Yasuhiro Nakasone

In this Japanese name, the family name is Nakasone.
Yasuhiro Nakasone
中曾根 康弘

Nakasone at Andrews Air Force Base in 1983
Prime Minister of Japan
In office
November 27, 1982  November 6, 1987
Monarch Shōwa
Preceded by Zenkō Suzuki
Succeeded by Noboru Takeshita
Personal details
Born (1918-05-27) May 27, 1918
Takasaki, Japan
Political party Liberal Democratic Party
Children Hirofumi Nakasone
Alma mater

Tokyo Imperial University

″Military service″
Religion Shūyōdan Hōseikai[1]
Military service
Allegiance  Empire of Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Navy
Years of service 1941–1945
Rank Lieutenant-Commander
Battles/wars World War II

Yasuhiro Nakasone (中曽根 康弘 Nakasone Yasuhiro, born May 27, 1918) is a Japanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan from November 27, 1982, to November 6, 1987. A contemporary of Brian Mulroney, Ronald Reagan, Helmut Kohl, François Mitterrand, Margaret Thatcher, Bettino Craxi and Mikhail Gorbachev, he is best known for pushing through the privatization of state-owned companies, and for helping to revitalize Japanese nationalism during and after his term as prime minister. At age 98, Nakasone is currently the oldest living former Japanese prime minister.

Early life

Nakasone was born in Takasaki in Gunma, a poor mountainous prefecture in central Japan.[2] He is the second son of Nakasone Matsugoro II, a lumber dealer, and Nakamura Yuku. He had five other siblings: an elder brother (Kichitaro), an elder sister (Shoko), a younger brother (Ryosuke) and another younger brother and younger sister who both died in childhood.[3] The Nakasone family had been of the samurai class during the Edo era, and claimed direct descent from the Minamoto clan through the famous Minamoto no Yoshimitsu and through his son Minamoto no Yoshikiyo (d. 1149). According to family records, Tsunayoshi (k. 1417), a vassal of the Takeda clan and a tenth-generation descendant of Yoshikiyo, took the name of Nakasone Juro and was killed at the Battle of Sagamigawa.[4] In about 1590, the samurai Nakasone Sōemon Mitsunaga settled in the town of Satomimura in Kōzuke Province. His descendants became silk merchants and pawnbrokers. Nakasone's father, originally born Nakasone Kanichi, settled in Takasaki in 1912 and established a timber business and lumberyard which had success as a result of the post-First World War building boom.[4]

Nakasone describes his early childhood and youth as a happy one, and himself as a "quiet, easy-going child" nicknamed "Yat-chan". He attended a local primary school in Takasaki and was a poor student until the fourth grade, after which he excelled and was at the top of his class.[5] He entered Shizuoka High School in 1935, where he excelled in history and literature and learned to speak fluent French.[6] In the autumn of 1938, Nakasone entered Tokyo Imperial University. During World War II, he was a commissioned officer and paymaster in the Imperial Japanese Navy.[2] He later wrote of his return to Tokyo in August 1945 after Japan's surrender: "I stood vacantly amid the ruins of Tokyo, after discarding my officer's short sword and removing the epaulettes of my uniform. As I looked around me I swore to resurrect my homeland from the ashes of defeat".[7] Nakasone is the only postwar Prime Minister to have seen active service.[8]

In 1947, he gave up a promising career in an elite government ministry to run for Parliament with the belief that in its postwar remorse, Japan was in danger of discarding its traditional values.[2] He campaigned on a nationalist platform, arguing for an enlarged Self-Defence Force, to amend Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (which outlawed war as a means to settling international disputes), and to revive Japanese patriotism, especially in reverence for the Emperor.[8] He entered the Diet of Japan as a member of the House of Representatives for the Democratic Party.[9] "As a freshman lawmaker in 1951, he delivered a 28-page letter to General MacArthur criticizing the occupation, a brazen move. The general angrily threw the letter in the wastebasket, Mr. Nakasone was later told. This stand established [Nakasone's] credentials as a right-wing politician."[2] He gained brief notoriety in 1952 for blaming Emperor Hirohito for Japan's defeat in the war.[10] In 1955, at Nakasone's urging, the government granted the equivalent of $14 million to the Agency for Industrial Science and Technology to begin nuclear power research.[11] Nakasone rose through the LDP's ranks, becoming Minister of Science in 1959 under the government of Nobusuke Kishi, then Minister of Transport in 1967, head of the Agency of Defense in 1970, Minister of International Trade and Industry in 1972 and Minister of Administration in 1981.

