Ryutaro Hashimoto


Ryutaro Hashimoto (橋本 龍太郎, Hashimoto Ryūtarō, 29 July 1937 – 1 July 2006) was a Japanese politician who served as the Prime Minister of Japan from 1996 to 1998. He was the leader of one of the largest factions within the ruling LDP through most of the 1990s and remained a powerful back-room player in Japanese politics until scandal forced him to resign his leadership position in 2004. Disgraced, he chose not to stand in the general election of 2005, and effectively retired from politics. He died on 1 July 2006 at a Tokyo hospital.

Ryūtarō Hashimoto
橋本 龍太郎
Ryutaro Hashimoto 19960111.jpg
Prime Minister of Japan
In office
11 January 1996 – 30 July 1998
DeputyWataru Kubo
Preceded byTomiichi Murayama
Succeeded byKeizō Obuchi
Deputy Prime Minister of Japan
In office
2 October 1995 – 11 January 1996
Prime MinisterTomiichi Murayama
Preceded byYōhei Kōno
Succeeded byWataru Kubo
Minister of Finance
In office
28 January 1998 – 30 January 1998
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byHiroshi Mitsuzuka
Succeeded byHikaru Matsunaga
In office
10 August 1989 – 14 October 1991
Prime MinisterToshiki Kaifu
Preceded byTatsuo Murayama
Succeeded byToshiki Kaifu
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry
In office
30 June 1994 – 11 January 1996
Prime MinisterTomiichi Murayama
Preceded byEijiro Hata
Succeeded byShunpei Tsukahara
Minister of Transport
In office
22 July 1986 – 6 November 1987
Prime MinisterYasuhiro Nakasone
Preceded byHiroshi Mitsuzuka
Succeeded byShintaro Ishihara
Minister of Health
In office
7 December 1978 – 9 November 1979
Prime MinisterMasayoshi Ōhira
Preceded byTatsuo Ozawa
Succeeded byKyoichi Noro
Member of the House of Representatives
for Okayama 4th District
Okayama 2nd District (1963-1996)
In office
21 November 1963 – 11 September 2005
Personal details
Born(1937-07-29)29 July 1937
Sōja, Okayama, Japan
Died1 July 2006(2006-07-01) (aged 68)
Tokyo, Japan
Political partyLiberal Democratic Party
ChildrenGaku Hashimoto
Alma materKeio University

Early political lifeEdit

with Tomiichi Murayama and the Ministers of Murayama Government (at the Prime Minister's Official Residence on 30 June 1994)

Hashimoto was born on 29 July 1937,[1] in Sōja in Okayama Prefecture. His father, Ryōgo Hashimoto, was a cabinet minister under Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. Following his father's lead, Ryutaro received his degree in political science from Keio University in 1960, and was elected to the House of Representatives of Japan in 1963.[2]

He moved through the ranks of the Liberal Democratic Party over the next twenty years, landing a spot as Minister of Health and Welfare under premier Masayoshi Ōhira in 1978, and in 1980 became the LDP's director of finance and public administration. He again became a cabinet minister in 1986 under Yasuhiro Nakasone, and in 1989 became secretary general of the LDP, the highest rank short of party president (if the LDP is in government, usually also the prime minister.)

Hashimoto became a key figure in the strong LDP faction founded by Kakuei Tanaka in the 1970s, which later fell into the hands of Noboru Takeshita, who then was tainted by the Recruit scandal of 1988. In 1991, the press had discovered that one of Hashimoto's secretaries had been involved in an illegal financial dealing. Hashimoto retired as Minister of Finance from the Second Kaifu Cabinet. Following the collapse of the bubble economy, the LDP momentarily lost power in 1993/94 during the Hosokawa and Hata anti-LDP coalition cabinets negotiated by LDP defector Ichirō Ozawa. Hashimoto was brought back to the cabinet when the LDP under Yōhei Kōno returned to power in 1994 by entering a ruling coalition with traditional archrival Japanese Socialist Party (JSP), giving the prime ministership to the junior partner, and the minor New Party Harbinger (NPH). Hashimoto became Minister of International Trade and Industry in the Murayama Cabinet of Tomiichi Murayama.[3] As the chief of MITI, Hashimoto made himself known at meetings of APEC and at summit conferences.

