Tarō Asō (麻生 太郎, Asō Tarō, born 20 September 1940) is a
Japanese politician who is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
Finance. Asō was the 59th
Prime Minister of Japan
Prime Minister of Japan serving from
September 2008 to September 2009, and was defeated in the August 2009
Asō has served in the House of Representatives since 1979. He was
Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2005 to 2007, and was
Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) briefly in
2007 and in 2008. He was President of the LDP from 2008 to 2009.
His successor, Sadakazu Tanigaki, was chosen on 28 September 2009.
After the LDP's victory in the 2012 general election under Shinzō Abe
he was appointed to the cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of
Finance, and State Minister for Financial Services. He has held the
positions since 26 December 2012.
1 Early life and education
3 Political career
3.1 Cabinet Minister
3.2 Candidate for the LDP Leadership
3.3 Prime Minister of Japan
3.4 Political Comeback and return to the cabinet
4 Controversial statements
4.1 Aso Mining forced labor controversy
4.2 Reading mistakes
4.3 Nonaka incident
5 Personal life
5.1 Fondness for fine dining
5.4 Family tree
9 External links
Early life and education
Asō, a Roman Catholic, was born in Iizuka in
Fukuoka Prefecture on 20
September 1940. His father, Takakichi Asō, was the chairman of the
Aso Cement Company and a close associate of Prime Minister Kakuei
Tanaka; his mother Kazuko Asō was Prime Minister
Shigeru Yoshida's daughter. Tarō is also a great-great-grandson of
Ōkubo Toshimichi, and his wife, Chikako is the third daughter of
Prime Minister Zenkō Suzuki. His younger sister, Nobuko, Princess
Tomohito of Mikasa, is a cousin-in-law of Emperor Akihito.
Asō graduated from the Faculty of Politics and Economics at Gakushuin
University, and the London School of Economics.
Asō spent two years working for a diamond mining operation in Sierra
Leone before civil war forced him to return to Japan. Then he joined
his father's company in 1966, and served as president of the Aso
Mining Company from 1973 to 1979. Working for the company, he lived in
Brazil during the 1960s and became fluent in Portuguese. He was
also a member of the Japanese shooting team at the 1976 Summer
Montreal and President of the
Japan Junior Chamber in
Asō was elected as a member of the House of Representatives in
October 1979, and has since been re-elected eight times. In 1988, he
became Parliamentary Vice Minister for Education.
He joined the Cabinet of
Jun'ichirō Koizumi in 2003 as Minister of
Internal Affairs and Communications. On 31 October 2005, he became
Minister for Foreign Affairs. There has been some speculation that his
position in the Cabinet was due to his membership in the Kōno Group,
an LDP caucus led by pro-Chinese lawmaker Yōhei Kōno: by appointing
Asō as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Koizumi may have been attempting
to "rein in" Kōno's statements critical of Japanese foreign
Candidate for the LDP Leadership
Asō was one of the final candidates to replace Koizumi as prime
minister in 2006, but lost the internal party election to Shinzō Abe
by a wide margin. Both Abe and Asō are conservative on foreign policy
issues and have taken confrontational stances towards some East Asian
North Korea and, to a lesser extent, the
People's Republic of China. Abe was considered a more "moderate"
politician than the more "hard-line" Asō, and led Asō in opinion
polling within Japan. Asō's views on multilateralism are suggested
in a 2006 speech, "Arc of Freedom and Prosperity: Japan's Expanding
On 14 September 2007, shortly after Abe announced his resignation,
Asō announced his candidacy to replace Abe as Prime Minister. Asō
was considered to be a leading candidate for the position, but was
soon eclipsed by Yasuo Fukuda, a more "dovish" politician supported by
Nobutaka Machimura, Fukushiro Nukaga, and reportedly by Koizumi as
Asō acknowledged that he would most likely lose to Fukuda, but said
that he wanted to run so that there would be an open election, saying
that otherwise LDP would face criticism for making its choice "through
back-room deals". In the President election, held on 23 September,
Fukuda defeated Asō, receiving 330 votes against 197 votes for
On 1 August 2008, Fukuda appointed Asō as Secretary-General of LDP, a
move that solidified Asō's position as the number two man in the
Prime Minister of Japan
Unexpectedly on 1 September 2008, Fukuda announced his resignation as
Prime Minister. Five LDP members including Asō ran for new party
President to succeed Fukuda. On 21 September, one day before votes of
Diet party members, Asō reportedly told a crowd of supporters outside
Tokyo: "The greatest concern right now is the economy." "America is
facing a financial crisis ... we must not allow that to bring us down
as well." Finally on 22 September, Asō did win. He was elected as
President of LDP with 351 of 525 votes (217 from 384 Diet party
members, 134 from 47 prefecture branches); Kaoru Yosano, Yuriko Koike,
Shigeru Ishiba got 66, 46, 37, 25 votes
Two days later on 24 September, Asō was designated by the Diet as
Prime Minister, and was formally appointed to the office by the
Emperor on that night. In the House of Representatives (lower house),
he garnered 337 out of 478 votes cast; in the House of Councillors
(upper house), Ichirō Ozawa, President of the main opposition
Democratic Party of Japan, was named through two times of
ballots. Because no agreement was reached at a joint committee
of both Houses, the resolution of the House of Representatives became
the resolution of the Diet, as is stipulated in the
Constitution. Asō reportedly said, "If you look at the
current period, it's not a stable one." and "These are turbulent times
with the financial situation and everything else."
