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Chapter Three
Period of President Kishi's Leadership

After the ailing Ishibashi left office, Nobusuke Kishi became Prime Minister and formed his cabinet on February 25, 1957.

Perhaps the most outstanding political feat accomplished by the Kishi Cabinet during its tenure of three years and four months was the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Even in the face of violent protests orchestrated by the political left, the Kishi administration remained firmly committed to correcting inequities in the existing agreement. The resulting revised Treaty not only played a pivotal role in maintaining Japan's security and peace within the context of rapid change in Asia, but made the country's "miraculous" economic prosperity possible as well. In this sense, the Kishi Cabinet's accomplishments in this area were truly historic.

However, the revision of the Security Treaty was certainly not the Kishi Cabinet's only notable achievement. There were two additional distinctive characteristics of this administration that should not be overlooked.

First, it established firm foundations for the LDP at both the regional and national levels and was able by working through these to place the Party at the center of politics in Japan. Second, out of a fervent desire to overcome the lingering legacy of the Occupation and fully restore the country's independence, the cabinet promoted fundamental changes to Japan's domestic and international politics.

In reinforcing the foundations of liberal democracy and making improvements to Japan's domestic and international policies, the Kishi Cabinet is widely credited with having set the stage for the Party's "period of glory" (eiko no jidai) that was to follow.

After having been formally chosen at the 4th Party Convention held in March of 1957 to be the Party's 3rd President, Kishi outlined his political vision as follows -

The expansion of the Liberal Democratic Party cannot be achieved solely through efforts to increase the number of parliamentary seats the Party controls or by relying upon shared fate to bind voters and their representatives together. Instead, each individual voter must be made to understand exactly why he or she should support the LDP. We must also work to reform and improve our organization in such a way that farmers, laborers, women, and young people as well recognize us as being a modern political party that merits their trust.

Prime Minister Kishi strove to modernize the Party and increase its popular appeal. Under his ambitious leadership, the LDP's executive members and the cabinet were mobilized to carry out a campaign from September through October of 1957 designed to inform the public throughout the country about the Party's objectives and policies. Further efforts were made to increase the Party's strength through a "five million members" nationwide membership drive. Before long, these activities produced tangible results. The LDP went on to achieve impressive victories in both national and regional elections and was able to establish a firm political foundation for itself.

In the first election held under the two-party system in May of 1958, the Party secured 298 seats (including 11 provided by individuals who joined the LDP after the election and 3 more gained in subsequent elections held to fill vacated seats). As the Socialist Party had managed to win only 167 seats, the Party was able to take advantage of its comparative success to form an absolute majority. In the House of Councillors election held in June of 1959, the Socialists lost a total of 11 seats in national and regional electoral districts. In contrast, the LDP added 10 seats that gave it a total of 132 seats and a comfortable majority.

In unified local elections held in April of the same year, LDP candidates defeated Socialist Party opponents in every gubernatorial race except for those in Fukuoka and Ibaraki prefectures. In prefectural assembly races, the Party captured 1,748 out of a total of 2,654 seats. Finally, LDP victories in local assembly contests, when added to those of conservative independents, gave the Party control of over 85 percent of these seats as well.

Buoyed by the political stability that had been achieved and keeping in mind the Party's progressive, populist nature, the Kishi Cabinet set out to vigorously promote its domestic and foreign policies. The most notable of these were the following -
Domestic Policies and Programs
(1) Great progress was made towards the building of a comprehensive welfare state. Efforts began with the enactment of a "National Pensions Law" (Kokumin Nenkin-ho) created primarily to benefit the elderly, single-parent families, and handicapped individuals. This was followed by a complete revision of the National Health Insurance Law that paved the way for the implementation of "universal health care coverage" in 1961. Finally, a "Minimum Wage Law" (Saitei Chingin-ho) was put in place.
(2) A "New Long-term Economic Plan" (Shin Choki Keizai Keikaku) was drawn up that ushered the country into a period of high growth that lasted for the next two and a half decades. The plan was centered around a target for real economic growth of 6.5 percent, a commitment to the creation of five million new jobs, and the goal of a 40 percent improvement in living standards.
(3) The "Five-year Plan for Road Development" (Doro Seibi Gokanen Keikaku) involved the investment of a trillion yen in the paving of major highways and the construction of regional roads. This was the beginning of efforts to create the superb network of roads that can be seen throughout the country today.
(4) A "Program for National Subsidies for School Facilities" (Gakko Shisetsu no Kokko Futan Seido) was developed to help address the problem of overcrowded classrooms and to renovate school buildings that had in many cases become dangerously decrepit. The result was the construction of the many modern, reinforced concrete school buildings that can be found today throughout Japan.
Foreign Policy and Programs
(1) Building upon Japan's acceptance into the United Nations during the Hatoyama Cabinet's tenure, the Kishi administration based the country's foreign policies firmly upon the following three principles - "pacifist diplomacy centered on the United Nations," "cooperation with the community of free nations," and "the strengthening of amicable, cooperative relations with Southeast Asian countries."
(2) Through a number of official trips abroad including two to Southeast Asia, two to the United States, and others to Europe and Central and South America, Prime Minister Kishi achieved great success in improving friendly relations between Japan and the countries he visited. In doing so, he was able to make up some for the lack of such active diplomacy during and shortly after the Second World War and succeeded in increasing levels of international trust in Japan.
(3) Japan established diplomatic relations with many countries in Eastern Europe, including Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Rumania. In addition, the extension of economic assistance to Cambodia and Laos, the conclusion of a peace treaty and compensation agreement with Indonesia, and the signing of a similar compensation agreement with Vietnam did much to help settle outstanding wartime issues.

