Junichiro Koizumi

Junichiro Koizumi 小泉純一郎

Junichiro Koizumi ex-Prime Minister of Japan.

Nicknamed 'Lionheart' for his leonine hairdo and political pluck, Junichiro Koizumi was, at the beginning of his term, perhaps Japan's most popular prime minister ever.

Junichiro Koizumi was born in Yokosuka City in Kanagawa Prefecture. After graduating from Keio University in Tokyo, he attended University College, London, returning to Japan in 1969, at age 27, upon the death of his father.

In 1970 Koizumi began working as secretary to Minister of Finance, and later Prime Minister, Takeo Fukuda.

In 1972 Koizumi was elected as a lower house MP for the 11th District of Kanagawa Prefecture, and joined Fukuda's faction within the Liberal Democratic Party.

In 1978, at age 34, Koizumi married Kayoko Miyamoto, 13 years his junior, only to divorce her four years later. He has never remarried.

Koizumi became Parliamentary Vice Minister of Finance in 1979 and Minister of Health and Welfare in 1988 in the Cabinet of Noboru Takeshita. He held other Cabinet posts in 1992 and 1996-98.

In 1994, the LDP found itself in the opposition, and Koizumi joined the new reformist Shinseiki faction.

Koizumi became president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in April 2001, winning the vote overwhelmingly within the party, and fairly solidly among the Diet members. He became prime minister two days later.

Koizumi embarked on a reform drive with the aim of revitalizing the economy by cutting banks' bad debts and aiming to privatize the postal system an unfulfilled ambition of his grandfather, Matajiro Koizumi (1865-1951), Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (also known as the Tattoo Minister for the large dragon tattoo on his back!)

Postal privatization was the most difficult of his tasks and was carried out in 2005 only by dissolving parliament and calling new elections.

He steered the traditionally ruralist LDP towards being a more urban-based party, in line with the demographic trend of urbanization.

Koizumi also made Japan's Self-Defense Forces active overseas a controversial move in line with his policy of closer alignment with the United States. He enjoyed a very warm relationship with George Bush.

At the same time, he dismayed China and South Korea with his regular visits to the war-related Yasukuni Shrine leading to a suspension of relations with these countries between 2001 and 2005.

Koizumi is an ardent fan of Elvis, and was escorted around Graceland by President Bush. He shares the same passion with his brother, and together they helped erect a statue to the King in Tokyo's Harajuku area.

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