Koizumi Junichiro (小泉 純一郎)

Junichiro Koizumi (小泉 純一郎) was born January 8, 1942. He served as Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006.

Widely seen as a maverick leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), he became known as an economic reformer, focusing on Japan's government debt and the privatization of its postal service. In 2005, Koizumi led the LDP to win one of the largest parliamentary majorities in modern Japanese history.

Koizumi also attracted international attention through his deployment of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to Iraq, the first foreign deployment of the Japanese military since World War II, and his visits to Yasukuni Shrine which led to diplomatic tensions with China and South Korea.

Koizumi is a third-generation politician. His father, Junya Koizumi, was director general of the Japan Defense Agency and a member of the Diet. His grandfather, Matajiro Koizumi, was Minister of Posts and Telecommunications under Prime Ministers Hamaguchi and Wakatsuki and an early advocate of postal privatization. See Koizumi family.

Born in Yokosuka on January 8, 1942, Koizumi was educated at Yokosuka High School and Keio University, where he studied economics. He attended University College, London before returning to Japan in August 1969 upon the death of his father. He stood for election to the lower house in December; however, he did not earn enough votes to win election as a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) representative. In 1970, he was hired as a secretary to Takeo Fukuda, who was Minister of Finance at the time and would go on to become Prime Minister in 1976.

In the general elections of December 1972, Koizumi was elected as a member of the Lower House for the 11th District of Kanagawa Prefecture. He joined Fukuda's faction within the LDP. Since then, he has been re-elected ten times.

Koizumi gained his first senior post in 1979 as Parliamentary Vice Minister of Finance, and his first ministerial post in 1988 as Minister of Health and Welfare under Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita. He held cabinet posts again in 1992 (Minister of Posts and Telecommunications in the Miyazawa cabinet) and 1996–1998 (Minister of Health and Welfare in the Uno and Hashimoto cabinets).

In 1994, with the LDP in opposition, Koizumi became part of a new LDP faction, Shinseiki, made up of younger and more motivated parliamentarians led by Taku Yamasaki, Koichi Kato and Koizumi, a group popularly dubbed "YKK." He competed for the presidency of the LDP in September 1995 and July 1999, but he gained little support losing decisively to Ryutaro Hashimoto and then Keizo Obuchi, both of whom had broader bases of support within the party. However, after Yamasaki and Kato were humiliated in a disastrous attempt to force a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in 2000, Koizumi became the last remaining credible member of the YKK trio, which gave him leverage over the reform-minded wing of the party.

On April 24, 2001, Koizumi was elected president of the LDP. He was initially considered an outside candidate against Hashimoto, who was running for his second term as Prime Minister. However, in the first poll of prefectural party organizations, Koizumi won 87 to 11 percent; in the second vote of Diet members, Koizumi won 51 to 40 percent. He defeated Hashimoto by a final tally of 298 to 155 votes.[1] He was made Prime Minister of Japan on April 26, and his coalition secured 78 of 121 seats in the Upper House elections in July.

Within Japan, Koizumi pushed for new ways to revitalise the moribund economy, aiming to act against bad debts with commercial banks, privatize the postal savings system, and reorganise the factional structure of the LDP. He spoke of the need for a period of painful restructuring in order to improve the future.

In the fall of 2002, Koizumi appointed Keio University economist and frequent television commentator Heizo Takenaka as Minister of State for Financial Services and head of the Financial Services Agency (FSA) to fix the country's banking crisis. Bad debts of banks were dramatically cut with the NPL ratio of major banks approaching half the level of 2001. The Japanese economy has been through a slow but steady recovery, and the stock market has dramatically rebounded. The GDP growth for 2004 was one of the highest among G7 nations, according to the IMF and OECD. Takenaka was appointed as a Postal Reform Minister in 2004 for the privatization of Japan Post, operator of the country's Postal Savings system.