As head of the Self-Defence Force, Nakasone argued for an increase in defence spending from the less than 1% GDP to 3% of GDP. He was also in favour of Japan having tactical nuclear weapons.[12] He was labelled "the weathervane" in 1972 because he switched his support from Takeo Fukuda to Kakuei Tanaka in the leadership election, ensuring Tanaka's victory. In turn, Tanaka would give his powerful support to Nakasone against Fukuda a decade later in the fight for the premiership.[12]


American President Ronald Reagan and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone having lunch at Nakasone's country residence in Hinode, Tokyo, Japan in 1983.

In 1982, Nakasone became Prime Minister. Along with Minister of Foreign Affairs Shintaro Abe, Nakasone improved Japan's relations with the USSR and the People's Republic of China. Nakasone was best known for his close relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, popularly called the "Ron-Yasu" friendship. Nakasone sought a more equal relationship with America, and said: "President Reagan is the pitcher and I'm the catcher. When the pitcher gives the signs, I'll co-operate unsparingly, but if he doesn't sometimes follow the catcher's signs, the game can't be won".[13] Nakasone said Japan would be "America's unsinkable aircraft carrier" in the Pacific and that Japan would "keep complete control of the four straits that go through to Japanese islands, to prevent the passage of Soviet submarines".[13] He was attacked by political opponents as a reactionary and a "dangerous militarist". Nakasone responded by saying "A nation must shed any sense of ignominy and move forward seeking glory". However his attempt to amend Article 9 failed.[13]

In 1984, Nakasone visited China on the twelfth anniversary of Japan's diplomatic recognition of the People's Republic, for which the Chinese government arranged tours of China for 3,000 Japanese youth. On the trip, Nakasone's son was privately accompanied by the daughter of Hu Yaobang, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. After the event, Hu was criticized by other members of the Chinese Communist Party for the extravagance and warmth of the event.[14] He also visited President Corazon Aquino in a series of talks between the Philippines and Japan during a special state visit from 1986 to 1987, to provide good economic and trade relations, massive investor and tourist arrivals, and construction and rehabilitation programs.

In economic affairs, Nakasone's most notable policy was his privatization initiative, which led to the breakup of Japan National Railways into the modern Japan Railways Group. This led to 80,000 redundancies, unheard of in Japan up until then.[15] Nakasone wrote of his economic reforms:

I was carrying out a kind of "improvement" of Japan's structure. For 110 years, ever since the Meiji restoration, Japan had been striving to catch up with America and Britain. In the 1970s we did catch up. Beyond that point the [state's] regulations only stand in the way of the growth of the economy. If government officials have too much power, the private sector of the economy will not grow. We had to change the system.[16]

For the first time in Japan's postwar history, bureaucrats lost their leading role.[16] In 1985 Nakasone appointed the former governor of the Bank of Japan, Haruo Maekawa, to head a commission on Japan's economic future. In 1986 the Commission recommended that Japan should grow not through exports (which were angering Japan's trading partners) but from within. Nakasone advised the Japanese public to purchase foreign imports; in a well publicised shopping trip, he bought an American tennis racket, an Italian tie and a French shirt. He said "Japan is like a mah-jong player who always wins. Sooner or later the other players will decide that they do not want to play with him".[15] The Japanese public were sceptical but the Commission created a good impression abroad, especially in America, where the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs W. Allen Wallis called it a watershed in Japan's postwar economic policy.[17]

Nakasone also became known for having a nationalist attitude and for wanting to stimulate ethnic pride amongst the Japanese.[18] He was an adherent to the nihonjinron theory that claims Japan is incomparably different from the rest of the world.[19] Influenced by Japanese philosopher Tetsuro Watsuji, Nakasone believed that Japan's "monsoon culture" inspired a special Japanese compassion, unlike the desert culture of the Middle East that produced the Judeo-Christian "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". In a 1986 speech he said it was Japan's international mission to spread the monsoon culture abroad.[19]

