Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Former Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro: Passing of a self-made Man
FUJISAKI Ichiro / President, Nakasone Peace Institute

April 22, 2020
There is the word “self-made man” in English, meaning a man who has climbed his way up. This word is popular among Americans. In elections for political offices, many candidates emphasize their humble upbringings and talk about their mothers who were part-time workers or their being the only college graduates in the family. Even President Donald Trump, son of a millionaire, seeks to project his image as a self-made man.

Former Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro was a self-made man in a somewhat difference sense. Although he started on the path of a top elite—from Tokyo Imperial University to the Ministry of the Interior—, he jumped out of it when he was still young and became a member of parliament. He mapped out his own career and raced through politics in Japan and in the world. When he was still a novice politician, Nakasone sent a letter to Supreme Commander MacArthur, urging him to end the occupation of Japan. This was an early indication of his resolve. Unlike Prime Minister Ikeda Hayato and Prime Minister Sato Eisaku, Nakasone did not enter the group known as the “Yoshida School”, comprising the disciples of Yoshida Shigeru. Likewise, he placed distance between himself and bureaucrats-turned-politicians such as the prime ministers Kishi Nobusuke, Fukuda Takeo, Miyazawa Kiichi, and Ohira Masayoshi. He instead formed connections among more grassroots politicians such as Kono Ichiro, swam his way through the rough seas of politics, collaborated with Tanaka Kakuei and finally won the prime ministership.

The prime ministers in postwar years surmounted fierce domestic oppositions and laid their life on the line to rebuild postwar Japan. Yoshida Shigeru’s San Francisco Peace Treaty, Hatoyama Ichiro’s restoration of Japan-Soviet diplomatic ties, Kishi Nobusuke’s Japan-US security treaty revision, Ikeda Hayato’s income increase, Sato Eisaku’s Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea and the return of Okinawa, Tanaka Kakuei’s restoration of diplomatic relations with China, and Fukuda Takeo’s Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty. I often think that these achievements would not have been realized had it not been for these prime ministers.

Nakasone was one of the last prime ministers of that caliber. From 1982 to 1987—the pinnacle of the postwar years—it was almost providential that Japan had Mr. Nakasone as the Prime Minister. Nakasone is known as someone who prepared extensively before becoming prime minister. But that was not all. After becoming prime minister, he constantly thoroughly considered strategy and tactics himself. Doing things “by chance” or “leaving things to the bureaucracy” were unknown to him. He thought through everything with deliberate and thorough care. In that sense, too, he was a “self-made man”.

It is of course logical to think that better relations with South Korea and China would be a good thing and that it would be advantageous to form a personal relationship of trust with the US President. However, Nakasone was the first Japanese prime minister who actually went ahead and did it. He constructed close friendly relations with Chun Doo-hwan, Hu Yao-bang, and Ronald Reagan. He always worked hard with meticulous care to achieve the best performance at each meeting. It is well known that, at the Williamsburg Summit, Nakasone was in the center of the group in the official memorial photograph. He was the first Japanese prime minister to stand right next to the leader of the host country. This was because he acted out his carefully thought-out plan to walk in deep conversation with President Reagan to the site of the photo opportunity.

What was really important during this summit was that Nakasone was instrumental in inducing European leaders to accept deployment in Western Europe of middle range nuclear ballistic missiles Pershing II by the United States in order to counter Soviet deployment of SS20 in Warsaw Pact countries. This was made possible thanks to the Ron-Yasu relationship.

Prime Minister Nakasone endeavored to respond to the expectations of the United States by waving the flag for increasing imports in order to ease trade frictions and, with respect to security, increasing the defense spending and making exceptions to the restrictions on arms export. Admittedly, there was an element of “personal chemistry” underpinning the Ron-Yasu relationship. However, the basic fact was that, despite criticisms at home, Prime Minister Nakasone was determined to pursue his diplomacy with the United States fully recognizing the costs that an alliance would incur. Particularly notable was the fact that the combined efforts of Reagan, Nakasone and Thatcher to build a network of missile defenses proved too much for the Soviet Union, exhausted by the Afghan war, to cope with, and thus led to the end of the Cold War. Nakasone was the first leader who achieved a position for Japan as a respected leader in the industrialized democracies.

Mikuriya Takashi, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo, called Nakasone “a man without pretense.” I agree with this assessment. He was also never bashful. He provided the TV cameras with a wealth of opportunities to film him: doing weekly zen meditation, swimming, or blowing a conch shell at Hinode Sanso mountain villa with the Reagans. He read Kant, sang French chansons, knew the Chinese classics, composed haiku, was good at calligraphy, and could paint. He did not hide these various talents and instead used them to express himself to others. Although he received cynical comments from time to time, he did not care. These efforts paid off as he was welcomed as a cultivated individual by foreign leaders who had the image that Japanese politicians were always talking only about their work.

There were four wise men in Asia whom the scholars and politicians of Europe and the US wanted to meet even after retiring: Deng Xiaoping of China, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Mahathir bin Mohamad of Malaysia, and Nakasone Yasuhiro. They were wise men who satisfied three conditions: Each left a legacy of long-term stability in his country, each had a philosophy that was communicated to younger generations, and each of them lived long lives.

Let me offer my sincere prayer that the self-made man who thought through everything with deliberate and thorough care may rest in peace.

Fujisaki Ichiro is former Ambassador to the United States.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

中曽根康弘元総理 -セルフメイドマンの逝去
藤崎 一郎 / 中曽根平和研究所理事長

2020年 4月 22日





同サミットで本当に大事だったのは、ワルシャワ条約諸国へのソ連のSS20ミサイル配備に対抗するために米国の西ヨーロッパへの中距離ミサイルPershing II配備を欧州の首脳に受け入れさせるべく中曽根総理が重要な役割を果たしたことである。これはロンヤスの関係があったからこそ出来た。





一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Former Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro: Passing of a self-made Man