Widely seen as a maverick leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), he became known as an economic reformer, focusing on Japan's government debt and the privatization of its postal service. In 2005, Koizumi led the LDP to win one of the largest parliamentary majorities in modern Japanese history.
Koizumi also attracted international attention through his deployment of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to Iraq, the first foreign deployment of the Japanese military since World War II, and his visits to Yasukuni Shrine which led to diplomatic tensions with China and South Korea.
Born in Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture on January 8, 1942, Koizumi was educated at Yokosuka High School and Keio University, where he studied economics. He attended University College London before returning to Japan in August 1969 upon the death of his father. He stood for election to the lower house in December; however, he did not earn enough votes to win election as a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) representative. In 1970, he was hired as a secretary to Takeo Fukuda, who was Minister of Finance at the time and would go on to become Prime Minister in 1976.
In the general elections of December 1972, Koizumi was elected as a member of the Lower House for the 11th District of Kanagawa Prefecture. He joined Fukuda's faction within the LDP. Since then, he has been re-elected ten times.
In 1994, with the LDP in opposition, Koizumi became part of a new LDP faction, Shinseiki, made up of younger and more motivated parliamentarians led by Taku Yamasaki, Koichi Kato and Koizumi, a group popularly dubbed "YKK." He competed for the presidency of the LDP in September 1995 and July 1998, but he gained little support losing decisively to Ryutaro Hashimoto and then Keizo Obuchi, both of whom had broader bases of support within the party. However, after Yamasaki and Kato were humiliated in a disastrous attempt to force a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in 2000, Koizumi became the last remaining credible member of the YKK trio, which gave him leverage over the reform-minded wing of the party.
On April 24, 2001, Koizumi was elected president of the LDP. He was initially considered an outside candidate against Hashimoto, who was running for his second term as Prime Minister. However, in the first poll of prefectural party organizations, Koizumi won 87 to 11 percent; in the second vote of Diet members, Koizumi won 51 to 40 percent. He defeated Hashimoto by a final tally of 298 to 155 votes. He was made Prime Minister of Japan on April 26, and his coalition secured 78 of 121 seats in the Upper House elections in July.
In the fall of 2002, Koizumi appointed Keio University economist and frequent television commentator Heizo Takenaka as Minister of State for Financial Services and head of the Financial Services Agency (FSA) to fix the country's banking crisis. Bad debts of banks were dramatically cut with the NPL ratio of major banks approaching half the level of 2001. The Japanese economy has been through a slow but steady recovery, and the stock market has dramatically rebounded. The GDP growth for 2004 was one of the highest among G7 nations, according to the IMF and OECD. Takenaka was appointed as a Postal Reform Minister in 2004 for the privatization of Japan Post, operator of the country's Postal Savings system.
Koizumi moved the LDP away from its traditional rural agrarian base toward a more urban, neoliberal core, as Japan's population grew in major cities and declined in less populated areas, although under current purely geographical districting, rural votes in Japan are still many times more powerful than urban ones. In addition to the privatization of Japan Post (which many rural residents fear will reduce their access to basic services such as banking), Koizumi also slowed down the LDP's heavy subsidies for infrastructure and industrial development in rural areas. These tensions made Koizumi a controversial but popular figure within his own party and among the Japanese electorate.
Although Koizumi's foreign policy was focused on closer relations with the United States and UN-centered diplomacy, which were adopted by all of his predecessors, he went further to pursue supporting the US policies in the War on Terrorism. He decided to deploy the Japan Self-Defense Forces to Iraq, which was the first military mission in active foreign war zones since the end of the World War II. Many Japanese commentators indicated that the favorable US-Japan relation was based on the Koizumi's personal friendship with the US President George W. Bush. In the North Korean abductions and nuclear development issues, he took more assertive attitudes than his predecessors.