Later on the same day as his election as Prime Minister, Asō
personally announced his new Cabinet (this is normally done by the
Chief Cabinet Secretary). His Cabinet was markedly different from the
preceding Cabinet under Fukuda. Five of its members had never
previously served in the Cabinet, and one of them, 34-year-old Yūko
Obuchi, was the youngest member of the Cabinet in the post-war
Prime Minister Asō flew to Washington to meet with United States
Barack Obama in February 2009. He was the first foreign
leader to visit the Obama White House; however, reports suggested that
the new administration was interested less in giving Asō a political
boost than in sending a message that
Japan continues to be an
important ally and partner – a low-risk, high-payoff gesture for
both Asō and Obama.
After his election as prime minister Asō was expected to dissolve the
lower house to clear the way for a general election. But he
repeatedly stressed the need for a functioning government to face the
economic crisis and ruled out an early election. Only after
passage of the extra budget for fiscal 2009 in May and facing internal
pressure from the LDP after a series of defeats in regional elections
– most notably the Tokyo prefectural election on 12 July – he
decided to announce a general election for 30 August 2009. He
dissolved the House of Representatives on 21 July 2009. The LDP
lost by a landslide to Democratic Party of Japan, in the face of
record levels of post-war unemployment. Accepting responsibility for
the worst (and second-only) defeat of a sitting government in modern
Japanese history, Asō immediately resigned as LDP president.
Tarō Asō meeting
President of Russia
President of Russia
Dmitry Medvedev in
Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on 18 February 2009.
Tarō Asō shakes hands with then Secretary of State of U.S.
Condoleezza Rice at
APEC summit in 2005
Political Comeback and return to the cabinet
When Shinzo Abe returned to the Prime Minister's office in 2012, Aso
became his number two, becoming Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of
In 2001, as economics minister, he was quoted as saying he wanted to
Japan a country where "rich Jews" would like to live.
On 15 October 2005, during the opening ceremony of the Kyushu National
Museum which also displays how other Asian cultures have influenced
Japanese cultural heritage, he praised
Japan for having "one culture,
one civilization, one language, and one ethnic group", and stated that
it was the only such country in the world.
At a lecture in Nagasaki Prefecture, Asō referred to a Japanese peace
initiative on the Middle East, stating, "The Japanese were trusted
because they had never been involved in exploitation there, or been
involved in fights or fired machine guns.
Japan is doing what the
Americans can't do. It would probably be no good to have blue eyes and
blond hair. Luckily, we Japanese have yellow faces."
Tarō Asō meeting President
Barack Obama in the White House.
Kyodo News reported that he had said on 4 February 2006, "our
predecessors did a good thing" regarding compulsory education
implemented during Japan's colonization of Taiwan.
On 21 December 2005, he said
China was "a neighbour with one billion
people equipped with nuclear bombs and has expanded its military
outlays by double digits for 17 years in a row, and it is unclear as
to what this is being used for. It is beginning to be a considerable
threat". On 28 January 2006, he called for the emperor to visit
the controversial Yasukuni shrine. He later backtracked on the
comment, but stated that he hoped such a visit would be possible in
Mainichi Daily News
Mainichi Daily News reported that on 9 March 2006 he referred to
Taiwan as a "law-abiding country", which drew strong protest from
Beijing, which considers the island a part of China.
