Hosokawa is famous for being the politician who broke the Liberal Democratic Party
's age-old monopoly
on rule in Japan
He was born in 1938 in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, to a family of the Japanese nobility descended from an ancient line of samurai: Konoe Fumimaro was his grandfather. In 1963, Hosokawa finished law school at Sophia University, and moved to Kagoshima as a reporter for the Asahi Shimbun.
Six years later, in 1969, he made his first run for the House of Representatives, and lost. Undaunted, he ran for one of the LDP's national seats in 1971, and was elected, joining the powerful faction of Tanaka Kakuei. Despite being arrested in connection with Tanaka's corruption charges in 1976, Hosokawa remained in the Diet until 1983, when he moved back to Kumamoto and won the election for governorship of the prefecture.
When Hosokawa's second term ended in 1991, he returned to the capital to head an extraordinary session of the Diet that had been called in the wake of the bubble economy Nikkei's fall. Frustrated by the LDP's typically slow response, Hosokawa left the party in 1992 and founded the Japan New Party, which gained four seats in the lower house during that year's election.
Then, in 1993, with Japan's first recession in years beginning to show, Hosokawa's JNP formed a coalition with the New Party Sakigake, Shinseito, Komeito, Socialist Party, Democratic Party, Democratic Socialist Party, and Social Democratic Party. Hosokawa became prime minister of Japan on August 6, and the LDP was cast into the opposition for the first time in its history.
At the beginning of his term, Hosokawa was incredibly popular, with 70% approval ratings. His cabinet included an unprecedented three women, and he set himself apart from the LDP by publicly apologizing for Japan's wartime atrocities on three separate occasions shortly after entering office. In his inaugural speech to the Diet, he said, "I believe it is important at this juncture that we state clearly before all the world our remorse at our past history and our renewed determination to do better."
Hosokawa's main policy shift from the LDP was electoral reform: he wanted to abolish the Diet's old electoral system, based partly on proportional representation, and assign each member to a specific district as is done in the United States Congress. This threatened the livelihood of many of the smaller parties in his coalition, the Socialists among them, and so it was defeated.
His other major policy shift was in liberalizing the Japanese rice market, which had long protected the interests of Japan's rice farmers (the LDP's biggest constituency) by keeping prices on imported rice artificially high.
In April of 1994, he resigned his position amid accusations of corruption. He was frustrated at being unable to pass his reform bills, and even more frustrated at the monolithic Japanese bureaucracy's aversion to change. His foreign minister, Hata Tsutomu, succeeded him.
Hosokawa stayed in the Diet until 1998, and now lives in retirement in Atami, on the Izu Peninsula.
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