Few court rulings have impacted politics more profoundly than the 1983 Tokyo District Court decision on the Lockheed payoff scandal.
In autumn that year, the court found against former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka (1918-1993), also known as the “Yami Shogun,” or Shadow Shogun.
The guilty verdict resulted in Tanaka’s enforced absence from playing a central political role for the remainder of his life.
About one year later, Noboru Takeshita (1924-2000) and other influential members of the Tanaka faction founded their own bloc, which they named Soseikai (political genesis association).
I remember a clever political cartoon back then that made a pun on that name. “So sei” can translate as “do it.” The cartoon showed Tanaka lamenting, “I did tell them to do that and this, but I didn't tell them to do it.”
Tanaka eventually suffered a stroke, which was blamed on stress and excessive drinking. He had a broken heart and lost influence.
I wonder what sort of impact the April 26 Tokyo District Court ruling will have on politics. The court acquitted Ichiro Ozawa, who had been forcibly indicted in connection with the purchase of land in 2004 by Rikuzankai, his political fund management organization.
According to the verdict, Ozawa had a general grasp of Rikuzankai’s accounting procedures but there is no evidence that he conspired with his aides to falsify the political fund reports in question.
Ozawa has repeatedly voiced a commendable desire to serve as a “common soldier” in the days ahead. Having won acquittal, what is this “common solider” now focusing on? Is it the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential election in autumn, or leading a mass breakaway from the party, or the creation of a new party?
Ozawa must be a major headache for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, whose administration is already in rough waters over the proposed consumption tax rate hike.
The DPJ is a non-Liberal Democratic Party mutual help association that aims to ensure its members keep getting elected. But the more the DPJ reneges on its hastily created election pledges and mirrors the LDP in policy and modus operandi, Ozawa’s call for a return to the basics begins to make greater sense.
And with the continued comings and goings of prime ministers as if they were disposable, the public cannot readily dismiss Ozawa, the extraordinary politician who “could have become prime minister but would not.”
But in retrospect, Ozawa’s political maneuvers have borne little fruit.
As a younger man, Ozawa inadvertently revolted from his mentor Tanaka and joined Soseikai. Ever since, Ozawa has repeatedly destroyed what he created.
Now pushing 70, what does this political mover and shaker want to do for his “final service” to the nation?
I wish I could ask him what his real intention is, as well as how he made his fortune.
--The Asahi Shimbun, April 27
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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