52nd prime minister of Japan
and 1974 Nobel Peace Prize
laureate. Born on March 27, 1901 in Yamaguchi
Prefecture: his older brother Nobusuke left home to live with relatives and took on their name, becoming Kishi Nobusuke
. Eisaku entered Tokyo Imperial University
(now the University of Tokyo
) and received a degree in German law
. After graduation, he passed the civil service exam
and went to work in the Ministry of Railways
, where he steadily moved through the ranks until becoming Vice Minister for Transportation in 1947.
Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru appointed Sato to his first political post, Chief Cabinet Secretary, in 1948, and the political world moved Sato so much that he ran for election to the Diet in 1949. He became Secretary General of the Liberal Party from 1950 to 1954, and upon that party's demise joined the Liberal Democratic Party, becoming their Executive Council Chairman in 1957.
At that point, Sato was on the fast track to the premier's office, taking up the portfolios of Minister of Finance and Minister of International Trade and Industry. His next big political break was in 1964, when he was named minister in charge of overseeing the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. In December of that year, Sato was elected president of the LDP and became Japan's prime minister.
His three crowning achievements in office were the promulgation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the repatriation of Okinawa, and the normalization of Japan's relations with South Korea. He was seen as one of the first postwar Japanese politicians possessing the desire and ability to apologize and recompense for Japan's actions during the war. More importantly, the world saw him as a leader who was willing to expand his nation without resorting to violence or military action.
This was the Nobel Committee's justification for awarding Sato half of the 1974 Peace Prize (the other half went to United Nations Namibia commission chairman Sean MacBride). In his acceptance speech, Sato said:
Had the Nobel Prize been established a thousand years ago, the first recipient of the Prize for Literature might well have been a Japanese woman. Also, had Japan taken part in the life of the international community several centuries earlier, Japanese recipients of the Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Economic Science Prizes might well have been numerous. At present, the Japanese recipients of Nobel Prizes, including myself, number only five. To me, it seems, this offers food for thought.
I say this because Japanese history and culture have followed very unique paths. It is a fact that, because of our long isolation from other nations, we suffer from social awkwardness and we as a people have been unable to contribute actively to world civilization in a measure commensurate with our potential. We should, I think, reflect deeply on the unfortunate inadequacy of our efforts to influence or, rather, to communicate with the peoples of the world. Especially in recent times, in our haste to absorb Western civilization and culture, we have been somewhat deficient, I fear, in our efforts to let foreign nations know about our own civilization and culture.
Japan is basically a difficult nation to understand because the foundation of our culture differs so much from those of the West and of other Asian countries. Because this was so, we should have tried to make ourselves better understood. I cannot but admit that at a time when international understanding was required, our efforts to promote such understanding were inadequate.
When I think of the geniuses and great men of our country who failed to obtain international recognition, I feel all the more fortunate to have been accorded this precious prize. At the same time, I feel deeply the need to increase our own efforts to promote better international understanding.
It later came out that Sato's administration had been funding research into weapons of mass destruction
Sato died on June 3, 1975, survived by his wife Hiroko and sons Ryutaro and Shinji.
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