Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who died at 101 on Nov. 29, will undoubtedly be remembered as a giant in Japan's political history.

But before he became a political titan and Japan's fifth-longest-serving postwar prime minister, Nakasone was on the fringes of the nation's conservative establishment. In spite of being the leader of a minor faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Nakasone went on to overcome its internal politics and defeat his rivals.

Having fought in the Pacific War, Nakasone was apparently an optimist at heart. Despite being mocked as a "weathercock" for his opportunistic ways and his habit of vacillating on his positions depending on the political winds, the statesman accepted the critique graciously and chose to take advantage of the chances that came his way.