Junichiro Koizumi

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Junichiro Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi

Junichiro Koizumi (Japanese: 小泉純一郎, Koizumi Jun'ichirō, born January 8, 1942) is the current Prime Minister of Japan. Since winning leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in 2001, he has become known as an advocate of reform, focusing on Japan's government debt and the privatization of its postal service. In 2005, he led the LDP to win one of the largest parliamentary majorities in modern Japanese history.


Personal life and education

He was born in Kanagawa Prefecture on 8 January 1942, to Junya Koizumi, a director general of the Defense Agency and a second-generation Diet member, and was educated at Yokosuka High School and Keio University, where he studied economics. He attended University College London before returning to Japan in December 1969 on the death of his father.

He married Kayoko Miyamoto in 1978. The marriage ended in divorce in 1982 and he vowed never to marry again. He has three sons, two of whom live with him (Kotaro Koizumi and Shinjiro Koizumi) and have not met their mother since the divorce. The youngest, Yoshinaga Miyamoto, a student at Keio University, has never met his father and was turned away when he tried to meet Junichiro Koizumi by attending his grandmother's funeral. Koizumi's grandfather was Matajiro Koizumi. See: Koizumi family.

He is a fan of Elvis Presley and the Japanese rock band X Japan.

Political life

Koizumi and American President George W. Bush meet at the White House on September 25, 2001
Koizumi and American President George W. Bush meet at the White House on September 25, 2001

After an initial, failed attempt to get elected, Koizumi became a secretary to former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda and a member of the Lower House for the 11th Kanagawa Prefecture in December 1972. He was a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, and joined the Fukuda faction. He has since been re-elected ten times. In 1992 he became Minister of Posts and Telecommunications under the government of Kiichi Miyazawa. He was three times Minister of Health and welfare under the government of Noboru Takeshita, Sosuke Uno and Ryutaro Hashimoto.

He gained his first senior post in 1979 as Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Finance and his first ministerial post in 1988 as Minister of Health and Welfare under Noboru Takeshita. He had cabinet posts again in 1992 and 19961998. In 1994, with the LDP in opposition, he became part of a new LDP faction, Shinseiki, made up of younger and more motivated parliamentarians.

He competed for the presidency of the LDP in September 1995 and July 1999, but he gained little support losing decisively to Ryutaro Hashimoto and then Keizo Obuchi. In April 2000 Obuchi was replaced by Yoshiro Mori after falling seriously ill. Koizumi became leader of his party on his third attempt on April 24, 2001. He had 298 votes, while his closest rival, Ryutaro Hashimoto gained 155 votes. Koizumi won because local chapters were allowed to vote in addition to Diet members. He was made Prime Minister on April 26, 2001. His coalition secured 78 of 121 seats in the Upper House elections in July.

Koizumi as Prime Minister

Domestic policy

LDP manifesto from the 2005 election, showcasing Koizumi's contention that "the privatization of Japan Post is the core of our reforms."
LDP manifesto from the 2005 election, showcasing Koizumi's contention that "the privatization of Japan Post is the core of our reforms."

Within Japan, Koizumi has pushed for new ways to revitalise the moribund economy, aiming to act against bad debts with commercial banks, privatise the postal savings system, and reorganise the factional structure of the LDP. He spoke of the need for a period of painful restructuring in order to improve the future.

To these aims, he first appointed an economist and a commentator, Heizo Takenaka, to the job of reforming the banking sector. Under their reign, the bad debts of banks have been cut dramatically with the NPL ratio of major banks approaching half the level of 2001. The Japanese economy has been through a slow but steady recovery, and the stock market has dramatically rebounded. The GDP growth for 2004 is expected to be one of the highest among G7 nations according to the IMF and OECD. Takenaka was appointed as a Postal Reform Minister in 2004 and the privatization of Japan Post, operator of the country's Postal Savings system, is reaching a critical moment.

Koizumi has also moved the LDP away from its traditional rural agrarian base toward a more urban, neoliberal core, as Japan's population grows in major cities and declines in less populated areas. In addition to the privatization of Japan Post (which many rural residents fear will reduce their access to basic services such as banking), Koizumi has also slowed down the LDP's heavy subsidies for infrastructure and industrial development in rural areas. These tensions have made Koizumi a controversial but popular figure within his own party and among the Japanese electorate.

Foreign policy

Koizumi and American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld meet in Tokyo in 2004
Koizumi and American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld meet in Tokyo in 2004

Koizumi's most noted foreign policy achievement among Japanese commentators is his close relationship with the United States and cooperation in the U.S.-led mission in Iraq. Koizumi approved the expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and in October 2001 they were given greater scope to operate outside of the country. Some of these troops were dispatched to Iraq to fulfill non-combat roles.

Among other Asian commentators, Koizumi is most noted for his visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, starting on August 13, 2001. He has visited the shrine four times, most recently on October 16, 2005. Because the shrine also honours Japanese war criminals, these visits have drawn strong condemnation and protests from Japan's neighbors, mainly the People's Republic of China, North and South Korea, and the Philippines, who still hold bitter memories of Japanese colonization. Koizumi's father built an airfield in Kagoshima, which was used for kamikaze missions during 1944–5, and a cousin died on such a mission, which partly explains his keenness to visit the Yasukuni shrine. On August 15, 2005, the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II, Koizumi publicly stated that Japan was deeply saddened for the suffering it caused during World War II,an earlier apology made by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama. The ceremony was met with scattered protests.


