father was a member of the Prefectural Assembly. After twice failing the examination to get into the prestigious Matsue High School in his own prefecture, Takeshita was sent to Tokyo and studied at the Waseda No. 1 School. With the reference of an influential former Waseda graduate, Enzaburo Takahashi, he was admitted to the prestigious Waseda University. As a college student, Takeshita decided to become a politician and a Dietman. His goals were temporarily sidetracked by the Pacific War. He volunteered and toward the end of the war he was chosen to be an instructor for the Army Flying School for Military Junior Aviators.

After the war, during the American occupation, Takeshita returned to Waseda University and graduated in 1947. He then returned to his home town as a middle school English language teacher. Teaching middle school was not his ambition; politics was. To that end, Takeshita devoted his energy to the local Young Men's Association. Every community has a Young Men's Association and the concept is deeply rooted in the municipal history of Japan. It is probably best described as a political 4-H / Boy Scout / Junior Chamber of Commerce with social clout. During the Pacific war, the Associations were used to militarize the nation's youth. After the war, they played an important role in democratizing local politics. For Takeshita, his local Association launched his political career. He became the chairman of the Kakeya Town Young Men's Association in 1947, and rose to the post of Chairman of the County Federation of Young Men's Associations in 1949.

In 1951, at age twenty-seven and only four years after college, Takeshita ran for a seat in the Shimane Prefectural Assembly. Backed by his old mentor Enzaburo Takahashi, Takeshita won the election. In addition to the support of Takahashi, Takeshita won the support of lumber baron Choemon Tanabe. Tanabe's influence was national.

In 1958, after serving two terms (seven years) in the Assembly, Takeshita, with the backing of Tanabe, ran for a seat in the House of Representatives. His first time out, at age thirty-four, he became a national Dietman in the Liberal Democratic Party. A testament to Tanabe's influence, Takeshita was put under the wing of Eisaku Sato (they had been introduced in 1957). It was well known that Sato would be in line for the party presidency one day. Tanabe and friends made sure that Takeshita was on the fast track from day one. The young Takeshita, now an apprentice to Sato, was dubbed Sato's "Pet Politician" and his career was served up on a silver platter:

1960 - Director of the Youth Division of the LDP (Ikeda's Cabinet)
1963 - Vice Minister of International Trade and Industry (Ikeda's Cabinet)
1966 - Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (Sato's Cabinet)
1970 - Vice Secretary General of the LDP (Tanaka was Secretary General for Sato)
1971 - Chief Cabinet Secretary (Sato's Cabinet)
1972 - Vice Secretary General of the LDP for the second time (Tanaka's Cabinet)
1974 - Chief Cabinet Secretary for the second time (Tanaka's Cabinet)
1976 - Minister of Construction (Miki's Cabinet)
1976 - Chairman of the National Organization Committee of the LDP (Fukuda's Cabinet)
1978 - Chairman of the Budget Committee / Lower House (Ohira's Cabinet)
1979 - Minister of Finance (Ohira's Cabinet)
1980 - Chairman of the Research Commission on Elections of the LDP (Suzuki's Cabinet)
1981 - Deputy Secretary General of the LDP (Suzuki's Cabinet)
1982 - Minister of Finance for the second time (Nakasone's Cabinet)
1984 - reappointed Minister of Finance (Nakasone's Cabinet)
1985 - inauguration of Soseikai

Even though Takeshita's career never faltered, it is interesting to note that he wasn't appointed to any of the three key LDP posts previously required for the Prime Ministership: Party Secretary General, Chairman of the Executive Council and Chairman of the Policy Affairs Research Council. The reason for that was very simple: Kakuei Tanaka did not want Takeshita in any of those posts. Takeshita's political strength, to the degree he was able to develop it, was rooted in his relationship with Sato, not with Tanaka. To Takeshita's credit, he realized that Fukuda was not going to defeat Tanaka in 1972 and he sided with Tanaka. Tanaka needed Takeshita, just as much as Takeshita needed him. Takeshita's union with Tanaka was one of temporary political convenience. With Tanaka's power on the decline following Lockheed, the strong financial support given to Takeshita from the corporate community and the internal factional demand for a new beginning, the union was no longer convenient and after thirteen years Takeshita ended it.

