Former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Mutsuki Kato died of heart failure Tuesday at a Tokyo hospital. He was 79.
A native of Okayama Prefecture, Kato was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1967 from the Liberal Democratic Party.
He served as agriculture minister twice — first under the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in the late 1980s and second under the Cabinet of Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata in the mid-1990s.
In addition, he took the posts of National Land Agency chief and chairman of the LDP’s Policy Affairs Research Council, now known as the Policy Research Council.
Kato belonged to the LDP faction led by Shintaro Abe and was dubbed one of the “big four,” along with Masajuro Shiokawa, Hiroshi Mitsuzuka and Yoshiro Mori.
After Abe died in 1991, Kato lost a power struggle with Mitsuzuka to inherit the faction.
Kato left the LDP in 1993 to join the breakaway party Shinseito, which was founded by Hata, then prime minister, and Ichiro Ozawa, the alliance’s primary strategist.
Kato retired from politics in June 2000 when the Lower House was dissolved. He was elected to the Diet 11 times.