Koizumi meets children in Sea Island, Georgia, shortly before the 2004 G8 summit
Koizumi meets children in Sea Island, Georgia, shortly before the 2004 G8 summit

Initially Koizumi was an extremely popular leader, with his outspoken nature and colourful past. His nicknames included "Lionheart" and "maverick". All this has taken place despite the strong opposition to his reform plans among the "old guards" within LDP and the bureaucracy. He sacked his popular but volatile Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka in January 2002, replacing her with Yoriko Kawaguchi. He was reelected in 2003 and his popularity surged as the economy recovered. A recent proposal to cut pensions benefits for the fiscal reform, however, turned out to be wildly unpopular, just like similar changes in other economies of the world, and restricted his administration's approval rating in the upper house election in 2004 to being only marginally better than the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

In 2005, Koizumi decided to dissolve the Lower House and call a general election since the House of Councilors rejected the contentious postal privatization bills. This threat was made after the bills to privatize Japan Post cleared the Lower House in June only by a margin of five votes. Fifty-one LDP members either voted against the bills or abstained. In the 480-seat Lower House, the LDP, with 250 seats, and New Komeito, with 34, hold a comfortable majority. The bills were rejected by the Upper House, with 108 approving and 125 against, with 22 LDP members dissenting.

The secretary general of New Komeito (a junior coalition partner with Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party) said on 27 July 2005 that his party would entertain forming a coalition government with the Democratic Party of Japan if, in a snap election, the DPJ took a majority in the House of Representatives. [1]

The Lower House was dissolved on August 8, 2005 at 7:04 pm (JST) at a special plenary session under article 7 of the Constitution of Japan by imperial edict. Snap elections took place on September 11, 2005 and were a major victory for Koizumi. Koizumi's popularity rose almost twenty points after he dissolved the Diet, with opinion polls placing the government's approval ratings between 51 and 59 percent. (For details, see: Japan general election, 2005.)

Koizumi cabinets

Koizumi named his fifth Cabinet on October 31, 2005.

Cabinets of Junichiro Koizumi
First Cabinet
(April 2001)
Second Cabinet
(Sept. 2002)
Third Cabinet
(Sept. 2003)
Fourth Cabinet
(Sept. 2004)
Fifth Cabinet
(Oct. 2005)
Secretary Yasuo Fukuda Yasuo Fukuda Yasuo Fukuda (4) Hiroyuki Hosoda Shinzo Abe
Internal Affairs Toranosuke Katayama Toranosuke Katayama Taro Aso Taro Aso Heizo Takenaka (3)
Justice Mayumi Moriyama Mayumi Moriyama Daizo Nozawa Chieko Nohno Seiken Sugiura
Foreign Affairs Makiko Tanaka (1) Yoriko Kawaguchi Yoriko Kawaguchi Nobutaka Machimura Taro Aso
Finance Masajuro Shiokawa Masajuro Shiokawa Sadakazu Tanigaki Sadakazu Tanigaki Sadakazu Tanigaki
Education Atsuko Toyama Atsuko Toyama Takeo Kawamura Nariaki Nakayama Kenji Kosaka
Health Chikara Sakaguchi Chikara Sakaguchi Chikara Sakaguchi Hidehisa Otsuji Jiro Kawasaki
Agriculture Tsutomu Takebe Tadamori Oshima (2) Yoshiyuki Kamei Yoshinobu Shimamura Shoichi Nakagawa
Economy Takeo Hiranuma Takeo Hiranuma Shoichi Nakagawa Shoichi Nakagawa Toshihiro Nikai
Land Chikage Ogi Chikage Ogi Nobuteru Ishihara Kazuo Kitagawa Kazuo Kitagawa
Environment Hiroshi Oki (1) Shunichi Suzuki Yuriko Koike Yuriko Koike Yuriko Koike
Public Safety Jin Murai Sadakazu Tanigaki Kiyoko Ono Yoshitaka Murata Tetsuo Kutsukake
Disaster Prevention Yoshitada Konoike Kiichi Inoue
Defense Gen Nakatani Shigeru Ishiba Shigeru Ishiba Yoshinori Ono Fukushiro Nukaga
Economic Policy Heizo Takenaka (3) Heizo Takenaka Heizo Takenaka Heizo Takenaka Kaoru Yosano
Financial Affairs Hakuo Yanagisawa Tatsuya Ito
Admin. and Reg. Reform Nobuteru Ishihara Nobuteru Ishihara Kazuyoshi Kaneko Seiichiro Murakami Koki Chuma
Technology Koji Omi Hiroyuki Hosoda Toshimitsu Motegi Yasufumi Tanahashi Iwao Matsuda
Youth and Gender Kuniko Inoguchi


  1. Makiko Tanaka was fired on January 29, 2002 and replaced by Yoriko Kawaguchi, who was then serving as environment minister. Koizumi appointed Hiroshi Oki to replace Kawaguchi.
  2. Oshima resigned on March 31, 2003 due to a farm-subsidy scandal. He was replaced by Kamei, who was kept in the next reshuffle.
  3. Takenaka has also held the portfolio of Minister of State for Postal Privatization since the first Koizumi cabinet. He is the only person to serve on Koizumi's cabinet through all five reshuffles.
  4. Fukuda resigned on May 7, 2004 and was replaced by Hosoda.

Further reading

  • Anderson, Gregory E., "Lionheart or Paper Tiger? A First-term Koizumi Retrospective," Asian Perspective 28:149–182 (March 2004).
  • Richard Lloyd Parry, "Enigma behind Koizumi's winning smile", Times supplement to the Daily Yomiuri, Sunday, September 18, 2005, p.15

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