chapter  3
23 Pages

Kaifu Toshiki: Mr. Clean plays it safe

The case of Prime Minister Miki in Chapter 2 illustrates the importance of individual agency in the passage of reform. However, skeptics might not be convinced. An alternative explanation would be that the public was outraged by the circumstances that led to Tanaka’s resignation. Unable to ignore this pressure, politicians passed reform. In this explanation, the argument is: leader or no leader, politicians pass reform following scandals. This argument, however, does not hold up next to the evidence when all electoral system and political funding reform attempts in postwar Japan are considered. One example of scandal failing to lead to political reform is the Recruit Cosmos scandal, a large stocks-for-favors scandal in the late 1980s. The following discussion reveals that reform was not realized during this period because the prime minister in office when the Recruit scandal broke, Takeshita Noboru, did not have the desire to implement reform, and his successor, Kaifu Toshiki, did not take any significant risks to push reform through the Diet. The Recruit scandal and the actions of Kaifu Toshiki represent a case of a leader’s unsuccessful pursuit of reform. Scandal alone is not enough to secure the passage of reform. A leader is required to take advantage of the conditions created by the scandal.