Entropy - Mi Kara Deta Sabi
Tanaka is down

"Mi kara deta sabi" translates to "rust comes from within the body." Tanaka's Chief Secretary, Shigezo Hayasaka, reported on Tuesday, February 26, following a factional party with former Cabinet Ministers, that Tanaka did not feel well. This was just twenty days after Takeshita had inaugurated Sosekai. Tanaka was under extraordinary pressure. In addition to his regular duties, he was now trying to hold together 120 faction members while juggling the demands of two different armies of lawyers, one group trying to destroy him and the other trying to save him. His once trusted lieutenant, Shin Kanemaru, had jumped ship and the press corps followed his every move.

Tanaka, who suffered from hypertension and diabetes, by all accounts began downing excessive amounts of scotch daily. On Monday, February 25, Tanaka attended an interfactional fund raiser for Tsutomu Hata. Hata was viewed as a young turk within the Mokuyo Club, a future leader. He also had been a core member of Sosekai. Two days later, Tanaka's schedule became too much for him and he collapsed at Mejiro. Three doctors and a nurse from Tokyo Teishin Postal Hospital were at once summoned to the compound. An ambulance soon followed. At 8:30 in the evening, Tanaka arrived at the hospital and was rushed to his private room on the ninth floor. Tanaka, under contract with the hospital, rented the room year-round.
His right side paralyzed and his speech impaired, Tanaka had suffered a debilitating stroke. His daughter Makiko, with a resolve equal to that of her father, stepped forward and took charge. "It is not Tanaka, the politician, who is in the hospital. This is the hospitalization of my father. He shall live on by all means and I don't want him to be excited, so for that purpose no one will be allowed to meet him." With that said, the three hundred-plus politicians and other notables gathered in the hospital foyer were turned away. The list of unwelcome visitors included Prime Minister Nakasone. Soon after, even Tanaka's personal secretary, Shigezo Hayasaka, was forbidden from seeing him, as was his mistress of forty years, Aki Sato. So ruthlessly did Makiko take charge of her father's affairs that she was dubbed by the press, "the Empress of Mejiro." To further protect her father, Makiko demanded that the hospital rent the entire ninth floor to him and move all the necessary physical rehabilitation equipment up to that floor. The hospital refused. Makiko's response was swift. On April 28, in the middle of the night, she clandestinely removed her father from the hospital to Mejiro. Several days passed before anyone knew what had happened to Tanaka. The media had a field day with this mini-mystery.

Shigezo Hayasaka and all the leading members of the Mokuyo Club pleaded with Makiko to return Tanaka to the hospital. She was adamant, stating, that her father would be killed if he was left there. She could no longer trust the hospital with the life of her father. Makiko firmly believed that Hayasaka's interests were only political. Indeed, the politics of Tanaka's health had brought the Diet to a standstill at a cost of 50 million yen ($450,000) a day. The big question was, was Tanaka out of the political equation? Regardless of the answer, a lot of careers would be affected. Makiko, in a May 8 article in the Monthly Etsuzan, said, "I hope my father [who four days earlier turned sixty-seven] will recover and be a philosopher-statesman imbued with a wider and deeper perspective instead of a man who never deviates from the politics of practical business as he has been doing."

Tanaka was out of sight, but his life was not. Takeshita, in deference to Tanaka, postponed the second meeting of Sosekai scheduled for April 3. He held that meeting on April 18. Of the seventy-seven faction members invited, only forty-nine showed up. In anger over Takeshita's haste and lack of sensitivity toward their fallen leader, forty members boycotted Takeshita's speech before the Mokuyo Club at its regular meeting conducted on May 16. Lines were being drawn in the sand. It was clear that all the talk about factional unity was just pretense.

As Makiko protected Tanaka from his own factional problems, his chief Defense Counsel, Katsuyoshi Shinzeki, tried to protect him from Lockheed by filling a 3,024-page, 1.5 million-Chinese character pretrial defense brief proclaiming Tanaka's innocence. The Marubeni Route Appellate trial was scheduled for July 29. Tanaka's attorneys won a delay and got him severed from the Marubeni Route because of his illness combined with the court's desire to move forward on the case and prosecute Hiyama, Itoh and Okubo. The first appellate hearing for Tanaka and Enomoto was reset for September 2.

