I loved Japanese politician Takako Doi, a socialist from Osaka. Her death in September (Japan Times, “Pioneering ex-SDP chief Takako Doi dies at age 85,” Monday, September 29, 2014), led me to consider my own mortality because she was in her political prime when I arrived in Japan. Older Japanese I know understand her accomplishments, but younger people are in the dark. Doi was the first female leader of a major political party here, and the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives. In her political capacity she went head-to-head with corrupt dinosaurs like former Liberal Democratic Party Godfather Shin Kanemaru. Her political success in the July 1989 general election, ending the LDP Diet majority, caused media and commentators to hail her for ushering in the new Age of Women, or “ona no jidai” in Japan. Alas, the conservative male gerontocracy revived itself, and now it’s conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who is promoting the female agenda. But Abe’s position regarding women in politics, business and society pales in comparison to Doi.
For North Americans who are not familiar with Japanese politics let me say that Doi, plus conservatives Makiko Tanaka and Yuko Obuchi, both daughters of former Prime Ministers, are female political heavyweights in this country. But no female Japanese politician today can hold a candle to Takako Doi. Not even Makiko Tanaka in her prime - a formidable, fearless lady, like a combination of Mr. T and Angela Merkel - stands in the same arena. In the 1990s it seemed clear that if any woman could become Prime Minister of Japan, it was her. She had the brains, the cunning, and the guts. I admired her for them. She was a true modern giant. God bless her.
Published in The Japan Times newspaper on Thursday, October 2, 2014 as “Woman who took on ‘dinosaurs.’”