Koizumi moved the LDP away from its traditional rural agrarian base toward a more urban, neoliberal core, as Japan's population grew in major cities and declined in less populated areas, although under current purely geographical districting, rural votes in Japan are still many times more powerful than urban ones. In addition to the privatization of Japan Post (which many rural residents fear will reduce their access to basic services such as banking), Koizumi also slowed down the LDP's heavy subsidies for infrastructure and industrial development in rural areas. These tensions made Koizumi a controversial but popular figure within his own party and among the Japanese electorate.

Although Koizumi's foreign policy was focused on closer relations with the United States and UN-centered diplomacy, which were adopted by all of his predecessors, he went further to pursue supporting the US policies in the War on Terrorism. He decided to deploy the Japan Self-Defense Forces to Iraq, which was the first military mission in active foreign war zones since the end of the World War II. Many Japanese commentators indicated that the favorable US-Japan relation was based on the Koizumi's personal friendship with the US President George W. Bush. In the North Korean abductions of Japanese and nuclear development issues, he took more assertive attitudes than his predecessors and this policy was won approval by many of voters.

Although Koizumi did not initially campaign on the issue of defense reform, he approved the expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and in October 2001 they were given greater scope to operate outside of the country. Some of these troops were dispatched to Iraq, though only to carry out non-combat duties. Koizumi's government also introduced a bill to upgrade the Japan Defense Agency to ministry status, but this bill was not passed in the 2006 session and will be deferred to the next session under the watch of Koizumi's successor.

Koizumi has often been noted for his controversial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, starting on August 13, 2001. He visited the shrine six times as prime minister. Because the shrine honors many convicted Japanese war criminals, including 14 executed Class A war criminals, these visits drew strong condemnation and protests from both Japan's neighbours, mainly China and South Korea, and, indeed, many from within Japan itself. These countries still hold bitter memories of Japanese invasion and occupation during the first half of the 20th century. As a result, China and South Korea refused to meet Koizumi in Japan and their countries, and there were no mutual visits between Chinese and Japanese leaders from October 2001, and between South Korean and Japanese leaders from June 2005. The standstill ended when the next prime minister Abe visited China and South Korea in October 2006.

In China, the visits led to massive anti-Japanese riots. The president, ruling and opposition parties, and much of the media of South Korea openly vituperated the visits regardless of their political positions. The speech that criticizes Japan is applauded by many Koreans despite the South Korean President's low popularity. When Koizumi was asked about the speech, Koizumi stated these are "for the domestic audience".

Although Koizumi signed the shrine's visitor book as "Junichiro Koizumi, the Prime Minister of Japan", he claimed that his visits to the shrine were as a private citizen and not an endorsement of any political stance. These claims were scoffed as ineffective excuses in China and Korea. Several journals and news reports in Japan, such as the one made by Kyodo News Agency on August 15, 2006, questioned the validity of the claim that Koizumi was visiting as a private citizen, as he recorded his name on the shrine's guestbook as prime minister, and visited the shrine yearly as part of his campaign pledge, which was political in nature.

On August 15, 2005, the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II, Koizumi publicly stated that Japan was deeply saddened by the suffering it caused during World War II and vowed Japan would never again take "the path to war". However, Koizumi was criticized for actions which allegedly ran contrary to this expression of remorse (e.g. the Yasukuni visits), which resulted in worsening relations with China and South Korea.

Initially Koizumi was at certain points in his tenure an extremely popular leader, with his outspoken nature and colourful past. His nicknames included "Lionheart", due to his hair style and fierce spirit, and "Maverick". In June 2001, he enjoyed an approval rating of 85 percent, with only 7 percent disapproving.

In January 2002, he sacked his popular but volatile Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, replacing her with Yoriko Kawaguchi. By April, following an economic slump and a series of LDP scandals that claimed the career of YKK member Koichi Kato, Koizumi's popularity rating had fallen 40 percentage points since his nomination as prime minister.

