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Former House of Representatives Speaker Kenzaburo Hara died Saturday at a Tokyo hospital, his family said. He was 97.

Hara, who graduated from Waseda University in 1931 and received a master’s degree from the University of Oregon, was first elected to the Lower House in 1946 from a district in Hyogo Prefecture. He was re-elected 19 times.

Until his retirement in June 2000, he served as labor minister twice, and state minister and director general of the National Land Agency and the Hokkaido Development Agency, which were integrated into the newly established Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry in 2001 in a reorganization of government bodies. He was speaker of the Lower House from 1986 to 1989.

A straightforward politician, Hara was known for pushing the project to build the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge that spans the Akashi Strait between Kobe and Awaji Island, where he hailed from.

Kyodo News

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