I know what people say about me. I am said to be very, very ordinary. I am said to be mild and good in nature... but I want you to understand that I am a man who does what should be done.
The sixty-seventh prime minister of Japan
. He was born in Gumma
Prefecture on June 25, 1937
, the son of a silk miller-turned-politician named Obuchi Kohei
. At the age of 13, he transferred to a private middle school
, and lived in the city for the rest of his life. In 1958, he enrolled at Waseda University
as an English literature
major, in hopes of becoming a writer. When his father died that same year, he decided to follow in the old man's footsteps, so he changed his major to political science
and graduated with a bachelor of arts
degree in 1962.
He briefly started graduate studies at Waseda, but decided that he would learn much more about the world if he went travelling, so between January and September 1963, he visited thirty-eight countries, completely circumnavigating the globe and taking odd jobs as he went. While in the United States, he visited Robert Kennedy in Washington simply by walking into the attorney general's office and bullshitting his way from there.
That November, inspired by his talk with Kennedy, he ran for the House of Representatives, and was elected at the age of 26, making him the youngest legislator in Japanese history. Like all Japanese politicians, he had to work his way through the LDP's ranks. In 1979, he became the director of the prime minister's office and director of the Okinawa Development Agency, his first cabinet post. He served there for eight years before becoming Chief Cabinet Secretary in 1987. He became famous two years later, upon the death of Emperor Hirohito, when he publicly announced the new era marked by Hirohito's death: Heisei.
In 1991, he became secretary general of the LDP, and in 1994 became its vice president. In 1997, Hashimoto Ryutaro appointed Obuchi as Minister of Foreign Affairs, where he shone in negotiations with Russia over Japanese claims in the Kuril Islands, as well as negotiations over the unification of Korea.
On July 30, 1998, Obuchi's time came: he became prime minister in the LDP's election. During his term, he was focused on two major issues: signing a peace treaty with Russia, and reviving the Japanese economy. His solution to the latter was to increase public spending, which briefly slowed the recession but ultimately did very little to turn it around.
He might have succeeded in his goal of normalizing Russo-Japanese relations, were it not for a tragedy: on the night of April 1, 2000, he had a stroke and fell into a coma. Three days later, doctors agreed that he would probably not make a full recovery: his cabinet resigned, and power was passed on to Mori Yoshiro. For six weeks, he was kept on life support at Juntendo University Hospital, but doctors were unable to revive him, and he passed away on May 14, 2000, at the age of 62. He died a popular prime minister, seen by the Japanese people as a man without corruption: his state funeral was held at the Budokan, near the grounds of the Imperial Palace, and was attended by heads of state from around the world.
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