Former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s first-person “biography” of late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, “Tensai” (“Genius”), remains atop best-seller lists. It is interesting to note that when Tanaka was alive Ishihara berated him as a crude opportunist. The years have obviously tempered his view, or perhaps Ishihara’s own political career helped him appreciate how an uneducated hick without connections could become the most powerful man in Japan.

The incident that caused Tanaka’s downfall, the 1970s Lockheed bribery scandal, received greater coverage overseas than it did in Japan, and one of Ishihara’s favorite themes as a public figure has been how Japan should resist foreign pressure and assert its position as a world power. Takashi Tachibana was the journalist most instrumental in exposing Tanaka’s money politics, but it was foreign press attention that made the former prime minister’s actions impossible to ignore — even in Japan.

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