Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone of Japan declares that the national telephone system will be privatised, ending its long monopoly as a state-owned enterprise. This is a major concession to the United States Congress, which regarded telecommunications as one area in which the Japanese needed to increase market access.
Ceremonies are held for the five hundred twenty victims of the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123, which slammed into Mount Takamagahara. Among the dead is 1950’s Japanese pop artist, Kyu Sakamoto.
There is popular discontent in Japan after Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone announces that his nation will exceed spending 1% of GDP on military over the next five years, with an average of 1.03%. The Socialist Party leadership declare that Nakasone is “dragging the nation back to the path of war”. Two-thirds of the population opposes the decision.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone cancels a second official pilgrimage to Yasukuni Shrine, a shrine commemorating Japanese war dead in Tokyo. It is alleged that China has threatened that Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian would be unavailable to meet with Japan’s Foreign Minister, Shintaro Abe, at scheduled talks if the pilgrimage had gone ahead.
Ultra-leftists called the Chukaku-Ha sabotage the core of the Japanese rail network, bringing Tokyo, Osaka and five other cities to a standstill. There have been a series of rolling strikes by the Locomotive Engineers Union to protest the government proposal to break up Japan National Railways and sell it to private enterprise.
The Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Schevardnadze arrives in Tokyo, the first Soviet official to visit the country in ten years. He is met by right-wing activists demanding the Kuril Islands be placed under Japanese sovereignty. At the terse talks, the USSR criticises the deployment of F-16’s near the Soviet border and urges Japan to stay away from SDI participation. Japanese Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe expresses strong regret about the Soviet decision to deploy SS-20 missiles in the north-western Pacific. Nonetheless, the two parties agree to pursue joint development opportunities and limit taxes on Soviet-Japanese trade.
Hoping to boost international trade, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone announces a number of measures. Public infrastructure spending will be increased, taxation on water and power will be reduced and interest rates will be lowered by 25 basis points to 5.25% per annum. In addition, charges applied to international airfares will be reduced, decreasing the cost of international travel by Japanese by 25% overall. All these measures are aimed at dislodging savings and turning them into investments.
The Japanese House of Representatives goes to an election and sweeps the field, confirming Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone for a record third term with a smashing and unprecedented victory. Under his Liberal Democratic Party bylaws, he will be required to step down next October, but Nakasone is hopeful that the victory and strong polls number will allow him to see off a challenge by Minister of Finance, Noboru Takeshita.
A Soviet trade delegation arrives in Japan to meet with returned Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. The visitors are keen to obtain Japanese loans for plants and equipment, arguing that Japanese capital and Soviet resources provide the opportunity for unique synchronicity. In future times, this event will be seen as the beginning of the rapprochement between the Soviet Union and Japan.
The US Central Intelligence Agency discovers that, during June, the Soviet Gosbank had transferred over $1.3 billion in gold to Japan. The reasoning for the transfer is unclear and the Soviets have not imported any Japanese cars or cameras or VCRs. Further research quickly shows that the prize went directly to Emperor Showa of Japan, with $180 million being used to make special commemorative coins celebrating the Emperor’s 60th year on the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone announces a new Cabinet, replacing many colleagues in an attempt to solidify his bid to remain party leader. The new Minister of Administrative Affairs, Ryutaro Hashimoto, is regarded as a potential future Prime Minister, as is new Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.
Takako Doi is elected as the first female to head a major Japanese political party when she is chosen as party chairman for the Japan Socialist Party. However, she faces the task of reconstructing the party after the smashing victory by Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone.
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone of Japan dismisses his education spokesman after the latter excuses the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910 and the 1937 rape of the city of Nanking. The South Korean government postpones a meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister and threatens to cancel Nakasone’s upcoming visit to Seoul.
The Bank of Japan decides that falls in the manufacturing sector are unacceptable. Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone privately states that 200 yen to the dollar is the ideal exchange rate for the protection of Japanese industry after the GNP growth is projected to fall to 2.5% by February. He also calls for special assistance to the manufacturing sector to allow it to re-equip itself for exclusively high technology work, but rules out any rescue for mining, steel and shipbuilding industries.
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone announces a plan to overhaul the Japanese tax code. He states that he wants to provide the country with a massive simplification of the tax system, but it will be expensive. The changes are projected to take a further $55 billion in revenue, despite the dramatic decrease in corporate taxes, due to a new five percent consumption tax. The action is criticised, as Nakasone went to last year’s election with a promise not to introduce large scale tax reform. The White House issues a statement, arguing that it offers no new advantages for US investment.
