Yoshirō Mori

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For the mathematician, see Yoshiro Mori (mathematician).
In this Japanese name, the family name is "Mori".
Yoshiro Mori
森 喜朗
Yoshiro mori 2.jpg
Prime Minister of Japan
In office
5 April 2000 – 26 April 2001
Monarch Akihito
Preceded by Mikio Aoki (Acting)
Succeeded by Junichiro Koizumi
Minister of Construction
In office
8 August 1995 – 11 January 1996
Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama
Preceded by Koken Nosaka
Succeeded by Eiichi Nakao
Minister of International Trade and Industry
In office
12 December 1992 – 20 July 1993
Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa
Preceded by Kozo Watanabe
Succeeded by Hiroshi Kumagai
Minister of Education
In office
27 December 1983 – 1 November 1984
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone
Preceded by Mitsuo Setoyama
Succeeded by Hikaru Matsunaga
Personal details
Born (1937-07-14) 14 July 1937 (age 77)
Nomi, Ishikawa, Japan
Political party Liberal Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Chieko Maki
Children Yūki Mori
Yoko Fujimoto
Alma mater Waseda University
Website Yoshiro Mori WebSite

Yoshirō Mori (森 喜朗 Mori Yoshirō?, born 14 July 1937) is a Japanese politician who served as the 85th and 86th Prime Minister of Japan starting at 5 April 2000 ending 26 April 2001. Described as having "the heart of a flea and the brain of a shark,"[1][2] he was an unpopular prime minister mainly remembered today for his many gaffes and situationally inappropriate actions. He is currently President of the Japan Rugby Football Union as well as the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians' Union. In 2014 he was appointed to head the organizing committee for the 2020 Summer Olympics.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Yoshiro Mori was born in present-day Nomi, Ishikawa, Japan, as the son of Shigeki and Kaoru Mori, wealthy rice farmers with a history in politics, as both his father and grandfather served as the mayor of Neagari, Ishikawa Prefecture. His mother died when Yoshiro was seven years old. He studied at the Waseda University in Tokyo, joining the rugby union club. He developed a passion for the sport but was never a high-level player; he once compared rugby to his relationship with other parties in the ruling coalition by stating: "In rugby, one person doesn't become a star, one person plays for all, and all play for one."[4]

After university, Mori joined the Sankei Shimbun, a conservative newspaper in Japan.

Political career[edit]

In 1962, he left the newspaper and became secretary of a Diet member, and in the 1969 general election, he was elected in the lower house at age 32. He was reelected 10 consecutive times. In 1980, he was involved in the Recruit scandal about receiving unlisted shares of Recruit (company) before they were publicly traded, and selling them after they were made public for a profit of approximately 1 million dollars. He was education minister in 1983 and 1984, international trade and industry minister in 1992 and 1993, and construction minister in 1995 and 1996.

In 1999, Mori began to assume control of the Mitsuzuka faction (formerly Abe faction) that had been headed by Hiroshi Mitsuzuka in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).[5]

Prime minister[edit]

In the midst of a battle with Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa, Prime Minister Keizō Obuchi suffered a stroke and cerebral hemorrhage on 2 April 2000 and was unable to continue in office. The Cabinet held an emergency meeting and resigned en masse. Mori, who was the secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was unanimously elected president, and became prime minister with the votes of the LDP, New Komeito and New Conservative Party (composed of members who left Ozawa's party on April 3). Mori announced that he would keep Obuchi's cabinet in place.[6]

Gaffes[edit]

Mori with George W. Bush

The media coverage of Mori's term as prime minister was dominated by his gaffes and undiplomatic comments. Even prior to his election as prime minister, he had been described in the Japanese media as having "the heart of a flea and the brain of a shark."[6][7]

