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Power and Pork

Power and Pork: A Japanese Political Life OPEN ACCESS

AURELIA GEORGE MULGAN
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: ANU Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jbjf8
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  • Book Info
    Power and Pork
    Book Description:

    Power and Pork: a Japanese political life aims to tell the 'inside story' of a Japanese politician—Matsuoka Toshikatsu—one of the more controversial members of Japan's national Diet. Matsuoka belongs to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) as a representative of the Lower House constituency of Kumamoto No. 3, one of Japan's regional electorates. His behaviour has been the subject of much speculation and commentary in the media. The book details Matsuoka's political stratagems and policy activities as an archetypal 'traditional' politician representing farm and rural interests. As an old-style, old-guard LDP Diet member, Matsuoka is the kind of politician that former Prime Minister Koizumi targeted in his attempt to reform his own party and the policymaking process. Matsuoka's reversal of fortune under Prime Minister Abe with his appointment to the post of Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries raises questions about the durability of Koizumi's reforms. The scope of the work is contemporary Japanese domestic politics, including electoral processes, zoku influence, pork barrelling and 'money politics' as exemplified by one of its key players. Power and Pork gives an account of how Matsuoka has catered to local, sectional and clientele interests in order to build and retain his political power base. One of the most important conclusions of the book is that individual ruling party backbenchers can exercise extraordinary influence over government policy in Japan.  

    eISBN: 978-1-920942-33-5
    Subjects: History, Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. The story told in this book—or rather the inside story of a political life that now spans 16 years—is neither pure biography nor pure scholarly treatise. It falls somewhere in between. It is not pure biography because it is only concerned with political phenomena. It focuses on the political career, connections, performance and activities of one of Japan’s Diet politicians, Matsuoka Toshikatsu, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) member in Japan’s House of Representatives for Kumamoto No. 3 district. His private life outside politics is only of incidental interest to this account.

    Some may feel that such an approach will...

  2. Born in February 1945, Matsuoka Toshikatsu was the eldest son of an ordinary farming household in Aso Town in Aso County in Kumamoto Prefecture.¹ His family home (jika) remains there to this day, in the locality that has been central to his whole political life. The setting is quintessentially rural in the Japanese style. As Matsuoka himself puts it, ‘in my boyhood, I grew up as a high-spirited young lad revelling in mother nature at the foot of Mt Aso, which is an active volcano in Kyushu.’²

    After graduating from junior high school, Matsuoka lodged in Kumamoto City while attending...

  3. Matsuoka, like every other Lower House Diet member, faced a vastly altered political world and electoral landscape as a result of the overhaul of the Lower House electoral system in 1994. The most important aspect of the changes was the restructuring of the Lower House electoral system into a combination of 300 first-past-the-post single-member districts (SMDs) and 11 regional blocs electing 200 candidates on a proportional representation (PR) basis.¹ The electoral boundaries in Kumamoto Prefecture were redrawn, which changed its electoral composition from two MMDs to five SMDs. Now that Matsuoka was contesting a seat as the only LDP candidate,...

  4. Where and how Matsuoka would exercise power in Japanese politics was to some extent predetermined. His career background, political connections and electoral support dictated both the policy interests that he represented and the policy activities that he pursued. These factors led him inexorably to his role as a nôrin giin, a representative of agricultural and forestry interests in the party and in the Diet.

    As soon as Matsuoka entered the Diet in 1990 (see Table 4.1), he joined the LDP’s Comprehensive Agricultural Policy Investigation Committee (CAPIC) (Sôgô Nôsei Chôsakai), one of the investigation committees of the PARC.¹ CAPIC was formed...

  5. Matsuoka followed the classical career pattern for a zoku. His long-standing membership of PARC and Diet committees on agricultural and forestry, his attainment of the top executive positions in the key committees as well as his subcabinet positions on agriculture, forestry and fisheries earned him membership of the LDP’s agriculture and forestry ‘tribe’. Acquisition of formal policy positions over a period of time indicated an accumulated level of expertise and influence in a particular policy domain as well as the possession of close relations with the ministry responsible for administering that sector. As Matsuoka aspired to senior executive positions in...

  6. Matsuoka’s motto is ‘straight truth and take great care of those who take care of you’.¹ An example of ‘taking care of those who take care of you’ is Murakami Kôsuke, who served for two years as head of the Kumamoto Prefecture Agricultural Policy Department until 2000, and who became ‘policy advisor in charge’ (seisaku tantô komon) of the Kumamoto Prefecture Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives and related prefectural Nokyo federations. He said, ‘Matsuoka looked after me a lot, and I am grateful to him.’²

    As for Matsuoka’s commitment to ‘straight truth’, when, in 2001, journalists from the Bungei Shunjû...

  7. The fallout from the Muneo affair and various scandals continued to swirl around Matsuoka in 2002 and 2003. He tried to rehabilitate his reputation in various ways, but in the end he paid a political price in the 2003 Lower House election. Paradoxically, this was also an election in which brakes were put on the popularity of Prime Minister Koizumi, whom Matsuoka openly opposed.¹

    Matsuoka became well known to the broader electorate in Japan as one of the most outspoken members of the teikô seiryoku. In a blatantly self-serving fashion, he went around preaching the errors of Koizumi’s reforms.² He...

  8. 8 CONCLUSION (pp. 251-253)

    What is it like to be a Japanese politician in the LDP? How do such politicians fill their days? What kinds of issues motivate them? How do they gather support? This book has tried to answer these and other related questions by personalising Japanese politics as a story of an individual politician. Its approach, although superficially similar to a political biography, is very different in purpose. While eschewing generalisation, it has aspired to yield the kind of understanding and insights about Japanese politics that have previously been derived from more general, orthodox studies. Japanese politics lends itself to such analysis...