In September 1995, Yōhei Kōno did not stand for another term. Hashimoto won the election to LDP president against Jun'ichirō Koizumi 304 votes to 87,[4] and succeeded Kōno as leader of the party and as deputy prime minister in the Murayama cabinet.[5]

Prime ministerEdit

with Bill Clinton (at Akasaka Palace on 17 April 1996)

When Murayama stepped down in 1996, the 135th National Diet elected Hashimoto to become Japan's 82nd prime minister – he was elected against NFP leader Ichirō Ozawa with 288 votes to 167 in the lower house and 158 to 69 in the upper house –[6] and lead the continued LDP-JSP-NPH coalition government (First Hashimoto Cabinet).[7]

Hashimoto reached an agreement with the United States for the repatriation of MCAS Futenma, a controversial U.S. military base in an urban area of Okinawa, in April 1996. The deal was opposed by Japan's foreign ministry and defense agency but was backed by Hashimoto's American counterpart, President Bill Clinton. The repatriation of the base has yet to be completed as of 2015, as Okinawans have opposed efforts to relocate the base to a new site.[8] Hashimoto's domestic popularity increased during the Japanese-US trade dispute when he publicly confronted Mickey Kantor, US Trade Representative for the Clinton administration.[9][10]

Hashimoto's popularity was largely based on his attitude.[citation needed] When asked about why Japanese car dealerships did not sell American cars, he answered, "Why doesn't IBM sell Fujitsu computers?"[citation needed] When Japan's economy did not seem to be recovering from its 1991 collapse, Hashimoto ordered a commission of experts from the private sector to look into improving the Japanese market for foreign competition, and eventually opening it completely.

On 27 September 1996, the Hashimoto cabinet dissolved the lower house of the National Diet. In the ensuing general lower house election in October, the LDP made gains while its coalition partners SDP – the JSP had been renamed briefly after the formation of the Hashimoto cabinet – and NPH lost seats. Both parties ended the coalition with the LDP, but they remained Diet allies in a cooperation outside the cabinet (kakugai kyōryoku) until 1998.[9] Thus, the LDP and the Second Hashimoto Cabinet[11] safely controlled both houses of the Diet, although it was initially technically in the minority by a few seats in the lower house, and well short of a majority in the upper house. It was the first single-party LDP government since 1993. Having achieved this, Hashimoto was confirmed without challenger as party president in September 1997.[4]

Hashimoto's government raised the Japanese consumption tax in 1997. Although the government implemented a reduction in the personal income tax prior to raising the consumption tax, the hike still had a negative effect on consumer demand in Japan.[12]

During the Upper House regular election 1998, the LDP failed to restore its majority (lost in 1989 and not to be regained until 2016) and instead lost more seats. Hashimoto resigned to take responsibility for this failure, and was succeeded as LDP president and Prime Minister by Foreign Minister Keizō Obuchi.

Later political lifeEdit

with Paul Wolfowitz (at the Pentagon on 16 October 2002)

Hashimoto stayed in a LDP adviser party, and in the 2nd Mori Cabinet the Minister of Okinawa Development Agency and Minister in charge of administrative reform were appointed. He led the faction for several years. In 2001 he was one of the leading candidates to take office as prime minister but lost in the election of the more popular Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Hashimoto's faction began to collapse late in 2003 while debating over whether to re-elect Koizumi. In December 2004, Hashimoto stepped down as faction leader when he was found to have accepted a ¥100 million cheque from the Japan Dental Association, and announced that he would not run for re-election in his lower house district.

On World Water Day (22 March) in 2004, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan established a global advisory board on Water and Sanitation, and appointed Ryutaro Hashimoto as its chairman. Just prior to his death, Hashimoto submitted a letter addressed to "The People of the World" for publication in the book Water Voices from Around The World (October 2007), which is a book affiliated with the United Nations' decade of water (2005–15).[citation needed] In his letter, he addressed water-related disasters around the world, with an urgent appeal to the United Nations to halve the number of deaths caused by water disasters by 2015. Hashimoto closes this letter by writing: "An old proverb says 'Dripping water wears away the stone.' I humbly suggest, that through steadfast efforts, we can overcome any obstacle our civilization may encounter in the coming decade."[citation needed]


He was married to Kumiko Hashimoto (橋本 久美子 Hashimoto Kumiko).[13]

Former governor of Kōchi Prefecture, Daijiro Hashimoto, is his half-brother.

House of Representatives member and member of the Liberal Democratic Party Gaku Hashimoto is his second son.


Personal lifeEdit

Hashimoto achieved the level of sixth degree black belt (6th dan) in Kendo, the art of Japanese fencing. In 1998, Hashimoto donated two tournament trophies to the Harvard Invitational Shoryuhai Intercollegiate Kendo Tournament as tokens of his encouragement.[citation needed]

An exchange program between the Scout Association of Japan and the Boy Scouts of America was started in 1998, at the suggestion of then-Prime Minister Hashimoto in a 1996 meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton.[16] In 1998, he was presented with the Silver World Award by Jere Ratcliffe, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America, "for outstanding contributions to young people on an international level".[16]

In 1999, Hashimoto appeared as a judge on the Japanese television show Iron Chef for the show's final battle, between Hiroyuki Sakai and Alain Passard.


