Yoshimi Watanabe

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Yoshimi Watanabe
渡辺 喜美
Yoshimi Watanabe cropped 1 YoshimiWatanabeJI1.jpg
Member of the House of Councillors
Assumed office
10 July 2016
ConstituencyNational PR
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
October 20, 1996 – 14 December 2014
Preceded byInaugural holder
Succeeded byKazuo Yana
ConstituencyTochigi 3rd district
Personal details
Born (1952-03-17) March 17, 1952 (age 66)
Political partyNippon Ishin no Kai
Other political
Liberal Democratic Party (1995-2009)
Your Party (2009-2012)

Yoshimi Watanabe (渡辺 喜美, Watanabe Yoshimi, born 17 March 1952) is a Japanese politician, member of Nippon Ishin no Kai, formerly of the Liberal Democratic Party and later the founder of Your Party. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 1996 to 2014, and returned to the Diet (national legislature) in 2016 as a member of the House of Councillors.[1]

Early life[edit]

Watanabe is a native of Nishinasuno, Nasu District, Tochigi (now part of the city of Nasushiobara) and graduated from Waseda University and Chuo University.

His father is Michio Watanabe, a major political figure first elected to the Diet while Watanabe was in junior high school.

Watanabe developed an interest in politics soon after his father was elected to office, and served as his father's secretary during the elder Watanabe's appointments as Minister of International Trade and Industry and Minister of Foreign Affairs.[2]

Yoshimi Watanabe's nephew Michitaro Watanabe is also a politician (member of the House of Councilors).

Political career[edit]

Following his father's death in 1995, Watanabe was elected to the House of Representatives for the first time in the 1996 general election, representing the Tochigi 3rd district, a newly created seat in his father's previous constituency in Tochigi Prefecture.[2] Watanabe continued to represent the district, having successfully defended it in five subsequent general elections before being defeated in 2014.

He was tapped by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to lead an administrative reform commission studying the potential for implementing the dōshūsei federal government system in Japan, and served in this capacity from 2006 to 2007.[3] From August 2007 to August 2008, Cabinet of Yasuo Fukuda served as Minister in charge of financial services and Minister in charge of administrative reform,he urged the U.S. government to use public funds to solve the deepening subprime mortgage crisis, stating that "if there is a big hole in the bottom of the tub, no matter how much hot water you keep adding, you will never have enough hot water."[4]

He supported Yuriko Koike in the 2008 LDP leadership election, which was ultimately won by Taro Aso.[5]

Your Party[edit]

Watanabe formed Your Party as a splinter from the Liberal Democratic Party prior to the 2009 general election. His party ran on a platform of downsizing Japan's vast bureaucracy, but managed to win only five seats in the election, which was a resounding victory for the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. The party pushed forward into 2010 with a platform of deregulation and halving the corporate tax rate.[6] His new party became popular among private investors and upper middle-class professionals.[7]

Your Party won ten seats in the House of Councillors in the 2010 election, the third-strongest showing behind the LDP and DPJ. Watanabe planned to use his party's popularity to push for fiscal reforms, stating: "Our priority is anti-deflation legislation because Japan's economy faces the risk of a double-dip recession. We want to revise the BOJ law so the central bank and the government can agree on a goal of 2 percent inflation within two to three years."[8] Watanabe was chosen as the Japanese public's most preferred candidate for prime minister in a July 2010 poll.[9]

In January 2012, Watanabe announced that Your Party would join forces with Osaka governor Toru Hashimoto's political group Osaka Ishin-no-kai, and praised Hashimoto's economic reform efforts in Osaka.[10] He announced that Your Party would sever ties with Hashimoto's Japan Restoration Party in May 2013 after Hashimoto made controversial comments regarding comfort women being a necessary part of World War II and suggesting that American servicemen use the Japanese sex industry to keep their urges under control.[11]

Watanabe opposed the appointment of Haruhiko Kuroda as president of the Bank of Japan, saying that he would prefer to see a president come from a background other than the Ministry of Finance; he instead supported Heizo Takenaka for the position.[12]

Scandal and resignation[edit]

In April 2014, Watanabe was found to have accepted a loan of 800 million yen from the chairman of a cosmetics company without disclosing it as a political donation. While insisting that the loan was used for personal purposes and not for political activities, he resigned as president of Your Party.[13] The party commissioned an investigation by an outside attorney and CPA, who found that Watanabe had paid interest on the loan and had mainly used the funds for paying credit card bills for himself and his wife. While they found no violation of campaign finance laws, they discovered that Watanabe had also borrowed money from five other parties totaling 615 million yen.[14]

