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Maverick of Japanese politics in Cold War era (commemorating the centenary of Yasuhiro Nakasone)

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The centenary of a prominent post-war politician, former JapanesePrime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone was observed on May 27, 2018. The personalityof Nakasone attracts attention due to his being anew type of politician who lefta significant footprint on the political history of Japan. Many rightfully link thepolitical success of Nakasone to his phenomenal capacity for politicalmaneuvering, and the ability to gain support of stronger political opponents andto establish temporary unions, which resulted in his nickname, the “WeatherVane”. In contrast to his predecessors, Prime Minister Nakasone was actively usingmass media to create a favorable image in the eye of the public and to appeal tohis voters directly. In fact, Nakasone was the first leader of the LiberalDemocratic Party to transform his personal popularity with voters into a powerfulinternal political resource in the party. Nakasone is the example of a successful reformer, whose undertakings set thetone to the national development in the field of administrative, tax, and socialaffairs and education for many years ahead. The Nakasone reforms are mentionedin many textbooks on public politics and governance as remarkably productiveand effective against the backdrop of unsuccessful reforms held in a number ofEuropean countries in the same period. In fact, Nakasone’s neo-conservatism relied on economic nationalism: theestablishment of Japan as a global economic leader that could dictate its termson the world. A major idea of Nakasone’s neo-conservatism was that Japanshould stop following examples of other nations’ patterns others but becomefully politically and spiritually independent. He believed that, apart fromstopping to borrow foreign practices, Japan should develop into an attractiverole model tobe followed by others. In that sense, Nakasone’s neo-conservatismwas an impressive call for internationalizing Japanese cultural and spiritualvalues. Nakasone’s institutional reforms faced fierce resistance from the governmentbureaucracy and, despite partial success, were not fully implemented. In the fieldof diplomacy, many initiatives of Nakasone aimed at increasing the political roleof Japan on the world stage remained unfinished during his Premiership.

About the Author

D. V. Streltsov
Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University); Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian Federation


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For citations:

Streltsov D.V. Maverick of Japanese politics in Cold War era (commemorating the centenary of Yasuhiro Nakasone). Russian Japanology Review. 2019;2(1):7-28. (In Russ.)

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