Potential Democratic candidate for US President, Reverend Jesse Jackson, meets with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. During the meeting, he suggests that the United States should boycott Japanese goods whose companies fail to ensure they have equal opportunity employment practices. He names Toyota for allowing inequality within its workplace.
Japanese expenditure on defence moves to 1.004% of GDP, passing the psychologically significant 1% mark for the first time since 1978. American observers welcome the move, stating that it will end Japan’s over-reliance on the United States and boost domestic consumption in Japan. Nakasone defends the move strongly, arguing that it is necessary to meet the popularly-endorsed Mid-Term Defence Estimate and that it is a short-term aberration which will disappear by 1990. Over the next nine months, he successfully builds support for the policy with the Japanese people so as to have a narrow majority of the population in favour of the change.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone announces that unemployment in his nation has risen to 3.1%, the highest since employment statistics have been kept. He announces large scale public borrowing in order to fund greater expenditure on public infrastructure and job creation outside declining industry. On the same day, the yen will rise further still, reaching ¥141 to each dollar, having risen 45% in the past two years.
Support for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone falls dramatically in new polls after he refuses to back down from his plans for tax reform. There are rumblings within Nakasone’s Liberal Democratic Party and factional heavyweight Shintaro Abe is said to have cancelled a trip abroad scheduled for the coming month.
It is hinted that Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone may be in his last days after he suffers a significant setback in local election results. The response to the new sales tax and the growing trade war with the United States has driven the Prime Minister’s approval rating down to a new low of 27%. Nakasone contacts the new US President to suggest a bilateral meeting between the two nations.
Yasuhiro Nakasone, Prime Minister of Japan, arrives in the United States for a summit with the new President, George Bush. He announces that the successful passage of his highly-unpopular consumption tax will allow Japan to significantly reduce interest rates. Over the next six months, interest rates will fall in Japan by an average of 1.75%, in turn boosting support for Nakasone in preparation for a leadership ballot due in October.
Japanese officials express concern about endaka, the strong yen which is stalling its much-vaunted export machine. They point to the deaths of twelve major corporation chief executives this year. According to Yomiuri Shimbun, the executives are martyred warriors to the economic downturn and blame is levelled at a “national obsession with perfectionism”.
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone announces that he will retire from leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party on 5 November. There are three candidates who are immediately named as potential successors. The largest faction supports Noboru Takeshita, the party chairman who is viewed as cautious by his supporters and unoriginal by his critics. His two opponents are the urbane and witty Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa and the open, easygoing Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe.
Political reporters in Tokyo hint that, with striking disagreements among the leading candidates to succeed Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, the Liberal Democratic Party has agreed to allow the current party chairman to choose his own successor.
Japan’s new Prime Minister Shintaro Abe declares his strong support for the Nakasone consumption tax and categorically rules out any changes on that front. He also suggests that the Bank of Japan can no longer continue to artificially support low interest rates in the interests of the US economy, given the recent stock market buffeting experienced by all. Some LDP members express concern privately, but the coalition between Abe and Kiichi Miyazawa is expected to hold out any challenge from Noroburu Takeshita.
President George Bush gives Japan a diplomatic “slap over the wrist” for violating the whaling moratorium, banning Japanese fishing vessels from US waters. This is symbolic, as no Japanese vessels have fishing rights anyway.
The Japanese city of Hamamatsu experiences a bout of six deaths after citizen vigilante groups turn on members of the yakuza, their national version of the Mafia. They break into the local “headquarters” after years of threats, blackmail and violence. A three-hundred man taskforce is inserted from other communities to escort the yakuza out.
Taking advantage of the Japanese real estate boom, Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovlev announces the sale of part of its acreage-sized embassy in Tokyo and a small piece of land nearby for $450 million. He states that the money will be used to build a new ambassadorial residence, apartments for embassy staff and a renovation of the four-storey chancery to bring the diplomatic mission into line with the policy of “constructive engagement” with Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Shintaro Abe confirms that Japan has now surpassed the United States and the Soviet Commonwealth to become the largest source of development assistance for the world’s poorer countries. In the last calendar year, Japan gave just over $10 billion, compared to Washington’s $9.5 billion. It also pledged twice that amount in cheap loans, with the Bank of Japan helping reschedule many high-interest debts originated by US and European banks.
