Kenzaburo Hara (legislator)

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Kenzaburo Hara (Japanese: 原 健三郎, Hara Kenzaburō, February 6, 1907 – November 7, 2004) Former House of Representatives of Japan Speaker Kenzaburo Hara, who had served as a legislator for 54 years until he retired in 2000, died of heart failure in Tokyo Saturday, his family said. He was 97.

Hara was first elected to the Diet in Japan's first post-war Lower House election held in 1946 with the backing of the now defunct Japan Progressive Party. He later joined the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He had served 20 terms, totaling 54 years, as a Lower House member until he retired from politics at the age of 93 in June 2000 shortly before a general election. Hara is the second longest serving legislator in the post-war period next only to former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone.

After serving as labor minister and director general of the National Land Agency and the Hokkaido Development Agency, he served as Lower House speaker from July 1986 to June 1989.

Known lovingly by his constituents by the nickname Haraken, Hara was one of the most influential politicians in Japan during the 20th century. He served as a legislator for over half the century and became the Speaker of the Lower House. He was first elected in 1946 as Douglas MacArthur arrived to oversee the occupation and reconstruction of Japan surrender of World War II. As one of the few legislators to speak proficient English, Hara was invited into the deliberations of MacArthur's inner circle. Hara made controversial statements as measured by western standards. He was criticized for saying, "Those who'll go to nursing care homes for the aged (after they grow old) are the worst," in a speech he delivered in a Coming-of-the-Age Day ceremony in Sumoto, Awaji Island, in January 1972. He had publicly pledged to voters in his home constituency to make sure that the Akashi Strait Bridge between Kobe and Awaji Island be built. As a sign of the influence he wielded, the bridge was opened to traffic in April 1998. Hara was born in Hokudan on the Hyogo Prefecture island of Awaji in 1907. After graduating from the political and economic department of Waseda University and the graduate course of the University of Oregon, he joined Kodansha Ltd., a major publishing house. He served as managing editor of the "Gendai" magazine before becoming a legislator. He is also known as either the original author or scenario writer of five of the nine movies in the popular "Wataridori" ("Migratory Bird") series produced by Nikkatsu Corp.