Profile of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto

Ryutaro Hashimoto

September 1997

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who was reelected President of the Liberal Democratic Party--the largest party in the National Diet--on September 8, 1997, announced a reshuffling of his cabinet on September 11. He is an experienced policy expert now serving his twelfth term in the House of Representatives and has held a number of important cabinet posts, including Minister of Finance and Minister of International Trade and Industry. After becoming Prime Minister in January 1996, he led the LDP to victory in the October House of Representatives election in that year. Since then he has spearheaded an LDP-only government with the support of the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake, with whom the LDP has signed a policy accord.

Hashimoto was born on July 29, 1937, in Tokyo as the eldest son of Ryogo Hashimoto, who served as Minister of Education and Minister of Health and Welfare in the cabinet of Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. He graduated from Keio University's Faculty of Law in 1960. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1963, he has served as director of the Social Affairs Division of the LDP Policy Research Council and chairman of the H.R. Standing Committee on Social and Labor Affairs. At the age of 41, he became Minister of Health and Welfare in the cabinet of Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira. Following his father's motto that "statesmanship should be for the weak," he was continuously involved in formulating the country's social welfare policy, and he achieved a great deal in various fields, such as pensions, medical care, and welfare.

Hashimoto also served as chairman of the LDP Research Commission on Public Administration and Finance from 1980 to 1986 during the administrations of Prime Ministers Zenko Suzuki and Yasuhiro Nakasone. He directed the government's efforts to pursue administrative reform and the restoration of public finance, the main political issues at that time.

In 1986 Hashimoto became Minister of Transport in the third Nakasone cabinet and successfully accomplished the privatization of the Japanese National Railways and its division into six regional companies, which was the centerpiece of administrative reform. These achievements, undertaken while serving in a post that was the focus of administrative reform, won Hashimoto his peers' confidence in his political caliber and gave him deep insights into the administrative branch of government.

From 1987 to 1989 Hashimoto held several important party positions, including that of Secretary General of the LDP. As Secretary General, number two in the party after the party President--who in those years concurrently served as Prime Minister--he was in charge of all facets of the party's affairs.

In 1989 Hashimoto was appointed Minister of Finance in the cabinet of Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu and devoted himself to realizing tax reform. During the Gulf War, he was instrumental in formulating Japan's contribution to the multinational forces, including $13 billion in financial assistance. When the LDP went into the opposition in the Diet in August 1993, he devoted himself to policy making as Chairman of the party's Policy Research Council.

In June 1994 he was appointed Minister of International Trade and Industry in the cabinet of Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, formed with the backing of the LDP, SDP, and Sakigake. Since that time, he has exerted strong leadership in implementing a whole range of policies, including those for industry and trade. He strongly urged that the multilateral trade system be strengthened and that the momentum of trade and investment liberalization be maintained. He attended a series of meetings, such as the Naples Summit in July 1994 and the Halifax Summit in July 1995, and took these opportunities to advocate the necessity of regulatory reform as a post-Uruguay Round trade issue of the world economy. In June 1995, he successfully struck a deal on automobiles and auto parts with U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor in Geneva, after negotiations had been on the verge of a breakdown.

Following his participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta in November 1994, Hashimoto led the APEC Osaka Ministerial Meeting in November 1995 to great success as the meeting's joint chairman. Throughout his visits to many countries around the world, he sought to strengthen Japan's ties with them and enhance Japan's contributions to the world economy.

He retained his portfolio as Minister of International Trade and Industry when Prime Minister Murayama reshuffled his cabinet in August 1995, and he was elected president of the LDP a month later, succeeding Yohei Kono. In October he assumed the post of Deputy Prime Minister in the Murayama cabinet, and remained a mainstay of the administration.

After Prime Minister Murayama stepped down in January 1996 to allow the nation to make "a fresh start" after paving the way to solving various pending issues, Hashimoto was elected Prime Minister with the backing of the same three parties that supported Murayama.

As Prime Minister he has devoted his energies to six areas of domestic reform: administrative, fiscal structure, social security, economic structure, financial system, and education. He has also made significant gains on the diplomatic front. He confirmed the reinforcement of the post-cold-war Japan-U.S. alliance based on bilateral security arrangements through summit meetings with U.S. President Bill Clinton, and exerted himself in shaping the new Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation agreed upon in September 1997. He continues to address other issues including those relating to the U.S. forces facilities in Okinawa.

To put these achievements to the test of a national vote, Hashimoto dissolved the lower house and called for a general election in October 1996. Though the LDP failed to win an outright majority, the party made major gains, allowing Hashimoto to launch his second cabinet in November. He ran unopposed and was reelected LDP President in September 1997, after which he reshuffled his cabinet and again set his sights on the many domestic and international issues facing Japan.

Hashimoto and his wife Kumiko have two sons, three daughters, and two grandchildren. His hobbies include kendo (Japanese fencing), in which he holds the rank of fifth dan, mountain climbing, and photography.

Brief Personal History

July 29, 1937 Born in Tokyo.
1960 Graduates from the Faculty of Law of Keio University.
1963 Elected for the first time to the House of Representatives (H.R.). Is now serving his twelfth term.
1972 Appointed Director, Social Affairs Division, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
1976 Appointed Chairman, H.R. Committee on Social and Labor Affairs.
1978 Appointed Minister of Health and Welfare.
1980 Appointed Chairman, LDP Research Commission on Public Administration and Finance.
1984 Appointed Chairman, LDP Research Commission on Fundamental Policies for Medical Care.
1986 Appointed Minister of Transport.
1987 Appointed Acting Secretary General of the LDP.
Appointed Secretary General of the LDP.
1989 Appointed Minister of Finance.
1990 Attends G-7 Summit in Houston.
1991 Attends G-7 Summit in London.
1993 Appointed Chairman, LDP Research Commission on Fundamental Policies for the Environment.
1994 Appointed Minister of International Trade and Industry.
Attends G-7 Summit in Naples.
1995 Attends G-7 Summit in Halifax, Canada.
Elected President of the LDP.
Appointed Deputy Prime Minister.
Jan. 1996 Elected Prime Minister.
Mar. 1996 Attends Asia-Europe Meeting in Bangkok.
Jun-96 Attends G-7 Summit in Lyon.
Sept. 1996 Attends United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Nov. 1996 Reelected Prime Minister.
Attends APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Subic, Philippines.
Jan. 1997 Visits five ASEAN countries (Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore).
Feb. 1997 Meets with Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori in Toronto.
Apr. 1997 Visits United States, New Zealand, and Australia.
May-97 Meets with Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori in Lima.
Jun-97 Attends G-8 (G-7 plus Russia) Summit in Denver.
Visits the Netherlands, Norway.
Sept. 1997 Visits China.
Reelected President of the LDP.
Reshuffles Cabinet.

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