In a surprise move, on May 21, Makiko publicly announced that the Tanaka family would break off its relations with Hayasaka. Sixteen days later, on June 6, Tanaka's chief attorney and the Chairman of Tokyo Etsuzankai, Choei Hara, along with Naoki Tanaka as Makiko's proxy, fired Hayasaka and Aki Sato. Hayasaka was even forbidden to visit Tanaka at Mejiro, despite their long acquaintance. They further announced that Tanaka's political office would be closed. It was clear that Tanaka's illness was far more serious than first had been disclosed.

The doctors at Tokyo Teishin Hospital initially speculated that Tanaka's recovery could take three to five months. This was the benchmark his followers and detractors waited upon. Month seven, September, came and went and still there was no word on Tanaka's ability to resume any of his previous activities.
On October 2, the whole line of the Kanetsu Expressway was opened to traffic. The expressway was yet another Tanaka project that connected Tokyo to his Etsuzankai stronghold in Nagaoka, and by way of that, all of Niigata via the Hokuriku Expressway. This was a big event that Tanaka normally would have attended. Tanaka remained absent from view.

Naoki Tanaka made a public appearance at the Urasa Station of the Joetsu Bullet Train in Niigata on October 28, to deliver a commemorative speech and unveil a 3.4-meter statue of Kakuei Tanaka on a 5-meter pedestal. The Japan Socialist Party immediately denounced the statue and filed a protest with the Home Affairs Ministry, alleging that the statue violated the Public Office Election Law. Tanaka was a current member of the Diet and Nakasone's final term in office was to expire in just twelve months. Electioneering was already under way. The statue gave Tanaka an unfair campaign advantage should he choose to run for re-election. The Home Affairs Ministry rejected the JSP's complaint. Several Etsuzankai campaign managers traveled to Mejiro to give Tanaka a miniature replica of the statue.
November 16 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Nagaoka chapter of Etsuzankai. Eight thousand supporters attended this massive celebration. Tanaka did not appear by phone or even video. Susumu Nikaido spoke as Tanaka's proxy.

The year 1985 ended in complete mystery over Tanaka's condition. It also ended with a bitter fight between non-Sosekai and Sosekai members within the Tanaka Faction. Nakasone, in an attempt to test the political waters absent of Tanaka, decided to reshuffle his Second Cabinet. Takeshita used this opportunity to get two of his Sosekai lieutenants, Tsutomu Hata and Ichiro Ozawa, into Nakasone's new Cabinet. Ozawa was totally unacceptable to the non-Sosekai. members. Even Naoki Tanaka, trying to act as a proxy for his father-in-law, attempted to intervene, and in a December 28 meeting with Nikaido advanced a plan to have Nakasone remove Takeshita from the Cabinet. Nakasone completely ignored those loyal to Tanaka and gave Soseikai what it wanted and, of course, he reappointed Takeshita. Nakasone's new Cabinet was widely viewed as his declaration of independence from Tanaka as well as proof of Tanaka's overall decline.
New Year's Day at Mejiro had always been a big event. New Year's Day 1986 was different. The usual whiskey-toting Tanaka made no appearance whatsoever and no alcohol was served to the 350 people who did show up. That number was less than half the number who usually attended. At 8:20 a.m., Chief Cabinet Secretary Masaharu Gotoda arrived and said, "The Tanaka residence is like a shrine to us politicians." Naoki and Makiko greeted the guests as they signed their best wishes in a book placed on a table inside the compound, but outside the residence. For the first time since this yearly event had begun, Noboru Takeshita did not appear, however, a number of Sosekai members did attend. They were not allowed in the compound; rather the best wishes book was brought out to them where they were invited to sign it and leave. Fifty members of the Kanto Federation of Scaffoldmen in traditional costume chanted songs. Makiko told them, "My father is listening to your songs in a good condition. He will make an utmost effort so that he will be able to meet you next year."[25]

The Mystery Suicide of Toshio Tanaka

Toshio Tanaka had sat on the boards of several Tanaka-related companies and had worked as his cousin's First Secretary since 1957. Toshio's personal friendship with Tanaka predated the Pacific War. Since Makiko's expulsion of Shigezo Hayasaka, Toshio had been elevated to the chief keeper of the gate. He was sixty years old and had been receiving medical treatment for high blood pressure at the Tokyo University Hospital. He lived with his fifty-seven-year-old wife Fumi and his twenty-eight-year-old son, in a fashionable home not far from Mejiro in Shinjuku Ward.

