Outgoing Tokyo Gov. Yukio Aoshima did not show his true colors to the very end.
On the last day of his governorship, the TV script writer-turned politician wrapped up his four-year term in a humdrum fashion.
“I feel greatly relieved after fulfilling my tenure,” he told reporters Thursday morning at the main gate of the metropolitan government building as he began his final day.
Later, during his last executive council, he told top officials, “Thanks to efforts made by metropolitan officials, I came to this day without committing any serious mistakes.”
In the afternoon at his last news conference, Aoshima, 66, merely reiterated that he had accomplished all his tasks as governor and has no regrets. “I am so happy to feel that I have done all the things I had to do,” Aoshima said. “From now on, I wish as a citizen that Tokyo will further develop.”
Egged on by reporters to get it all off his chest, Aoshima flatly responded that he had no gripes or resentment. He even refrained from commenting on Gov.-elect Shintaro Ishihara. Not even Ishihara’s controversial stance on China could muster a response from the outgoing governor.
And he declined to complain about his treatment in the media. As for future plans, he did not divulge any.
Asked to grade his governorship, Aoshima said: “I don’t know how you evaluate me, but I want to say to myself that I did a good job; I would give myself a full mark.”
The reserved comments probably are not what Tokyo citizens expected in 1995 when they cast more than 1.7 million votes for the then outspoken former Upper House member.
When Aoshima the maverick shocked the nation’s established political parties and delighted the public back then with his victory over a top bureaucrat backed by most political parties, many thought he was going to open a new era in the conservative metropolitan administration.
He carried through on his top campaign pledge to scrap the World City Expo, a multibillion-yen project promoted by former Gov. Shunichi Suzuki, despite strong opposition from officials and assembly members. His relationship with metropolitan assembly soured after that, but Tokyoites praised Aoshima’s bold decision.
Other than the cancellation, however, Aoshima mostly remained in the shadow of bureaucrats; he filled vice governors’ seats with metropolitan officials, repeatedly saying that competent metropolitan officials are his best brains, and read out manuscripts prepared by officials in assembly sessions.
All the while, Aoshima appeared discontented. “Having my image as a TV personality and a Diet member, people probably wanted me to do something really extraordinary, but this is such a large organization with its own history,” he once told The Japan Times. “To steer a ship in the right direction for 12 million Tokyo citizens in a way that they can expect a bright future, how can I be so reckless?”
Aoshima may be right in saying it is untrue that all he did was scrap the expo. Indeed, it was Aoshima who opened up most of the proceedings of the metropolitan government’s advisory panels, began charging fees for office garbage collection, part of his project to create a recycling society; and scrapped 12 of 14 public facility construction projects. “I think these things could be done only by me,” he said in a recent speech. “If I had a deep relationship with established political parties, these acts would have been impossible.”
It would not be fair to say that the metropolitan government’s current financial crisis is his fault, considering that the metropolis’ revenues depend on corporate taxes, which have been in a long tailspin throughout the lingering nationwide recession.
Aoshima may want to complain that Tokyoites, and the media, had expected too much of him. But all the people really wanted of him was, perhaps, to explain metropolitan politics in his own words, spiced with his celebrated wit and humor.
And Thursday was his last chance to deliver, to undo a reputation that had gone stale. But he didn’t give it a try. Until the conversation turned to money.
After days of speculation, Aoshima said he has decided not to give up his retirement allowance of 47 million yen. Asked by reporters how he would use the money, he replied, “For the last four years, my income was one-fourth (of that of previous years). If I take money matters seriously, I would never have served as governor.”