  • In January 2000, he made a joke about his campaign in the 1969 election: "When I was greeting farmers from my car, they all went into their homes. I felt like I had AIDS."[7]
  • In February 2000, when asked about the Year 2000 problem in the United States, Mori quipped that "when there is a blackout, the murderers always come out. It's that type of society."[7]
  • At Obuchi's funeral, Mori failed to clap and bow properly before Obuchi's shrine, an important portion of a traditional Japanese funeral rite. The other world leaders present at the funeral, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, performed the ritual correctly.[8]
  • At a meeting of Shinto followers in Tokyo in May 2000, Mori described Japan as "a nation of deities (kami no kuni) with the Emperor at its center." This "divine nation statement" stirred controversy in Japan as it invoked the official interpretation of the Emperor as a divine entity during the days of the Empire of Japan.[9] Days after this statement, Mori questioned whether the Japan Communist Party could "ensure Japan's security and defend the kokutai", using a term for Japan's unity with its divine emperor which had not been in common use since World War II.[10]
  • During the June 2000 election, when asked about recent newspaper reports that showed that roughly half of the voters still had not decided whom to vote for, he replied that they could "stay in bed for the day."[11]
  • In October 2000, during a dialogue with British prime minister Tony Blair, Mori stated that the Japanese government had suggested in 1997 that Japanese nationals believed to be abducted by North Korea be arranged to be "found" elsewhere in order to ensure a smooth normalization of the relation between NPRK and Japan, which upset the foreign ministry and led to calls for Mori's resignation from conservative voices within the LDP.[12]
  • In February 2001, the US submarine USS Greeneville accidentally hit and sunk the Japanese fishing ship Ehime Maru during an emergency surface drill on 9 February 2001, resulting in 9 dead students and teachers. Mori continued a round of golf after being told of the incident, for which he was criticized as being politically tone-deaf.[13]
  • One unsubstantiated story concerned the 26th G8 summit in 2000, at which upon meeting U.S. President Bill Clinton, Mori was to say "How are you". Instead, he allegedly slipped up and said "Who are you;" Clinton answered "Well, I'm Hillary Clinton's husband", to which Mori replied "Me too". Snopes.com reported that this was obviously a low-quality fabrication/joke and that the same story had been told about Kim Young-sam several months earlier.[14] It was nonetheless reported by some mainstream media outlets such as ABC in Australia.[15]

Resignation[edit]

Two senior Mori appointees resigned due to fundraising scandals in August 2000. Mori's disapproval rating neared 60% following these resignations.[16]

In November 2000, with Mori's approval ratings below 30%, opposition politicians attempted to win a vote of no confidence against Mori by soliciting support from rebels within the LDP. Hiromu Nonaka, the secretary general of the party, quashed the potential revolt by threatening to expel any LDP politicians who voted for the measure.[17] The vote failed 237 to 190.[18] Nonaka resigned days later amid speculation that he would challenge Mori for leadership of the LDP.[19]

Towards the end of Mori's term, his approval rating dropped to single digits. In March 2001, reports surfaced that Mori had told LDP leaders of his plans to resign. Although he denied the reports, they contributed to a massive drop in Japanese stock market prices early that week.[13] On April 6, he officially announced his intention to resign.[20] Junichiro Koizumi won the subsequent LDP leadership election and became prime minister on 26 April 2001.

Cabinets[edit]

Mori appointed three cabinets. The third cabinet is officially referred to as a continuation of the second cabinet, as the changes came amid a major administrative realignment in January 2001 that eliminated several cabinet positions and renamed several key ministries.

Cabinets of Yoshiro Mori
First Cabinet
(April 2000)
Second Cabinet
(July 2000)
Second Cabinet, Realigned
(Jan. 2001)
Chief Cabinet Secretary and Okinawa Development Mikio Aoki Yasuo Fukuda Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda
Administrative Reform, Okinawa and Northern Territories Ryutaro Hashimoto
Foreign Affairs Yōhei Kōno Yōhei Kōno Yōhei Kōno
Justice Hideo Usui Okiharu Yasuoka Masahiko Komura
Finance Kiichi Miyazawa Kiichi Miyazawa Kiichi Miyazawa
Education Hirofumi Nakasone Tadamori Oshima Nobutaka Machimura
Health and Welfare Yuya Niwa Yūji Tsushima Health, Labor and Welfare Chikara Sakaguchi
Labor Takamori Makino Yoshio Yoshikawa
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tokuichiro Tamazawa Yoichi Tani Yoshio Yatsu
International Trade and Industry Takashi Fukaya Takeo Hiranuma Economy, Trade and Industry Takeo Hiranuma
Transport Toshihiro Nikai Hajime Morita Land, Infrastructure and Transport Chikage Oogi
Construction Masaaki Nakayama Chikage Oogi
Home Affairs Kosuke Hori Mamoru Nishida Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Toranosuke Katayama
Posts and Telecommunications Eita Yashiro Kozo Hirabayashi
Management and Coordination Agency Kunihiro Tsuzuki Kunihiro Tsuzuki
Japan Defense Agency Tsutomu Kawara Kazuo Torashima Toshitsugu Saito
Economic Planning Agency Taichi Sakaiya Taichi Sakaiya Economic and Fiscal Policy Tarō Asō
Environment Kayoko Shimizu Yoriko Kawaguchi Yoriko Kawaguchi
Financial Reconstruction Sadakazu Tanigaki Hideyuki Aizawa Financial Affairs Hakuo Yanagisawa
National Public Safety Commission Bunmei Ibuki
Council for Science and Technology Policy Takashi Sasagawa

Later years[edit]

After resigning as prime minister, Mori remained a member of the House of Representatives, representing the Ishikawa 2nd district, until announcing in July 2012 that he would not stand in the December 2012 general election.[21]

He was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third highest civilian award, in 2004.

