Art + Culture

田中 角栄 TANAKA Kakuei

One of the most corrupt Prime Ministers of Japan. Kakuei Tanaka (田中 角栄 4 May 1918 – 16 December 1993) was a Japanese politician who served in the House of Representatives from 26 April 1947 to 24 January 1990, and as the 40th Prime Minister of Japan from 7 July 1972 to 9 December 1974 Etsuzankai Tanaka’s most important support base, however, was a group called Etsuzankai (越山会, literally “Niigata Mountain Association”). Etsuzankai’s function was to screen various petitions from villagers in rural parts of Niigata. Tanaka would answer these petitions with government-funded pork barrel projects. In turn, the local villagers all financially supported Etsuzankai, which, in its turn, funded the re-election campaigns of local Diet members, including Tanaka. At its peak, Etsuzankai had 100,000 members. The projects funded by Etsuzankai included the Tadami River hydroelectric power project, the New Shimizu Tunnel, and, perhaps most infamously, the Jōetsu Shinkansen high-speed rail line. During the 1950s, Tanaka brought Etsuzankai members to his residence in Tokyo by bus, met with each of them individually, and then provided them with tours of the Diet and Imperial Palace. This practice made Etsuzankai the most tightly knit political organization in Japanese history, and it also furthered Tanaka’s increasingly gangster-like image.