On 23 September 2008, Akahata, the daily newspaper published by
Japanese Communist Party
Japanese Communist Party released a compiled list of these and other
statements as the front-page article criticizing Asō. This
compilation as well as similar lists of blunders have been frequently
cited in the Japanese media.
Yahoo! News reported that he had said on 9 January 2009, "To work is
good. It's completely different thinking from the Old Testament."
While speaking at a meeting of the National Council on Social Security
Reform, in 2013, Asō referred to patients suffering from serious
illness as "tube persons" and remarked that they should be "allowed to
die quickly" it they desired it. "Heaven forbid I should be kept alive
if I want to die", he is quoted as saying. "You cannot sleep well when
you think it's all paid by the government. This won't be solved unless
you let them hurry up and die."
In 2014, while campaigning in Sapporo for the general election, Asō
said that rising social welfare costs were not solely due to an aging
population. He said, "There are many people who are creating the image
that (the increasing number of) elderly people is bad, but more
problematic is people who don't give birth",. The comment was labeled
as insensitive to those who are not able to have children for
biological or economic reasons.
The Guardian reported on 30 August 2017, that he said, "Hitler, who
killed millions of people, was no good even if his motive was right."
He later retracted the remarks.
Aso Mining forced labor controversy
Further information: Aso Mining forced labor controversy
Affiliated to the openly revisionist organization Nippon Kaigi,
Asō believes that
Japan committed no war crimes during the Pacific
Australian POWs forced to work at the Aso mining company, photographed
in August 1945.
In mid-2008 Asō conceded that his family's coal mine, Aso Mining
Company, was alleged to have forced Allied prisoners of war to work in
the mines in 1945 without pay. Western media reported that 300
prisoners, including 197 Australians, 101 British, and two Dutch,
worked in the mine. Two of the Australians, John Watson and Leslie
Edgar George Wilkie, died while working in the Aso mine. In
addition, 10,000 Korean conscripts worked in the mine between 1939 and
1945 under severe, brutal conditions in which many of them died or
were injured while receiving little pay. The company, now known as the
Aso Group, is run by Asō's younger brother. Asō's wife serves on its
board of directors. Asō headed the company in the 1970s before going
Acting on a request from Yukihisa Fujita, the Foreign Ministry
investigated and announced on 18 December 2008 that Aso Mining had, in
fact, used 300 Allied POWs at its mine during World War II. The
ministry confirmed that two Australians had died while working at the
mine, but declined to release their names or causes of deaths for
"privacy reasons". Said Fujita, "Prisoner policy is important in many
ways for diplomacy, and it is a major problem that the issue has been
neglected for so long." Asō has not responded to requests from
former laborers to apologize for the way they were treated by his
The Japanese media noted in November 2008 that Asō often
mispronounced or incorrectly read kanji words written in his speeches,
even though many of the words are commonly used in Japanese. Asō
spoke of the speaking errors to reporters on 12 November 2008 saying,
"Those were just reading errors, just mistakes." Asō's tendency
for malapropisms has led comparisons to George W. Bush, and the use of
his name, "Tarō" as a schoolyard taunt for unintelligent
An anatomy professor from the University of Tokyo, Takeshi Yoro,
speculated that Asō could possibly suffer from dyslexia.
In 2001, Asō, along with Hiromu Nonaka, was among the LDP's chief
candidates to succeed
Yoshirō Mori as prime minister of Japan. During
a meeting of LDP leaders at which Nonaka was not present, Asō
reportedly told the assembled group, "We are not going to let someone
from the buraku become the prime minister, are we?" Asō's remark was
apparently a reference to Nonaka's burakumin, a social minority group
in Japan, heritage.
Nonaka subsequently withdrew as a candidate. Asō eventually lost the
appointment to Jun'ichirō Koizumi. Asō's comment about Nonaka's
heritage was revealed in 2005. Asō denied that he had made the
statement, but Hisaoki Kamei, who was present at the 2001 meeting,
stated in January 2009 that he had heard Asō say something, "to that
effect". Nonaka said that he would "never forgive" Asō for the
comment and went on to state that Asō was a "misery" to Japan.