On the fortieth anniversary of Japan's surrender, 15 August 1985, Nakasone and his Cabinet visited the Yasukuni Shrine in full morning dress. This had great symbolic significance as he visited the shrine in his official capacity and demonstrated that the Japanese government was reasserting its respect for the spirits of the ancestors killed in battle, including those who died in World War II.[20] This was a controversial move and was criticised by the Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily. It was also attacked by opponents at home for violating the Constitution's separation of religion and state. Nakasone defended his actions by saying, "The true defence of Japan ... becomes possible only through the combination of liberty-loving peoples who are equal to each other ... The manner is desired to be based on self-determination of the race". He also said, "It is considered progressive to criticise pre-war Japan for its faults and defects, but I firmly oppose such a notion. A nation is still a nation whether it wins or loses a war".[21]

Nakasone also sought educational reform, setting up a commission. Its report recommended that "a spirit of patriotism" should be inculcated in children, along with respect for elders and authority. This was not fully implemented and came under attack from the teachers' trade union. The commission also recommended that the national anthem should be taught and that the Rising Sun Flag should also be raised during entrance and graduation ceremonies. History textbooks were also reformed. Nakasone's education minister, Masayuki Fujio, was dismissed by Nakasone in 1986 after he justified Japan's annexation of Korea in 1910.[21]

Nakasone aroused controversy in September 1986 when he claimed that America was less intelligent than Japan because "the US has many immigrants, Puerto Ricans and blacks, who bring the average level down".[21] He then clarified his comments, stating that he meant to congratulate the US on its economic success despite the presence of "problematic" minorities.[22]

In 1987 he was forced to resign after he attempted to introduce a value added tax to reduce the burden of direct taxes in a policy designed to cut the budget deficit.[15]

Later political life

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone (left) at the funeral of Ronald Reagan with former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Nakasone was replaced by Noboru Takeshita in 1987, and was implicated, along with other LDP lawmakers, in the Recruit scandal that broke the following year.

Although he remained in the Diet for another decade and a half, his influence gradually waned. In 2003, despite a fight,[23] Nakasone was not given a place on the LDP's electoral list as the party introduced an age limit of 73 years for candidates in the proportional representation blocks. This ended his career as a member of the Diet. The move was widely seen as a blunt and effective attack by Jun'ichirō Koizumi on the old guard LDP leadership.

Nakasone's son, Hirofumi Nakasone, is also a member of the Diet; he served in the cabinet of Keizō Obuchi as Minister of Education and was Minister of Foreign Affairs in the cabinet of Tarō Asō.

In 2010, "aware of his status as one of the few leaders revered across Japan’s suddenly fractured political landscape" and the country's "most revered elder statesman", Nakasone launched a series of interviews to address the direction of prime minister Yukio Hatoyama's government. In a profile at that time, Hatoyama's "inexperienced left-leaning" government was seen as "challenging Japan’s postwar political order and its close relationship with the United States". As well, the LDP was "crumbling into disarray" in the wake of Hatoyama's victory. In the profile, Nakasone described the moment "as a national opening on par with the wrenching social and political changes that followed defeat in the [world] war [and] praised the appearance of a strong second political party as a step toward true democracy. "Being knocked out of power is a good chance to study in the cram school of public opinion", he was quoted as saying of the LDP. He "faulted Mr. Hatoyama for giving Washington the impression that [Hatoyama] valued ties with China more than he did those with the United States. 'Because of the prime minister’s imprudent remarks, the current situation calls for Japan to make efforts to improve things,' he said. The [Japanese] relationship with the United States is different from that with China, he said, because 'it is built on a security alliance, and not just on the alliance, but on the shared values of liberal democracy, and on its shared ideals.'" And relative to another high-profile current source of friction between Japan and the United States, Nakasone said "Problems like Okinawa [and the American military base there] can be solved by talking together."[2]

Nakasone is a Senior Advisor to the Japan Karate Association as cited on their website.