However, Koizumi was re-elected in 2003 and his popularity surged as the economy recovered. His proposal to cut pension benefits as a move to fiscal reform, however, turned out to be highly unpopular. This restricted his administration's approval rating in the House of Councilors elections in 2004 to being only marginally better than the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). In 2005, the House of Councilors rejected the contentious postal privatization bills. Koizumi previously made it clear that he would dissolve the lower house if the bill failed to pass. The Democratic Party, while expressing support for the privatization, made a tactical vote against the bill. Fifty-one LDP members also either voted against the bills or abstained.

Also, his visits to North Korea twice to solve the issue of abducting Japanese nationals somewhat raised his popularity, although not much because he could not get many Japanese back to Japan.

On August 8, 2005, Koizumi, as promised, dissolved the House of Representatives and called for snap elections. He also expelled rebel LDP members for not supporting the bill. The LDP's chances for success were initially uncertain; the secretary general of New Komeito (a junior coalition partner with Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party) said that his party would entertain forming a coalition government with the Democratic Party of Japan if the DPJ took a majority in the House of Representatives.

However, Koizumi's popularity rose almost twenty points after he dissolved the House and expelled rebel LDP members, with opinion polls placing the government's approval ratings between 51 and 59 percent. The electorate saw the election in term of vote for or against the reform (privatisation), which Democratic Party and rebel LDP were seen as being against.

The September 2005 elections were the LDP's largest victory since 1986, giving the party a large majority in the House of Representatives and nullifying opposing voices in the House of Councilors. In the following Diet session, the last to be held under Koizumi's government, the LDP passed 82 of its 91 proposed bills, including postal privatization.

Koizumi announced that he would step down from office in 2006, per LDP rules, and would not personally choose a successor as many LDP prime ministers have in the past. On September 20, 2006, Shinzo Abe was elected to succeed Koizumi as president of the LDP, Abe succeeded Koizumi as prime minister September 26, 2006.

Koizumi married 21-year-old university student Kayoko Miyamoto in 1978 under the omiai custom. The ceremony at the Tokyo Prince Hotel was attended by about 2,500 people, including Fukuda (then Prime Minister), and featured a wedding cake shaped like the National Diet Building.

The marriage ended in divorce in 1982. Kayoko was unhappy with her lifestyle and Koizumi did not see Kayoko as a viable political wife. After this divorce, Koizumi never married again, saying that divorce consumed ten times more energy than marriage.

Two of his three sons (Kotaro Koizumi and Shinjiro Koizumi) were kept in Koizumi's custody and raised by one of Koizumi's sisters. Although Kayoko claims that she was to be allowed to see her two sons once they reach the age of 16, this did not happen and she has not been able to see them since the divorce. The youngest, Yoshinaga Miyamoto, a student at Keio University, was born following the divorce[11] and has never met Koizumi. This third son is known to have attended one of Koizumi's rallies, but was also turned away when trying to meet his father by attending his grandmother's funeral.

Koizumi is a fan of Richard Wagner, X Japan, and the Japanese pop band Morning Musume, and has released a CD of his favorite pieces by contemporary Italian composer Ennio Morricone.

Koizumi is also a noted fan of Elvis Presley, with whom he shares a birthday (January 8). In 2001 he released a collection of his favorite Elvis songs on CD with his comments about each song. His brother is Senior Advisor of the Tokyo Elvis Fan Club. Koizumi and his brother helped finance a statue of Elvis in Tokyo's Harajuku district. On June 30, 2006, he visited the rock legend's former estate, Graceland, accompanied by U.S. President George W. Bush, and First Lady Laura Bush. After arriving in Memphis aboard Air Force One, they headed to Graceland. While there, Koizumi briefly sang a few bars of his favourite Elvis tunes, whilst warmly impersonating Presley, mimicking his characteristic hand movements and leg shakes, and wearing Presley's trademark oversized golden sunglasses.

Koizumi also seems to be a fan of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. He and Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen visited the Sibelius' home on September 8, 2006. There Koizumi showed respect to the deceased composer with a moment of silence. He also owns reproductions of all seven symphonies by Sibelius.