Prime Minister Shintaro Abe dismisses the head of a government agency after the latter claims that China was the aggressor nation in World War II. Apologising for the remark, Abe expresses concern about “chauvinistic psychology” and calls the dismissal an “effective measure” for containing it.
Japanese Prime Minister Shintaro Abe expresses the hope that the trade surplus will come in this year at under $80 billion, down from $96 billion last year. He further states that he would be willing to consider quota reductions given the recent Franklin proposal, but that rice would remain sacrosanct in terms of any change to tariffs.
Japanese Prime Minister Shintaro Abe gives a major foreign policy speech in Ottawa, stating that his country is moving from being a “protégé” of the United States to being “an equal partner”. He foreshadows closer relations with the Philippines and a role in the reconstruction of telecommunications and transport systems in Afghanistan. He also announces that the Japanese Self-Defence Forces will be replacing their air fleet over the next decade with the F/A-18 and will begin sharing costs equally with the US for all its forces currently stationed in Japan.
Japanese newspapers release the names of 76 public figures who have been involved in technically legal but highly unethical deals with a real estate company called Recruit Cosmos. The president of Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan’s answer to the Wall Street Journal, admits that he was paid to promote the company and resigns. Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone is accused of involvement, as is Liberal Democratic Party chairman Noboru Takeshita and Cabinet Secretary Takao Fujinami. It appears as though Prime Minister Shintaro Abe has not been involved.
Japanese investors in Australia find themselves subjected to protests over local concerns about the degree of foreign ownership. Japanese companies have invested $6.5 billion on Australian land holdings in the past two years. Prime Minister Bob Hawke responds by placing limits on foreign investment in the residential property market, but states the country will continue to “warmly welcome” two hundred thousand Japanese tourists each year.
Japanese interest in the recent candidacy of Jesse Jackson in the US presidential race has led to the creation of a cartoon to promote a large-eyed black toy doll. According to Japanese ad executives, black is now “sexy, kawaii, energetic”. However, it does not change traditional Japanese racism, where stereotypes about all races abound due to centuries of homogenisation and isolation.
Prime Minister Shintaro Abe of Japan arrives in China for a six-day trip, stating he needs to “end the era of irritations”. He commits $6 billion in aid for over forty development projects and, in return, Secretary General Zhao Ziyang declares that Japan will enjoy the same investment protections and tax status given to Chinese investors.
Japanese ships are sent to save two coral atolls which have been eroding in the Philippines Sea. The Okinotorishima, called “islands” by the Japanese and claimed in 1931, are actually just rocks that barely remain visible at high tide. Nonetheless, they form the basis for a Japanese claim for an economic exclusion zone of over 400,000 square kilometres around the atolls. Their complete disappearance would significantly impact Japanese fishing rights in the region and Tokyo is spending $225 million to completely surround the site in concrete.
The Japanese Imperial Household confirms what has been suspected for the last eighteen months. 87-year-old Emperor Hirohito, who has reigned over Japan for 62 years and is the last of the World War II-era heads of state, had advanced pancreatic and intestinal cancer and is deteriorating quickly. The Cabinet meets and asks Crown Prince Akihito to assume his father’s ceremonial duties, as well as cancelling the Grand Ginza extravaganza.
Japan enters a period of jishuku (self-restraint) with all trips abroad cancelled, festivals cancelled, television rewritten to remove frivolity and abandonment of bright clothing. The national psyche is one of profound sorrow and emotion as they prepare for the impending death of Emperor Hirohito. Prime Minister Shintaro Abe orders readiness for the change of all official documents as the Showa era draws to a close and the Heisei era prepares to dawn. Plans are made for the $75 million daijosai (enthronement) ceremony of Crown Prince Akihito as the new Emperor.
Japanese mainframe computer giant, Fujitsu, announces an investment of $1.29 billion in IBM. The payment obtains for Fujitsu the right to use the Big Blue operating system until 1997. This is considered significant as IBM and Fujitsu were disputing intellectual ownership of the system.
Japanese Finance Minister Keiichi Miyazawa, who has been perceived as the power behind Prime Minister Shintaro Abe, is forced to resign over allegations of corruption. Joining him is the head of Japanese Telegraph and Telephone in the widening stock scandal which has now claimed a number of political and business leaders.