  1. ^ Reed, Christopher (2 July 2006). "Obituary: Ryutaro Hashimoto". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  2. ^ John C Fredriksen, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Modern World Leaders (2003) pp 196-198.
  3. ^ Kantei/Cabinet of Japan: Historical cabinets, Murayama Cabinet (81st) (in Japanese)
  4. ^ a b LDP: 歴代総裁 (historical party presidents; includes election results)
  5. ^ Kantei/Cabinet of Japan: Historical cabinets, Reshuffled Murayama Cabinet (81st, reshuffled) (in Japanese)
  6. ^ National Diet Library, 135th National Diet minutes (links to pdfs of the printed central government's official gazette (kanpō); use the Diet minutes search system for other formats): House of Representatives full session January 11, 1996 and House of Councillors full session January 11, 1996 contain the full result and list all individual roll-call votes for designating a prime minister (including lower-ranking candidates and invalid votes omitted here).
  7. ^ Kantei/Cabinet of Japan: Historical cabinets, First Hashimoto Cabinet (82nd) (in Japanese)
  8. ^ "江田憲司氏「橋本首相は大田知事と17回会った」". Nihon Keizai Shimbun. 14 June 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
  9. ^ a b Gerald L. Curtis: The Logic of Japanese Politics. Leaders, Institutions and the Limits of Change. Columbia University Press 1999, p.172.
  10. ^ The Economist, 11 July 2006: Ryutaro Hashimoto, a reformer of Japan, died on July 1st, aged 68
  11. ^ Kantei/Cabinet of Japan: Historical cabinets, Second Hashimoto Cabinet (83rd), later Reshuffled (in Japanese)
  12. ^ Ikegami, Akira (27 January 2014). "現代日本の足跡に学ぶ(14) 成長へ 好循環つかめるか". 日本経済新聞. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 橋本龍太郎首相は97年の消費税率引き上げ前、所得税減税を実施しました。そして「もう大丈夫だろう」と判断したのですが、消費が落ち込んでしまいました。駆け込み需要を景気回復と見誤っていたのです。
  13. ^ Watanabe, Satoru (October 1999). "JAPAN AND EUROPE: SELF-IMAGES AND MUTUAL PERCEPTIONS". Look Japan. Archived from the original on 4 May 2002. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  14. ^ a b * From the corresponding article in the Japanese Wikipedia
  15. ^ 䝪䞊䜲䝇䜹䜴䝖日本連盟 きじ章受章者 [Recipient of the Golden Pheasant Award of the Scout Association of Japan] (PDF). Reinanzaka Scout Club (in Japanese). 23 May 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 August 2020.
  16. ^ a b "Boy Scout leader urges knife safety". Japan Times. 9 March 1998. Retrieved 24 April 2010.

Further readingEdit

  • Fredriksen, John C. ed. Biographical Dictionary of Modern World Leaders (2003) pp 196–198.
  • Mishima, Ko. "The Changing Relationship between Japan's LDP and the Bureaucracy: Hashimoto's Administrative Reform Effort and Its Politics." Asian Survey 38 (October 1998): 968–989.
  • Taichi, Sakaiya. "Hashimoto Reform Has a Particular Ability to save Japan." Japan Echo Web 10 (Feb 2012) online.
  • Weathers, Charles. "Reformer or Destroyer? Hashimoto Tōru and Populist Neoliberal Politics in Japan." Social Science Japan Journal 17.1 (2014): 77-96 online.
  • Zagorsky, Alexei V. "Three years on a path to nowhere: The Hashimoto initiative in Russian-Japanese relations." Pacific Affairs (2001): 75-93 online.

External linksEdit

  • Ryutaro Hashimoto Dies at 68; a Tough Former Prime Minister of Japan; New York Times obituary.
  • Major Speech and Articles Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto - Government of Japan
  • Junichiro Koizumi. Memorial Address at the Joint Memorial Service by the Cabinet and Liberal Democratic Party for the Late Ryutaro Hashimoto (8 August 2006.) [1]; retrieved 9 February 2007.
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
Party political offices
Preceded by Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Liberal Democratic Party
Succeeded by
Preceded by Head of Heisei Kenkyūkai
Title next held by
Yūji Tsushima
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Health and Welfare
Succeeded by
Kyoichi Noro
Preceded by Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Eijiro Hata
Minister of International Trade and Industry
Succeeded by
Shunpei Tsukahara
Preceded by Deputy Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Japan
Succeeded by
Preceded by Director General of the Okinawa Development Agency
Merged with Cabinet Office
New office Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs
Succeeded by
Minister of State for Regulatory Reform
Succeeded by