On Thursday, February 27, 1986, precisely one year to the very date after Tanaka's stroke, Toshio went to his office in Tanaka's former residence in Bunkyo Ward. That was at 8:00 a.m. An hour-and-a-half later, he left saying that he did not feel well. At 3:00 p.m., his wife returned home and found him hanging from a vinyl cord tied to the handrail of the second floor staircase. He left no suicide note. Police said the time of death was noon.

Only two explanations were offered; neither was very credible. His wife, though she didn't know for sure, thought that he was depressed over his blood pressure problem. Noted political commentator, Takashi Tachibana, who wrote the famous Bungei Shunju article that helped bring Tanaka down, speculated that Toshio had lost his sense of purpose with his boss rapidly slipping from political prominence. The date of the suicide seemed to be sending a message to someone, but about what? The Tanaka family made no comment on the affair. Masumi Esaki, a key Tanaka lieutenant and then acting Director General of the Coordination and Management Agency, said Toshio was such a good fellow that it was exceedingly regrettable that he had chosen to kill himself.[26]

The Ongaeshi Double Election of 1986

In the winter months following Nakasone's reshuffling of his Cabinet, free from his Tanakasone image, the Prime Minister's public approval rating soared to 55.8 percent. Conversely, public opinion toward all the opposition parties hit a low.[27] In large part, the opposition groups were being viewed as status-quo parties, void of vision or purpose. Other than the Lockheed Appellate hearings (old news), the LDP was temporarily scandal free. From an overall LDP perspective, the time was right to attempt to gain back the loses of 1983 and re-establish a safe majority. The way to do that was to dissolve the Lower House, declare a double national election, and call the nation's 86.5 million voters to the poles. The Upper House election was scheduled for July 6, but Nakasone's second term didn't end until October 30. Personally, he had little motive to speed up the time table with an early election. Unless, of course, he could get some party rule changes that would extend his second term. After first denying that he would call a double election, he did a complete reversal, and on June 2 he managed to convene an extra Diet session and dissolved the Lower House. He obviously had worked out some kind of deal with the other faction bosses. In the words of Tanaka's still loyal, non-Sosekai, LDP Chief Cabinet Secretary Gotoda, "There is no need for Nakasone to withdraw, having as he does the strong support of the general public."[28]
Heading into this election, the Tanaka Faction was in a very precarious position. It needed to make peace with itself or risk losing its position of power. By April, the issue was not so much Soseikai verses non-Soseikai, as it was Takeshita verses non-Takeshita. With Tanaka in hibernation and Nikaido unable to muster much leverage within the Mokuyo Club, it was left to Shin Kanemaru to point out the obvious. The purpose of Soseikai was to force the faction to do what Tanaka would not do, recognize Takeshita as its next presidential candidate. Soseikai had accomplished its purpose, Takeshita had the numbers and could not be stopped. If the faction elders would just accept the obvious, Soseikai had no further reason to exist. Kanemaru's logic worked. The Tanaka Faction agreed to make Takeshita their next presidential candidate and Takeshita agreed to disband Soseikai. The organization disappeared on April 25, 1986. The result was at least a semblance of unity within the Tanaka Faction.

For the first time in more than a decade, Kakuei Tanaka was not a principle national election issue. The LDP put forward a very modest six-point platform: they would do more for the elderly, build more Shinkansen Bullet Trains, promote science and technology, institute educational reforms, promote more housing and public works construction, and loosen up loans for small business and make repayment terms easier. By comparison, the two largest opposition parties, the JSP and Komeito, focused on anti-Nakasone slogans and little else. The New Liberal Club argued that the LDP was all talk and no action. The DSP tried to warn the electorate that the LDP was going to sneak in a sales tax during the next term. Finally, the Japan Communist Party strangely attempted to convince people that Nakasone was a personal fan of Adolf Hitler and was moving the country back to a prewar fascism. The media also focused on Nakasone, but not because of his party's political platform. Election 1986 would be the thirteenth head-to-head confrontation with Takeo Fukuda in the Third District of Gunma Prefecture.