In China, the visits led to massive anti-Japanese riots. The president, ruling and opposition parties, and much of the media of South Korea openly condemned the visits regardless of their political positions. Speeches that criticized Japan were applauded by many Koreans despite the South Korean President's low popularity. When Koizumi was asked about such speeches, Koizumi stated these are "for the domestic (audience)".
Although Koizumi signed the shrine's visitor book as "Junichiro Koizumi, the Prime Minister of Japan", he claimed that his visits to the shrine were as a private citizen and not an endorsement of any political stance. These claims were scoffed as ineffective excuses in China and Korea. Several journals and news reports in Japan, such as one published by Kyodo News Agency on August 15, 2006, questioned the validity of the claim that Koizumi was visiting as a private citizen, as he recorded his name on the shrine's guestbook as prime minister, and visited the shrine yearly as part of his campaign pledge, which was political in nature.
Koizumi revisited the shrine again in August 15, 2007, after having resigned as prime minister, to mark the 62nd anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War Two. However, his 2007 visit was met with less attention from the media than on prior occasions. He seems to refuse close ties with Korea and China
Initially Koizumi was at certain points in his tenure an extremely popular leader, with his outspoken nature and colourful past. His nicknames included "Lionheart", due to his hair style and fierce spirit, and "Maverick". During his tenure in office, it was common for the Japanese public to refer to him as "Jun-chan". In June 2001, he enjoyed an approval rating of 85 percent, with only 7 percent disapproving.
In January 2002, he sacked his popular but volatile Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, replacing her with Yoriko Kawaguchi. By April, following an economic slump and a series of LDP scandals that claimed the career of YKK member Koichi Kato, Koizumi's popularity rating had fallen 40 percentage points since his nomination as prime minister.
Koizumi was re-elected in 2003 and his popularity surged as the economy recovered. His proposal to cut pension benefits as a move to fiscal reform, however, turned out to be highly unpopular. Also, his two visits to North Korea to solve the issue of abducted Japanese nationals only somewhat raised his popularity, as he could not secure the return of many abductees to Japan. This restricted his administration's approval rating in the House of Councilors elections in 2004 to being only marginally better than the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
In 2005, the House of Councilors rejected the contentious postal privatization bills. Koizumi previously made it clear that he would dissolve the lower house if the bill failed to pass. The Democratic Party, while expressing support for the privatization, made a tactical vote against the bill. Fifty-one LDP members also either voted against the bills or abstained.
On August 8, 2005, Koizumi, as promised, dissolved the House of Representatives and called for snap elections. He also expelled rebel LDP members for not supporting the bill. The LDP's chances for success were initially uncertain; the secretary general of New Komeito (a junior coalition partner with Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party) said that his party would entertain forming a coalition government with the Democratic Party of Japan if the DPJ took a majority in the House of Representatives.
Koizumi's popularity rose almost twenty points after he dissolved the House and expelled rebel LDP members, with opinion polls placing the government's approval ratings between 51 and 59 percent. The electorate saw the election in terms of a vote for or against the reform (privatisation), which the Democratic Party and rebel LDP members were seen as being against.
The September 2005 elections were the LDP's largest victory since 1986, giving the party a large majority in the House of Representatives and nullifying opposing voices in the House of Councilors. In the following Diet session, the last to be held under Koizumi's government, the LDP passed 82 of its 91 proposed bills, including postal privatization.
Koizumi remained in the Diet through the administrations of Abe and Yasuo Fukuda. He announced his retirement from politics on September 25, 2008, shortly following the election of Taro Aso as Prime Minister. Koizumi plans to retain his Diet seat until the next general election. His son Shinjiro plans to run as a candidate for his father's seat representing the Kanagawa 11th district. Koizumi supported Yuriko Koike in the LDP leadership election held earlier in September 2008, but Koike placed a distant third, suggesting that Koizumi's influence within the party had evaporated.
The marriage ended in divorce in 1982. Kayoko was unhappy with her lifestyle and Koizumi did not see Kayoko as a viable political wife. After this divorce, Koizumi never married again, saying that divorce consumed ten times more energy than marriage.
