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Memorial Address at the Joint Memorial Service by the Cabinet and Liberal Democratic Party for the Late Mr. Ryutaro Hashimoto

Here today, I reverently offer a memorial address on the occasion of the Joint Memorial Service by the Cabinet and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for the late Mr. Ryutaro Hashimoto, awarded the Second Senior Court Rank and Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, who served as the prime minister of Japan and the president of the LDP.

Mr. Hashimoto had been energetically engaged with a host of diplomatic and environmental issues until very recently, and I never imagined that he would pass away so suddenly. I am left with feelings of shock and grief.

In 1963, at the young age of 26, Mr. Hashimoto was first elected to the House of Representatives to succeed his deceased father, Ryogo. Over the course of his parliamentary career, he achieved a total of 14 election victories in succession. Raised seeing his own father overcoming a personal handicap and putting his heart and soul into social security and welfare policy, Mr. Hashimoto developed a strong interest in improving the nation's welfare. He distinguished himself in his younger days by putting together the draft of the Fundamental Law for Countermeasures for Mentally and Physically Handicapped Persons. He was also quick to recognize the importance of environmental issues, becoming a founder of environmental administration in Japan when he displayed his talents in starting up the Environmental Agency.

In assuming the post of Minister of Health and Welfare at the young age of 41, Mr. Hashimoto applied his energies to the task of constructing a welfare state, which had been among his campaign pledges ever since his first election victory. In this capacity he oversaw the settlement of the litigation stemming from the SMON (Sub-Acute-Myelo-Optical-Neuropathy) incident, which was the largest-scale case of drug-induced suffering at that time.

Mr. Hashimoto, who was the best policy expert in the Japanese political world, went on to fill a succession of important posts in the Cabinet and the LDP. As Minister of Transport, he completed the privatization of Japan National Railways, a task he had been working on since his days as Director of the LDP's Public Administration and Finance Division, making him well known as a champion of administrative reform. Upon taking over as Minister of Finance, he resolutely enforced remedial measures for countries that had accumulated debts such as Mexico and India, and in this way made a valuable contribution to the stabilization of the international financial order. Then, in the capacity of Minister of International Trade and Industry, he was dauntless in dealing with severe demands from the United States (US) made during the Japan-US automobile talks, for which he was highly evaluated even from the US, the other party in the talks.

From a long time ago, Mr. Hashimoto was strongly aware that in the 21st century Japan would develop into an aging society without precedence in the world. So when he became the nation's 82nd prime minister in January 1996, in order to transform Japan's overall political, administrative, economic, and social system under the principle of "reform and creation," he placed his political life on the line in an effort to realize reforms.

In the course of the administrative reforms that he had made one of his major life works, Mr. Hashimoto achieved the enactment of the Basic Law on Administrative Reform of the Central Government, which reorganized the administrative structure to create a system of one office and 12 ministries and agencies, while strengthening the functions of the Cabinet by establishing the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, etc. These reforms, which were a major achievement that will be inscribed deeply in Japanese history, were carried through as a result of Mr. Hashimoto's strong leadership.

In the field of social security and welfare, which was another of his lifelong endeavors, Mr. Hashimoto was instrumental in establishing the Public Nursing Care Insurance System. Moreover, internationally, at the Lyon Summit, he proposed the Initiative for a Caring World involving the sharing of each country's know-how and experience concerning welfare, which was highly evaluated by the leaders of the participating countries.

With regard to finance, he revamped the Tokyo's market, which up to that time had been protected by a system of permits and licenses, to create an international financial market on par with New York and London. On top of this, he took the initiative in reforming the Japanese financial system, which improved the yen's international position.

In the diplomatic arena, on the Japan-US relationship, Mr. Hashimoto succeeded in obtaining an agreement authorizing the return to Japan of the US Futenma Air Station in Okinawa at a top-level meeting with President Bill Clinton. In addition, he focused his energies on the restructuring of the Japan-US relationship, including the issuing of the Japan-US Joint Declaration on Security and the Guidelines for Japan-US Defense Cooperation.

In regards to the relationship with Russia, which had long been an issue of concern, he decided on Japan's basic policy toward Russia based on his personal relationship of trust with President Boris Yeltsin and actively sought progress toward the conclusion of a peace treaty and a solution to the territorial issue between the two nations.

He also took the initiative in addressing global environmental issues, most notably in championing the compilation of the Kyoto Protocol.

In addition, Mr. Hashimoto devoted himself toward crisis management. When the hostage crisis at the official residence of the Japanese ambassador to Peru was resolved without the loss of a single Japanese hostage, he shed tears and said, "Ah, I can sleep peacefully from today." This episode well conveyed Mr. Hashimoto's sentiments, who always considered the importance of human life and prayed for the resolution of the case.

Even after his resignation from the office of prime minister, he worked hard with an exceptionally strong determination to solve the issues of Okinawa, for which he obtained deep trust from Okinawa Prefecture, in his capacity as Minister of State for Administrative Reform, Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and as Chairman of the LDP's Okinawa Promotion Committee. In addition, he engaged actively in the establishment of international global environmental policy, as when he served as Chairman of the United Nations Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation.

Mr. Hashimoto was an avid worker by nature, but in addition he was a person of many hobbies, among which were kendo, mountain climbing, and photography. In kendo, he was a master who reached the rank of kyoshi 6th dan, and I heard that he used to practice between his official duties. Moreover, he went on a number of climbing expeditions to the Himalayas. During his career he persistently and determinedly handled a host of tense situations, and I believe he was able to do so because he possessed a firmness of mind and an accurate judgment that had been cultivated through kendo and mountain climbing.

On the other hand, Mr. Hashimoto was a kind-hearted person who cared about human life and about the feelings of other people. I heard that as a father, he took great care of his family, including taking the time to play with his children at his home in Okayama between his political activities. To his wife Kumiko and the rest of his family, who gave him their constant support, I would like once again to express my respects and also to offer my deepest condolences at this time of profound grief over their irreplaceable loss.

Mr. Hashimoto, with rare and astute prescience, you looked hard at the shape of Japan in the 21st century and you unhesitatingly drove through essential reforms even when they entailed pain. I would like to end my address with the promise that those of us who are left behind will do our utmost to continue building the bright future you pursued all your life so that future generations will be able to live with peace of mind.

May you rest in peace.

August 8, 2006
Junichiro Koizumi
Prime Minister of Japan