The rivalry began in 1952 and was known as the Joshu War, after the ancient word for Gunma. Gunma was the only prefecture with two active faction bosses, let alone the ability to boast two Prime Ministers. The fact that they made up two of the four seats in the Third District only added to the anomaly. National interest in the Joshu War was heightened in 1983 when Nakasone became the first sitting Prime Minister not to place first in his own constituency. In fact, Fukuda had bested Nakasone eight out of twelve times. In this election, the Joshu War expanded beyond the boundaries of the Lower House. Yasuhiro Nakasone's son, Hirofumi, age forty, made his political debut in a run for one of the two of four seats available in the Upper House. One of the occupied seats was held by Fukuda's younger brother, long-term incumbent Hiroichi Fukuda, age seventy-two. If Hirofumi was to win in this election, the Joshu War easily would continue for another decade. Hirofumi's campaign strategy was created by Dentsu Inc., the best marketing firm money could buy. Dentsu developed an orange and black platform proclaiming Hirofumi was "clean, mild-mannered and peace-loving." He would support "Sawayaka Gunma" ("a lively Gunma Prefecture").[29] When asked by the media if he had any policies at all, Hirofumi responded in vacuous fashion, "I'm filled with the determination to do my best in everything." Dentsu and others argued that Hirofumi would grow into the job and become Prime Minister one day.[30]

In Niigata, the question was, would Tanaka, for health reasons, surrender his Diet seat? And who could possibly replace him? On May 1, the monthly Etsuzan published several photos of Tanaka and proclaimed that winning the election would be the best medicine for his recovery. Said one Tanaka loyalist, "I will support Tanaka as long as he is alive, as long as he wears a [Dietman's] badge, no matter what the ruling by the high court, no matter how his illness is."[31] Koichi Honma joined in that sentiment stating, "His illness is not one from which he will not recover. It may take one year, it may take three years, but we are not worried."[32] Nonetheless, it had been fifteen months since Tanaka had been seen, the hearings regarding his Lockheed appeal had just ended on June 17, and less than forty days had passed since the public revelation that in 1972 he had received $500,000 from the former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.[33]

Would Tanaka run? Of course, he would. The announcement came from Tanaka's sick bed on June 21. Etsuzankai members rushed to complete the paper work for campaign registry at Nagaoka's city hall. That same day, Etsuzankai held a rally of fifteen hundred members under the slogan,"The more votes you collect, the earlier his recovery." Led by Nikaido, almost forty members of the Tanaka Faction rushed to Niigata's Third District to help Makiko campaign for her father. Said one woman devotee, "I want to do ongaeshi (to requite Tanaka's favors) because he is down with an illness now."[34] Tanaka's six rivals in this election were very careful not to criticize him, virtually conceding his Diet seat. Even Takeshita offered to travel to Niigata on Tanaka's behalf. Makiko rudely declined the offer. She wasn't worried, stating that, "Above all, those voters who are fair and square will vote specifically for my [sick] father."[35] This had been the first time in forty years and seventeen elections that a Tanaka family member had appeared in an election campaign. Ironically, her husband Naoki ran for re-election in Fukushima under the banner of "Independence from Kakuei Tanaka."