  1. 上之郷, 利昭 (1994). 教祖誕生. 講談社文庫.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Japan’s Elder Statesman Is Silent No Longer" by Martin Fackler, The New York Times, January 29, 2010 (January 30, 2010, p. A11).
  3. The Making of the New Japan. Curzon Press. 6 March 2015. p. 14. ISBN 0-7007-1246-1.
  4. 1 2 The Making of the New Japan. Curzon Press. 6 March 2015. pp. 1–2. ISBN 0-7007-1246-1.
  5. The Making of the New Japan. Curzon Press. 6 March 2015. pp. 6–7. ISBN 0-7007-1246-1.
  6. The Making of the New Japan. Curzon Press. 6 March 2015. pp. 10–13. ISBN 0-7007-1246-1.
  7. Robert Harvey, The Undefeated: The Rise, Fall and Rise of Greater Japan (London: Macmillan, 1994), p. 362.
  8. 1 2 Harvey, p. 362.
  9. The Senkyo, 23rd election of the House of Representatives, Gunma's 3rd district
  10. Bix, H.P. Hirohito, 2000. page 649.
  11. Daniel P. Aldrich, With a Mighty Hand, New Republic
  12. 1 2 Harvey, p. 363.
  13. 1 2 3 Harvey, p. 365.
  14. Lee, Khoon Choy. Pioneers of Modern China: Understanding the Inscrutable Chinese. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing. 2005. p. 311. ISBN 981-256-464-0.
  15. 1 2 3 Harvey, p. 369.
  16. 1 2 Harvey, p. 364.
  17. Karel van Wolferen, The Enigma of Japanese Power: People and Politics in a Stateless Nation (New York: Vintage, 1990), p. 413.
  18. Wolferen, p. 267.
  19. 1 2 Wolferen, p. 264.
  20. Harvey, p. 367.
  21. 1 2 3 Harvey, p. 368.
  22. Nakasone's World-Class Blunder by Ezra Bowen, Time magazine, June 24, 2001.
  23. The Japan Times, 24 October 2003: "Single-seat constituencies offer refuge for LDP elders who refuse to retire"
  24. From the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia
  25. From the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia
  26. From the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia
  27. reinanzaka-sc.o.oo7.jp/kiroku/documents/20140523-3-kiji-list.pdf


Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Zenkō Suzuki
Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by
Noboru Takeshita
Preceded by
Sōsuke Uno
Minister of State, Head of the Administrative Management Agency
Succeeded by
Kunikichi Saitō
Preceded by
Kakuei Tanaka
Minister of International Trade and Industry
Succeeded by
Toshio Kōmoto
Preceded by
Tatsunosuke Takasaki
Shirō Kiuchi
Minister of State, Head of the Science and Technology Agency
Succeeded by
Masuo Araki
Kazuo Maeda
Preceded by
Kiichi Arita
Minister of State, Head of the Japan Defense Agency
Succeeded by
Keiichi Masuhara
Preceded by
Takeo Ōhashi
Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
Ken Harada
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Helmut Kohl
Chairperson of the G7
Succeeded by
Amintore Fanfani
Party political offices
Preceded by
Zenkō Suzuki
President of the Liberal Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Noboru Takeshita
Preceded by
Susumu Nikaidō
Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Tsuneo Uchida
Preceded by
Zenkō Suzuki
Masumi Esaki
General Council Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Zenkō Suzuki
Kuraishi Tadao
Preceded by
Himself (Co-chairman)
Umekichi Nakamura (Co-chairman)
Yoshio Sakurauchi (Co-chairman)
Chairman of Shinsei Dōshikai (Nakasone faction)
Change of official faction name
New title
Change of official faction name
Chairman of Seisaku Kagaku Kenkyūjo (Nakasone faction)
Succeeded by
Michio Watanabe
House of Representatives of Japan
New title
New district
Representative for Gunma's 3rd district (multi-member)
Served alongside: Mitsuhei Obuchi, Takeo Fukuda, Tsuruo Yamaguchi, Keizō Obuchi, Yasuo Fukuda, numerous others
District eliminated
New title
Introduction of proportional voting
Representative for the Kita-Kantō PR block
Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by
Yoshiro Ando
Principal of Takushoku University
Succeeded by
Teisuke Toyoda
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