Two of his three sons (Kotaro Koizumi and Shinjiro Koizumi) were kept in Koizumi's custody and raised by one of Koizumi's sisters. Although Kayoko claims that she was to be allowed to see her two sons once they reach the age of 16, this did not happen and she has not been able to see them since the divorce. The youngest, Yoshinaga Miyamoto, a student at Keio University, was born following the divorce and has never met Koizumi. This third son is known to have attended one of Koizumi's rallies, but was also turned away when trying to meet his father by attending his grandmother's funeral.
Koizumi is also a noted fan of Elvis Presley, with whom he shares a birthday (January 8). In 2001 he released a collection of his favorite Elvis songs on CD with his comments about each song. His brother is Senior Advisor of the Tokyo Elvis Fan Club. Koizumi and his brother helped finance a statue of Elvis in Tokyo's Harajuku district. On June 30, 2006, he visited the rock legend's former estate, Graceland, accompanied by U.S. President George W. Bush, and First Lady Laura Bush. After arriving in Memphis aboard Air Force One, they headed to Graceland. While there, Koizumi briefly sang a few bars of his favourite Elvis tunes, whilst warmly impersonating Presley, mimicking his characteristic hand movements and leg shakes, and wearing Presley's trademark oversized golden sunglasses.
Koizumi also seems to be a fan of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. He and Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen visited the Sibelius' home on September 8, 2006. There Koizumi showed respect to the deceased composer with a moment of silence. He also owns reproductions of all seven symphonies by Sibelius.
(April 26, 2001)
| First, Realigned|
(September 30, 2002)
(November 19, 2003)
| Second, Realigned|
(September 22, 2004)
| Third, Realigned|
(October 31, 2005)
|Secretary||Yasuo Fukuda 4||Hiroyuki Hosoda||Shinzo Abe|
|Internal Affairs||Toranosuke Katayama||Taro Aso||Heizo Takenaka 3|
|Justice||Mayumi Moriyama||Daizo Nozawa||Chieko Nohno||Seiken Sugiura|
|Foreign Affairs||Makiko Tanaka 1||Yoriko Kawaguchi||Nobutaka Machimura||Taro Aso|
|Finance||Masajuro Shiokawa||Sadakazu Tanigaki|
|Education||Atsuko Toyama||Takeo Kawamura||Nariaki Nakayama||Kenji Kosaka|
|Health||Chikara Sakaguchi||Hidehisa Otsuji||Jiro Kawasaki|
|Agriculture||Tsutomu Takebe||Tadamori Oshima 2||Yoshiyuki Kamei||Yoshinobu Shimamura||Shoichi Nakagawa|
|Economy||Takeo Hiranuma||Shoichi Nakagawa||Toshihiro Nikai|
|Land||Chikage Oogi||Nobuteru Ishihara||Kazuo Kitagawa|
|Environment||Hiroshi Oki 1||Shunichi Suzuki||Yuriko Koike|
|Public Safety||Jin Murai||Sadakazu Tanigaki||Kiyoko Ono||Yoshitaka Murata||Tetsuo Kutsukake|
|Disaster Prevention||Yoshitada Konoike||Kiichi Inoue|
|Defense||Gen Nakatani||Shigeru Ishiba||Yoshinori Ohno||Fukushiro Nukaga|
|Economic Policy||Heizo Takenaka 3||Heizo Takenaka||Heizo Takenaka||Kaoru Yosano|
|Financial Affairs||Hakuo Yanagisawa||Tatsuya Ito|
|Admin. and Reg. Reform||Nobuteru Ishihara||Kazuyoshi Kaneko||Seiichiro Murakami||Koki Chuma|
|Technology||Koji Omi||Hiroyuki Hosoda||Toshimitsu Motegi||Yasufumi Tanahashi||Iwao Matsuda|
|Youth and Gender||Kuniko Inoguchi|
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