Election day, July 6, came and went. Tanaka had won yet another landslide victory:

Kakuei Tanaka, age 68, Independent -- 179,062 (won)
Tomio Sakagami
, age 59, Socialist Party -- 72,729 (won)
Hideo Watanabe
, age 52, LDP -- 63,554 (won)
Shin Sakurai
, age 53, LDP -- 62,189 (won)
Tatsuo Murayama
, age 71, LDP -- 49,692 (won)
Kyumei Muruyama
, age 47, Communist Party -- 16,332 (lost)
Osamu Saikawa
, age 40, Independent -- 3,758 (lost)

This election was a huge success in both houses for the LDP, which scored a total 304 seats in the Lower House, up 54 from election 1983:

LDP - 304 seats
JSP
- 86 seats
Komeito
- 57 seats
DSP
- 27 seats
JCP
- 26 seats
NLC
- 6 seats
Shaminren
- 4 seats [36]

Nakasone upped his faction strength to eighty-three, overtaking Fukuda as the number three faction. However, Fukuda once again bested Nakasone in their local Gunma race. First timer Hirofumi Nakasone won his election, along with Hiroichi Fukuda and Naoki Tanaka who won his second term. When the smoke finally cleared, Nakasone won an additional year as Prime Minister, and both Fukuda and Suzuki formally retired. The new-look LDP shaped up as follows:

Tanaka Faction -- 141 + Tanaka (90 members committed to Takeshita)
Suzuki Faction
-- 88
Nakasone Faction
-- 84
Abe Faction
-- 83 (former Fukuda Faction)
Komoto Faction
-- 34

On July 22, Nakasone formed his Third Cabinet. Eight posts went to the Tanaka Faction. Shin Kanemaru was given the post of Deputy Prime Minister and Takeshita was finally appointed to Secretary General of the LDP. Perhaps as a barometer of the degree to which Tanaka's political power had evaporated, his proxy, Susumu Nikaido, was not given a Cabinet or party post. Clearly, Nakasone was not feeling any sense of political ongaeshi toward the man who had made him Prime Minister.

The Death Of Kenji Osano

Only three and a half months after the election, Tanaka's life-long friend, Kenji Osano, died. He had undergone surgery at Tokyo's Toranomon Hospital on October 8, to remove cancer of the pancreas. Nineteen days later, on Monday, October 27, at 4:48 a.m., he was pronounced dead from internal bleeding of what was described as a stress-related ulcer. How Tanaka took the death is unknown, but his still-loyal lieutenant, Masaharu Gotoda, said that Tanaka was deeply saddened by the death of an old friend. Tanaka defector Shin Kanemaru joined Gotoda at a press conference to offer his condolences. Gotoda was asked what impact the death of Osano would have on Tanaka's Lockheed appeal, but Gotoda refused to answer. The impact would be severe because Gotoda had just lost an important Defense collaborator. Tanaka needed at least one person to support his defense. The Lockheed Prosecutors also lost an important witness. With both Kodama and Osano gone, they had no chance to ever fully uncover the truth of the Lockheed Scandal. Osano had lost his first appeal in 1984, though his sentence was reduced to just ten months. He immediately appealed, at that time claiming, despite his 17 million shares in ANA (All Nippon Airways), that he had done nothing to introduce Lockheed TriStars to them, nor had he been involved in any P3C Antisubmarine plane deal and he certainly had not received $200,000 at the Los Angeles Airport. The denials no longer mattered in that with his death the case against him was dropped.

Osano's corporate empire was valued at 2 or 3 trillion yen ($18 to $27 billion dollars). He left behind the Kokusai Kogyo group which comprised seventy firms and employed 20,000 people. The Tokyo Tamagawa Tax Office declared Osano's personal estate the fourth largest ever filed by a Japanese, even though they only found 16 billion yen ($142 million). Five billion of that had been given to his family three years before his death. Ninety percent of what was declared to the tax officials was in personal stocks with the remainder in bank and postal savings accounts. Osano bequeathed 8.67 billion yen ($77 million) to his wife Eiko and 557 million yen ($4.95 million) to each of his three surviving sisters. His youngest brother, Masakuni Osano, was already the acting president of Kokusai Kogyo and he inherited 3.14 billion yen ($27.9 million). His nephew and Kokusai board member, Takamasa Osano, received 2.84 billion yen ($25.2 million). The tax office did better than everyone but Eiko they got 6 billion yen ($53.3 million).[37]