皇帝は死ぬ。Hirohito dies at the age of 87 and becomes Showa. The Japanese people enter a period of intense grief. He was the longest-serving monarch in the world and the last of the World War II leadership. As public tears are shed, Emperor Akihito receives the imperial and state seals and the treasures of Amaterasu, the Shinto goddess. The age of Heisei has begun.
The popularity of Prime Minister Shintaro Abe of Japan falls to 33%, the lowest since he took office, over the Recruit bribery scandal which claimed his Finance Minister last month. Now Justice Minister Takashi Hasegawa has also been forced to resign. There is speculation that Noboru Takeshita, strengthened by defectors from other factions, may move to displace Abe as leader. Market trading has also been poor for some time, with new taxes and regulation.
Rather than live in the ornate Imperial Palace, Emperor Akihito of Japan decides to reside in a two-storey nondescript house deep inside the palace grounds. A three-month period of mourning has been declared. In reports on the late Emperor, it is revealed that he was a world expert on jellyfish. It is also reported that his last words were, “That redwood has grown tall.”
Emperor Akihito confirms that the funeral for Emperor Showa will be conducted on 24 February. There is dispute in countries across the world as to how they should be represented at the occasion, with both the Netherlands and China expressing their intent to provide only ambassadorial representation. Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke states that he cannot attend the funeral and British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock agrees to send the Duke of Edinburgh instead of a government representative. However, President Suharto of Indonesia and Prime Minister Aquino of the Philippines both state they will attend, and it is widely expected that US President George Bush will attend as well. Most Japanese are already complaining about the loss of their regular television shows for long and continuous studies of Hirohito.
Five days after the funeral, the body of Emperor Showa is transported through the streets of Tokyo to the imperial gardens at Shinjuku Gyoen, escorted by the Imperial Guard, for internment. Thousands of Japanese line the streets to farewell the Emperor, some bowing and some weeping, as the new Emperor oversees his father’s last rites.
Hisashi Shinto, chairman of Nippon Telephone and Telegraph, and Takashi Kato, Vice Minister of Labour, are both taken into custody over the Recruit bribery scandal. It has already claimed three ministers, and the LDP government has plunged in the polls to a record low of 24%.
Japan receives the first of its new F/A-18 Hornets from the United States. Prime Minister Shintaro Abe states that he is currently negotiating an agreement to allow Mitsubishi to manufacture two thirds of the Japanese order on behalf of McDonnell Douglas, with Mitsubishi paying for intellectual property but ensuring Japan gets the jobs. US Commerce Secretary John Sununu states that he may agree to a deal provided the most crucial design secrets are not given away.
Japanese Finance Minister Noboru Takeshita becomes the third member of the Cabinet to be torn down by the Recruit bribery scandal, with suggestions that he may have taken up to $1 million in “donations”. Prime Minister Shintaro Abe states that, if elections were held now, it would be suicide for the Liberal Democratic Party, which has been in power for 34 years. However, elections are due for the upper house of the Diet by mid-August, where it is expected the LDP will lose its majority. Abe pledges to reform Japan’s corrupt electoral system, stating that “there is no quick way out of this crisis”.
Former Prime Minister of Japan, Yasuhiro Nakasone, and former finance minister and power broker, Noboru Takeshita, are charged by police after evidence is found demonstrating both had received 25 million yen in bribes during 1987. Prime Minister Shintaro Abe insists that he has “clean hands” and will fully prosecute all involved. He admits that the LDP will likely lose upper house elections later this year, but predicts that he will turn the party around for the lower house elections, which are due in mid-1990.
Japanese Prime Minister Shintaro Abe, tackled by international media in Paris, states that he believes he will “regain the confidence of the people” through political reform. He admits that the LDP has been embarrassed by the Recruit scandal, but claims the nation has seen “the opening of the last chapter” on the corruption issue. He also states that Japan is ready to “take seriously its obligations” in environmental changes promoted by the Earth Summit.
Japanese Foreign Minister Sosuke Uno resigns after new leaks regarding a geisha mistress he keeps in a Tokyo apartment. He is replaced by former Education Minister, Toshiki Kaifu. The issue adds to the image of incompetence in the Liberal Democrats leadership, despite the fact that many of their senior leadership and four Cabinet ministers have been forced out.