In the 2014 House of Representatives election, Watanabe lost his Tochigi 3 seat as an independent to Liberal Democrat Kazuo Yana by more than 11.000 votes.[15] In the 2016 House of Councillors election, Initiatives from Osaka announced that he would be nominated in the (nationwide) proportional district.[16] He won a seat in the election, stating after the victory that "the story of my 'revenge' starts today. I would like to restart from scratch and work hard."[1]


Affiliated to the openly revisionist lobby Nippon Kaigi,[17] Watanabe is a member of the following right-wing groups in the Diet:

  • Nippon Kaigi Diet discussion group (日本会議国会議員懇談会 - Nippon kaigi kokkai giin kondankai)
  • Conference of parliamentarians on the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership (神道政治連盟国会議員懇談会 - Shinto Seiji Renmei Kokkai Giin Kondankai) - NB: SAS a.k.a. Sinseiren, Shinto Political League
  • Diet Members to Discuss Japanese Future and History Education (日本の前途と歴史教育を考える議員の会)
  • Pro-Yasukuni Alliance (みんなで靖国神社に参拝する国会議員の会)

Watanabe gave the following answers to the questionnaire submitted by Mainichi to parliamentarians in 2014:[18]

In media[edit]

He appears in "Takeshi-no-TV-tackle", a humorous political discussion show hosted by comedian Takeshi Kitano.

Personal life[edit]

Watanabe is married with three children.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Once ousted from Diet, Watanabe makes comeback with Upper House win". The Japan Times. Kyodo. 11 July 2016. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "プロフィール". Yoshimi Watanabe official site. Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  3. ^ Tadashi, Hitora (27 December 2012). "The Changing Face of Decentralization Moves". Nippon.com. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  4. ^ "Japan Official Urges U.S. Subprime Bailout". AP. 23 April 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  5. ^ Kageyama, Yuri (21 September 2008). "Japan premier race gets first female candidate". AP. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  6. ^ Brickley, Adam (8 July 2010). "Japanese Tea? Free market crusader Watanabe poised for big gains in Japanese elections". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  7. ^ Amano, Tomomichi (3 June 2010). "After Hatoyama, It's Their Party?". Wall Street Journal Japan Real Time. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  8. ^ Sakamaki, Sachiko (14 July 2010). "Watanabe's Your Party to Push Inflation Target, Bank of Japan Policy Steps". Bloomberg. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  9. ^ Jackson, Paul (27 July 2010). "Bureaucratic Fascism? Japan's preferred choice for PM says the country could slip back into 'bureaucratic fascism.'". The Diplomat. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  10. ^ "Your Party throws in with Osaka Mayor Hashimoto". The Asahi Shimbun. 29 January 2012. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  11. ^ "Survey: Public support for Hashimoto's party drops after remarks". The Asahi Shimbun. 20 May 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  12. ^ Anstey, Christopher (2 February 2013). "Abe Shortens List for BOJ Chief as Japan Faces Monetary Overhaul". Bloomberg. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Yoshimi Watanabe quits as leader of Your Party over cash scandal". AFP. 9 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  14. ^ "みんな、渡辺氏の借り入れ「違法性なし」 調査結果公表". Nihon Keizai Shimbun. 24 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  15. ^ Yomiuri Shimbun: 2014 House of Representatives election results, Tochigi
  16. ^ Initiatives from Osaka: Candidates for the 24th regular election of members of the House of Councillors
  17. ^ Nippon Kaigi website
  18. ^ Mainichi 2014: senkyo.mainichi.jp/47shu/meikan.html?mid=A09003003003

External links[edit]

House of Representatives of Japan
Preceded by
Seat created
Representative for Tochigi's 3rd District
1996 – 2014
Succeeded by
Kazuo Yana
Political offices
Preceded by
Yuji Yamamoto
Financial Services
Genichiro Sata
Administrative Reform
Minister of State for Financial Services and Administrative Reform of Japan
Succeeded by
Toshimitsu Motegi
Preceded by
Kōki Chūma
Minister of State for Regulatory Reform of Japan
Succeeded by
Fumio Kishida