The End of San-Kaku-Dai-Fuku-Chu

It was not until January 1, 1987 that Tanaka first met the press. A small group of reporters was allowed into Mejiro to witness Tanaka make his first public appearance in twenty-two months. They found Tanaka seated in a rattan chair on the veranda, dressed neatly in a dark blue suit. In a somewhat scripted photo opportunity, the press was allowed to witness him raise his left hand and beckon four of his top factional aides to his side. He then, with his left hand, not his normal right hand, emotionally shook the hands of Susumu Nikaido, Ganri Yamashita, Masumi Esaki and Tatsuo Ozawa. If this public appearance was designed to bolster rumors that Tanaka was going to make a comeback, it failed badly. The press reported that while his complexion was good, he was over-weight and was unable to speak properly. It was obvious to the entire nation that the damage to his right side was severe and that Tanaka was a long way from recovery.
At noon, Noboru Takeshita drove up to Mejiro to deliver his New Year's greetings. Apparently, Takeshita and his staff thought it would be safe to make an appearance that year. After all, Takeshita had disbanded Sosekai. They were wrong. The Tanaka family rudely turned him away. Given the fact that Takeshita was LDP Secretary General, even the press felt that the family had gone too far with this latest rebuff. Takeshita won some sympathy points and his break with Tanaka was now final and clean. Five months later, on May 14, in a surprise move, Susumu Nikaido suddenly announced his intention to run for party president and Prime Minister after Nakasone stepped down. One week later, on the May 21, Takeshita held a hugely successful fund-raising party for 13,000 of the the nation's top corporate and political leaders.
In one last attempt to influence his faction, Tanaka, after a meeting with Koichi Honma at Mejiro, had an eight-member group of Niigata Assemblymen, all belonging to Etsuzankai, endorse Nikaido as the new head of the Mokuyo Club. Tanaka had spoken. Nikaido was to be his official heir. On July 4, with Shin Kanemaru by his side, Takeshita formed his own faction. He called it Keiseikai, a derivative of the Chinese "Keiseisaimin," meaning, "a well-advised government and relief for the country." Even though Takeshita failed to be the authentic successor to Tanaka, he was the successor. Of the 141 people who were members of the Tanaka Faction on July 3, 113 joined Takeshita's Keiseikai. Only fifteen loyal members of the Mokuyo Club remained.
On August 21, Nikaido held one last desperate rally in Niigata. Four thousand people showed. That number included twenty-five prefectural assembly members and fifty-three municipal chiefs. Nikaido told those assembled that "Tanaka gave his whole mind to Niigata as a model district for his plan to rebuild the Japanese Archipelago. The Shinkansen and the superhighways are accelerating both tourism and support enterprises. I will succeed to the heart of Tanaka's passion for politics."[38] Locally it played well, but on a national level Tanaka's influence was over. Nikaido, like Takamori Saigo of the early Meiji Era (mentioned in Rikyo, Chapter One), failed to realize that time had passed him by. The era of the big five, known as San-Kaku-Dai-Fuku-Chu was nearing its end. (San was the alternative sound for the ideogram for "mi" of Miki, Kaku was Kakuei, Dai was the alternative for Ohira, Fuku was Fukuda and Chu was the alternative for Nakasone). The LDP now consisted of the following:

Takeshita Faction -- 113
Miyazawa Faction -- 89
Nakasone Faction -- 87
Abe Faction -- 85
Komoto Faction -- 32
Nikaido Faction -- 15

Tanaka Faction Non-Affiliates -- 13
LDP Non-Factional
-- 11 [39]

Tanaka's problems went beyond the collapse of his national power base, regardless of the turnout for Nikaido he also faced entropy in the Niigata prefectural assembly. There were thirty-five districts for the prefectural assembly which constituted sixty-three total seats. In Tanaka's Third District there were twenty seats, thirteen of which were in the perennial control of Etsuzankai. Tanaka personally met with all thirteen prior to his sixty-ninth birthday on May 4. Despite this and endorsements by Nikaido and Naoki Tanaka, five of the candidates fielded in the April 12 election lost their seats. Four of the candidates were incumbents. Such a thing would have been inconceivable prior to Tanaka's stroke. One of the Etsuzankai candidates even lost to a protegé of Shin Sakurai in the South Uonuma District; the other four lost to Socialist Party members.


[ Chapter 5: KITEN is continued. The next section is 'The Lockheed Appeal'. ]

 

© Steven Hunziker.