As a result of these diplomatic efforts, it was not long after it had gained entry into the United Nations that our country was selected to serve as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in October of 1957, and later as a member of the U.N. Economic and Social Council in October of 1959.

Unfortunately, during the latter half of its tenure, the Kishi Cabinet clashed sharply with political forces on the left led by the Socialist Party, the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan (Nihon Rodo Kumiai So Hyogikai), and the Communist Party over the issues of work performance evaluations for teachers and planned revisions to the "Law concerning Execution of Duties of Police Officials" (Keisatsukan Shokumu Shikko-ho). Conflict between the liberal democratic and leftist camps eventually reached a climax as the two disagreed bitterly over the issue of revising the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

There are two principal reasons why Japanese politics during this period were characterized by such acrimonious confrontations between these two distinct political forces. The first is the fact that domestic political conflicts were often shaped by Cold War international conflicts between East and West. The second is the fact that the rigid ideological attitudes of many members of the Socialist Party and other groups on the left unfortunately prompted them to develop extremely dogmatic, inflexible positions in opposition to the Kishi Cabinet's plans to create a political system for Japan that would (1) re-establish the country's independence, (2) correct the mistakes and excesses of the Occupation, and (3) be more in line with conditions in the country at the time.

Among the most regrettable opposition tactics employed by the Socialist Party, Communist Party, and other leftist parties were attempts to delay parliamentary proceedings, refusals to participate in deliberations, and the staging of disruptive sit-ins in the Diet. Outside of the Diet, organizations such as the General Council of Trade Unions and the National Federation of Students' Self Government Associations (Zengakuren) organized mass demonstrations and illegal strikes, and went so far as to storm the Diet in their attempts to manipulate national politics by violent, anti-parliamentary means.

During deliberations in a House of Representatives' plenary session on the new Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and related issues held in May of 1960, protests became so violent that it became necessary to call riot police into the Diet as an emergency measure. In June, violent protestors beseiged President Eisenhower's Press Secretary, James C. Hagerty, when he arrived at Haneda Airport to begin making preparations for the U.S. President's visit to Japan. His life in danger, Hagerty was forced to flee by helicopter. This unfortunate incident eventually prompted the cancellation of Eisenhower's plans. Finally, the violence escalated dramatically when demonstrators, led by the National Federation of Students' Self Government Associations, stormed the Diet building and clashed with police. The ensuing melee left one female university student dead and hundreds of others injured on both sides. This tragic event left a permanent stain on the history of Japan's parliament.

Fortunately, whenever groups on the left engaged in destruction protests of actions being taken on work performance evaluations for teachers, the Performance of Police Functions Law, or the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, the LDP was able to work through the Party organization and intensify its public relations efforts to obtain the understanding and support of the more sensible majority of the Japanese public.

After the Security Treaty was automatically ratified on June 19 without the approval of the House of Councillors, social unrest surrounding this issue gradually subsided. However, both the Kishi Cabinet and the LDP should undoubtedly be given credit in history for having been dauntlessly determined and ultimately successful in making necessary revisions to it even in the face of a six-month campaign of violence orchestrated by the Socialists, Communists, General Council of Trade Unions, and other groups on the left.

After having accomplished the historic task of revising the Treaty, Prime Minister Kishi felt a need for a "renewal of public support" (jinshin isshin) and a "political change" (seikyoku tenkan). On June 23, he announced his intention to resign from office.

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