Murayama Tomiichi was the prime minister
from June 1994
to January 1996
. He was born in Sumiyoshi
, on March 3, 1924
, the sixth child in a family of eleven. In 1942
, after graduating from a commercial junior high school
, he entered Meiji University
and studied economics
and political science
After the end of World War II, Murayama began his political career with a failed bid for the Oita municipal assembly. He got in on his second attempt, and soon became a member of the Social Democratic Party of Japan. Under this new backing, he was elected to the prefectural legislature in Oita.
In 1972, Murayama married his wife, Yoshie, and made a successful bid for the Diet, entering the House of Representatives. As a member of the Social/Labor Committee, his focus was on pensions, health care, and welfare. Murayama rose to prominence within the liberal opposition, and in 1993, he became chairman of the SDPJ.
At that time, the Liberal Democratic Party's 40-year monopoly on power was falling apart, and Murayama's SDPJ was part of the coalition that brought Japan New Party president Hosokawa Morihiro to the Kantei. In 1994, the coalition split, and the LDP, SDPJ, and New Party Sakigake coalesced to elect Murayama prime minister, making him Japan's first socialist premier since Katayama Tetsu in 1948.
However, Murayama's government was not nearly as clear-cut. While the SDPJ was a fairly left-wing party, the LDP was in the middle right, and the Sakigake was somewhere around the middle.
Murayama was dogged, in particular, by his LDP Minister of International Trade and Industry, Hashimoto Ryutaro. (On postwar Japanese cabinets, the MITI minister is one of the most powerful individuals, and very likely to become the next prime minister.) Murayama and Hashimoto were in many ways like night and day: the prime minister was a white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, soft-spoken gentleman from humble roots, while the LDP's young turk was a slick, bright-eyed, raven-haired kendoist from a political family.
1995 wasn't the best year for Japan, what with the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Aum Shinrikyo sarin attacks on the Tokyo subway and the schoolgirl rape incidents in Okinawa. The SDPJ ended up losing seats in the House of Councillors elections, and the LDP finally won back the upper hand in the Diet. Hashimoto, who had shone during negotiations with American auto makers, began to eclipse Murayama in popularity, and the coalition began to break down from within.
The elder premier's saving grace was his awe-inspiring statesmanship on the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, when he said:
Now that Japan has come to enjoy peace and abundance, we tend to overlook the pricelessness and blessings of peace. Our task is to convey to younger generations the horrors of war, so that we never repeat the errors in our history. I believe that, as we join hands, especially with the peoples of neighboring countries, to ensure true peace in the Asia-Pacific region -- indeed in the entire world -- it is necessary, more than anything else, that we foster relations with all countries based on deep understanding and trust...
During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology. Allow me also to express my feelings of profound mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, of that history.
In January of 1996
, the SDPJ left the government coalition, and Hashimoto became prime minister. Murayama remained in the Diet until September, when he resigned from the presidency of the SDPJ. However, he remains active in politics, and is currently president of the Council for Japan–Vietnam Friendship and Peace Development
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