In the mid-1960s the Japanese economy was in its 'miracle' phase, and the long prime ministership of SATŌ EISAKU was in full flow. After a shaky start the LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY (LDP), founded a decade earlier, had become the most powerful political machine in the land, linked with networks of support in every region. It worked closely with the national ministries and was strongly backed by the zaikai (Big Business). Part of its strength was its decentralised organisational structure, and the fact that its electoral candidates were able to tap into local social and economic networks, co-opting them indirectly into the party machine. Incumbency-the fact that the LDP was in power and likely to remain in power for a considerable period-was itself an advantage because it suggested to those inclined to support the party that candidates they voted for should be able to deliver on their promises.
Problems, however, were also inherent in this structure. LDP parliamentarians came to be regarded as milch cows potentially able to deliver benefits to those prepared to pay for them. Both the factional divisions at central level and the divisions between LDP candidates in multi-member districts at local level injected a competitive element into the business of distributing benefits. This was good for the party in the sense that it helped bring out the vote, but it was also a hostage to fortune in that the more extreme examples of benefit-peddling were liable to be aired in the press and cause scandals.
In 1966 the mass media began to give publicity to what came to be called the 'black mist' scandals. This was not one scandal, but several that the press chose to group together under the same label. To an extent, the 'black mist' was the product of a media campaign, because it is not entirely clear that the level of corrupt dealing at that particular time was much greater than it usually was. Nevertheless, since publicity is the extra element needed to create a scandal, the 'black mist' took on a political life of its own.
An amusing episode was when the Minister of Transport, Arafune Seijūrō, arranged for express trains to stop at a small town in his Saitama constituency. In addition, the Defence Agency Director, Kanbayashiyama Eikichi, was accused of the misuse of official aircraft, which he had allegedly used to take him and senior defence staff to a celebratory parade in his Kagoshima constituency. The Minister of Agriculture, Matsuno Raizō, became the target of criticism for taking a party to Las Vegas and Acapulco after attending an international meeting in Canada. More importantly, the Kyōwa Sugar Refining Co. was accused of large-scale bribery of politicians with a view to obtaining a loan from a Government bank. This affair was thoroughly investigated and was found to have involved very large sums of money transferred to the pockets of politicians.
Factional rivals within the Prime Minister's own party were not slow to use these scandals against him. In December 1966 he had to contest a party presidential election, and won 289 out of 459 votes, the remaining votes