National / Politics

Tsutomu Hata, known for brief stint as prime minister, dies at 82

Kyodo

Former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata, who served 14 terms in the Lower House, died Monday morning at the age of 82, sources close to him said.

The Tokyo native graduated from Seijo University in the capital and worked for a bus company before entering politics.

After the Recruit shares-for-favors scandal in the late 1980s, he spearheaded political reforms, including the adoption of single-member electoral districts, as head of the Liberal Democratic Party’s election system research committee.

As a member of the LDP, he held key Cabinet portfolios — including agriculture minister and finance minister, but in June 1993 voted in favor of a no-confidence motion filed against then-Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.

Hata later expressed regret over his decision, calling the motion’s passage “unfortunate” upon Miyazawa’s death in 2007.

In 1993, Hata left the LDP with power broker Ichiro Ozawa, now co-leader of the Liberal Party, and other lawmakers to create Shinseito (Japan Renewal Party).

Late that August, he became foreign minister in Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa’s anti-LDP minority coalition government before replacing Hosokawa as leader the following year.

His 64-day stint as prime minister, the shortest since the Constitution took force in 1947, was marred by instability.

In December 1994, he participated in the start of Shinshinto (New Frontier Party) with Ozawa but parted ways with him in December 1996 to form Taiyoto (Sun Party).

He ended up in the Democratic Party of Japan — now the Democratic Party — and contributed to its ousting of the LDP from government in 2009.

Hata was also known for his adoption of short-sleeved suits in summer to promote power conservation in the workplace, predating the start of the government-wide Cool Biz dress code championed later in 2005.

He was first elected to the Lower House from a constituency in Nagano Prefecture in 1969 and retired from politics in 2012.

Hata left politics by choosing not to stand in the December 2012 Lower House election that saw the LDP regain control of the powerful chamber. He was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers in April 2013.

His son, Yuichiro, is an Upper House lawmaker with the Democratic Party.

Hata’s funeral is slated to be held Sept. 8 at Aoyama Funeral Hall in Tokyo.