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Japan’s new prime minister is a LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) party member. He used the slogan "Change the LDP, Change Japan" to win support. He is known in Japan as a reformer, though it is difficult to say of what. He was the former health minister of Japan. His views include bringing Japan's public debt under control, fighting corruption and back-room dealing. He has promised to boost Japan's economy by slashing corporate and income taxes. He also vowed to privatize the postal ministry within 10 years. In March 1997 he got into a public debate with Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka over the interest rate that the trust fund should pay on public pension monies. The returns from the fund in February ‘97 had been low and Koizumi insisted that the returns not be cut. There are rumours that he was elected mostly due to the support of the LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei. If the rumours are true many fear that Koizumi may not be much of a reformer at all.

Currently the controversial Prime Minister is still riding high in the polls. He has a large number of fans across Japan - regardless of perceptible success, he has restored hope to the Japanese political system. Recently he approved a huge slash in the Japanese budget. Some £5.1 billion has been cut from the large budget in an attempt to reduce the national defecit. This is the first piece of concrete evidence that he is determined to reform Japan economically. From now on, ministeries will have to justify their budgets. No reform = less funds.

He was also embroiled in controversy when he visited the Yasukuni shrine, a memorial to dead Japanese soldiers. Though nations criticised the place he made his statement, Mr Koizumi made a real effort to apologise for the actions of the Japanese army during WWII. He said, "Towards our Asian neighbours, at one point in the past, we conducted colonialisation and aggressive acts based on a mistaken national policy and caused unmeasurable pain and suffering.

"I wish, in light of the history of our country's regrettable history, to take this to heart, express my deepest regret and remorse towards all of the victims of war."

This is a big step, especially when one considers that previously very little was forthcoming in way of apology.

Quote taken from Japan Today.

小泉純一郎

More than anything else what is needed in Japan today is to strive forward steadfastly with the implementation of reforms in a spirit of persevering through the difficulties of the present in order to build a better tomorrow. Whether or not we will greet this new century emboldened with the courage to build a future full of hope for our nation depends on the determination of each and every one of our people to carry out the reforms that are needed.
  - Remarks to the First Session of the 154th Diet
Koizumi Junichirô, the prime minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006, was born in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on January 8, 1942. He graduated from Keio University in 1967 with an Economics degree, and enrolled at the London School of Economics for his master's. In 1970, he joined the ruling Liberal Democratic Party by becoming Fukuda Takeo's secretary: the experience warmed him to politics, and he won his first race for the House of Representatives in 1972.

After running through the obligatory list of party posts, he entered the cabinet in 1988 as Minister of Health and Welfare under Takeshita Noboru. He held this position under Hashimoto Ryutaro as well, after a brief stint as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications under Miyazawa Kiichi. While on the Miyazawa cabinet, in 1995, he made his first unsuccessful bid for the presidency of the LDP. In 2001, however, following the scandalous gaffes of Mori Yoshiro, Koizumi decided to give the kantei another run, and was cleanly elected.

As the other writeups in this node explain in greater detail, Koizumi is a vocal reformer of Japan's many convoluted government systems, especially its postal savings system. Since becoming prime minister, he hasn't accomplished much: most of his reform attempts have been blockaded by a stalwart Diet. That hasn't stopped him from keeping his mouth running.

He enjoys favor with the White House for publicly supporting the war in Afghanistan, but Asian leaders are less fond of him due to his constant visits to Yasukuni Shrine, and his tendency to favor a more active role for Japan on the world stage, which some see as a sign of remilitarization.

He has published five essay collections:

郵政省解体論 Reforming the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (1994)
官僚王国解体論 Reforming the Kanryo Kingdom (1996)
暴論・青論 Reality in an "Unrealistic" Debate (1997)
郵政民営化論 Privatizing the Postal Service (1999)
コイズム Koizumiism (2001)

He claims to be influenced by Winston Churchill, Yoshida Shoin, Takasugi Shinsaku, and Oda Nobunaga. His favorite quotation, taken from the Analects of Confucius, is 無信不立 mushin furitsu, "unbelievers cannot stand."

Another component of Koizumi's popularity is that women find him attractive—he bears a fairly strong resemblance to Richard Gere. One of Japan's best-selling books in the last couple of years was a pictorial biography of Koizumi called Koizumi, and the following real review from Amazon.co.jp pretty much tells you everything you need to know:

先日小泉首相の夢をみました。 目がさめた時私はうっとりと幸せな気分にひたっておりました。 この写真集は永遠に私のBIBLEとなるでしょう。 いつも一緒です。

The other day, I saw Prime Minister Koizumi in a dream. When I closed my eyes, I was in a trance, soaked in this wonderful happy feeling. This photo album will be my bible for eternity. We'll always be together...

No, I am not making this up.
Koizumi's current cabinet:

On September 20, 2003, Koizumi was re-elected as president of the LDP, with 60% of the party's vote. He will remain at the head of the party for the next three years, meaning that he will remain prime minister as long as the LDP-New Komeito-New Conservative Party coalition does not lose its majority in the Diet.

Koizumi resigned as prime minister on September 26, 2006 and was replaced by his Chief Cabinet Secretary, Shinzo Abe.


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