Fondness for fine dining
In October 2008, the Japanese media reported that Asō dined-out or
drank in restaurants and bars in luxury hotels almost nightly. When
asked about it, Asō stated, "I won't change my style. Luckily I have
my money and can afford it." Asō added that if he went anywhere else,
he would have to be accompanied by security guards which would cause
According to the Asahi Shimbun, Asō dined-out or drank at bars 32
times in September 2008, mainly at exclusive hotels. Asō's
predecessor, Yasuo Fukuda, dined-out only seven times in his first
month in office. Both of the LDP's opposition parties have called
Asō's frequent outings inappropriate. Asō's Chief Cabinet Secretary,
Jun Matsumoto, commented on the issue by saying that Asō's frequent
trips to restaurants, "is his lifestyle and philosophy, and I am not
in a position to express my opinion. If only there were more
appropriate places when considering security issues and not causing
trouble for other customers."
Asō argues that embracing Japanese pop culture can be an important
step to cultivating ties with other countries, hoping that manga will
act as a bridge to the world. He is referred to as an otaku.
Asō has been a fan of manga since childhood. He had his family send
manga magazines from
Japan while he was studying at Stanford
University. In 2003, he described reading about 10 or 20 manga
magazines every week (making up only part of Asō's voracious reading)
and talked about his impression of various manga extemporaneously.
In 2007, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, he established the
Manga Award for non-Japanese manga artists.
It was reported that he was seen reading the manga
Rozen Maiden in
Tokyo International Airport, which earned him the sobriquet "His
Excellency Rozen". He admitted in an interview that he had read
the manga; however, he said he did not remember whether he had read it
in an airport. He is a fan of Golgo 13, a long-running manga about
an assassin for hire.
Asō's candidacy for the position of Japanese Prime Minister actually
caused share-value to rise among some manga publishers and companies
related to the manga industry.
(Chigai Kuginuki), The mon of the Asō clan
As a Roman Catholic, Asō belongs to the small minority of Japanese
Christians, but he has not emphasized his religiosity. While
Christians only account for around 1% of the Japanese[citation
needed], Asō is the seventh Christian prime minister of Japan, after
Takashi Hara, Korekiyo Takahashi, Tetsu Katayama, Ichirō Hatoyama,
Masayoshi Ōhira, and his own grandfather Shigeru Yoshida. His
Christian name is Francisco (フランシスコ).
On occasion of his 2009 new year visit to the Shinto Ise Shrine, Asō
publicly performed the hand-clapping in front of the shrine, stating
later that he had "prayed for the good of the Japanese people".
Incorporates information from the Japanese article
Asō is a patrilineal descendant of the Asō clan and is maternally
Ōkubo Toshimichi through his son
Count Makino Nobuaki.
Through his paternal grandmother the Hon. Kanō Natsuko, he descends
from the Tachibana clan of the
Miike Domain and from a cadet branch of
the Ōkubo clan, who ruled the Odawara Domain.
Ancestors of Tarō Asō
16. Asō Goyō (d. 1887)
8. Asō Takichi (1857–1933)
17. Nagayomi Matsu
4. Asō Tarō (1887–1919)
9. Kikkawa Yazu (1856–1924)
2. Asō Takakichi (1911–1980)
20. Tachibana Tanemichi (1797–1855)
Viscount Kanō Hisayoshi, 4th Lord of Ichinomiya Domain
21. NN (d. 1855)
5. Hon. Kanō Natsuko (1893–?)
22. Ōkubo Noriyoshi, 3rd Lord of Ogino-Yamanaka Domain (1825–1885)
11. Ōkubo Fumiko (1852–1893)
23. Seki Fukuko (d. 1916)
1. Asō Tarō
24. Tsuna NN
12. Tsuna Takeuchi (1840–1922)
Yoshida Shigeru (1878–1967)
3. Yoshida Kazuko
Ōkubo Toshimichi (1830–1878)
Nobuaki Makino (1861–1949)
29. Hayasaki Masako (d. 1878)
7. Lady Makino Yukiko
Mishima Michitsune (1835–1888)
15. Hon. Mishima Mineko
Grand Cross with diamonds of the Order of the Sun, 2008
Takashi Hirose (広瀬隆); 『私物国家
Kobunsha (1997) Genealogy14
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