Russia diplomacy[edit]

Mori with Vladimir Putin on 25 March 2001

Mori remained an important player in Russo-Japanese relations following his resignation as prime minister due to his close personal relationship with Vladimir Putin. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of the Democratic Party of Japan considered tapping Mori in 2012 to resolve the dispute between the two countries over the Kuril Islands, despite the fact that Noda and Mori were from opposing parties in the Diet.[22] In 2013, Mori met with Putin and Sergey Naryshkin in preparations for a summit between Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Mori had at one time suggested that Japan could give Russia three of the four disputed islands in exchange for a peace treaty, which went against the Japanese government's official view that Moscow should acknowledge Japan's ownership of all four.[23]

Mori at the grave of his father in Shelekhov

Mori has a personal connection to Russia, as his father Shigeki Mori developed a relationship with the Siberian town of Shelekhov during his time as mayor of the city of Neagari, and developed a bilateral dialogue to improve the gravesites of Soviet soldiers in Japan and Japanese soldiers in Siberia; he was so close to Russia that Japanese authorities monitored him closely as a potential communist sympathizer. The elder Mori visited Shelekhov more than 15 times during his 35 years in office, and was buried there following his death.[24]

Sports-related advocacy[edit]

Mori became President of the Japan Rugby Football Union in June 2005. It had been hoped his clout would help secure the 2011 Rugby Union World Cup for Japan, but instead the event was awarded to New Zealand in late November 2005.[25] This led former PM Yoshiro Mori to accuse the Commonwealth of Nations countries of "passing the ball around their friends."[26] Mori later assisted in Japan's successful bids for both the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Summer Olympics.[3]

In 2014, at the age of 76, he was appointed to head the organizing committee for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He quipped that "I am destined to live five or six more years if I am lucky. This will be my one last service to the country."[3]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Chieko (born: Chieko Maki), a fellow Waseda University student, and he has a son, Yūki Mori, and a daughter, Yoko Fujimoto.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Profile: Yoshiro Mori BBC News, (2000-11-20, 08:34 GMT
  2. ^ 噂の眞相特別取材班「『サメの脳ミソ』と『ノミの心臓』を持つ森喜朗 "総理失格" の人間性の証明」 (『噂の眞相』2000年6月号、pp.24–31)
  3. ^ a b c "Mori says he may not live to see 2020 Olympics". AFP. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  4. ^ Famous Ruggers by Wes Clark and others, retrieved 19 August 2009
  5. ^ Edmund Terence Gómez (2002). Political Business in East Asia. Taylor & Francis Group. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-415-27148-6. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Efron, Sonni (5 April 2000). "A Ruling Party Veteran Becomes Japan's Premier". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c "Profile: Yoshiro Mori". BBC News. 20 November 2000. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Japan's prime minister adds more gaffes at Obuchi funeral Star-Banner
  9. ^ "Japanese PM sparks holy row". BBC News. 16 May 2000. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  10. ^ "Mori's Remarks Again Draw Criticism". Associated Press. 5 June 2000. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  11. ^ Schmetzer, Uli (24 June 2000). "Undecided Voters Are Sleeping Giant Of Japan Politics". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  12. ^ "Japan: The Mori effect". The Economist. 26 October 2000. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Pellegrini, Frank (15 March 2001). "Yoshiro Mori". TIME. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  14. ^ "Who Are You?". Snopes.com. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  15. ^ Martin, Peter (19 March 2001). "Farcical US / Japan Summit". ABC AM. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  16. ^ "Mori's Woes Grow With Scandals". Los Angeles Times. 3 August 2000. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  17. ^ "Japan's Ruling Party Moves to Quash Mutiny Over Mori". Associated Press. 20 November 2000. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  18. ^ Efron, Sonni (21 November 2000). "Japanese Premier Survives No-Confidence Vote". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  19. ^ "tions LDP Official Quits; Mori May Be at More Risk". Los Angeles Times. 1 December 2000. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  20. ^ "Mori Goes Public With Plan to Quit". Associated Press. 6 April 2001. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  21. ^ The Daily Yomiuri Ex-PM Mori not to run in next election Retrieved on July 24, 2012
  22. ^ Westlake, Adam (27 April 2012). "Noda considers asking former PM Mori to help with Russian dispute". Japan Daily Press. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  23. ^ Billones, Cherrie Lou (21 February 2013). "Ex-PM Mori meets with Putin to lay foundation for Abe’s visit to Russia". Japan Daily Press. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  24. ^ Reitman, Valerie (28 April 2000). "Personal Element to Japan Premier's Russia Trip". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  25. ^ Richards, p276
  26. ^ Richards, p277

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Mikio Aoki
Acting
Prime Minister of Japan
2000–2001
Succeeded by
Junichiro Koizumi
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Mikio Aoki
Chair of the G8
2000
Succeeded by
Giuliano Amato
Preceded by
Brazil Carlos Nuzman
President of Organizing Committee for Summer Olympic Games
2020
Succeeded by
TBD