First published in Japan Forum, Vol 6, No. 1, April 1994
WHEN DOI TAKAKO became the first woman to be elected Chairman of the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) on 6 September 1986, a media sensation was created. No woman had ever headed a political party in Japan before, indeed precious few women had ever been elected to membership of the House of Representatives, although the percentage figures were slightly higher for the less important House of Councillors, or Upper House. 1 Indeed, for the previous two decades, the numbcr of women parliamentarians had tended to fluctuate with the fortunes of the Japan Communist Party (JCP), which was the only party actively promoting women as parliamentary candidates.
Between her election as JSP Chairman in September 1986 and her eventual resignation on 24 June 1991, she was not only the best-known woman politician in the country, but among Japan's most reported and commented-on politicians nationally and even internationally. During this period of nearly 5 years, she led her party to a stunning and unprecedented success in winning the Upper House elections held in July 1989, when the ruling Liberal Democrats lost their previously comfortable majority, and ended up with a mere 109 seats out of a total of 252. 2 The much more crucial House of Representatives elections of the following February (1990) did not yield so spectacular a result for the JSP, but the party still managed to attain a more than 50-seat improvement on its previous Lower House election performance in 1986. 3
Doi Takako's famous reaction to victory in the House of Councillors elections of July 1989 was to quote her favourite poetess, Yosano Akiko, who flourished in the early years of the twentieth century, and to announce: Yama wa ugoita (The mountains have moved). By this expression she meant, first of all, that the monolithic rule of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had been shaken (though not yet, of course, overturned). It is clear, however, that she meant much more than that. Her programme included substantial reform of a corrupt political system, economic reforms to satisfy the interests of ordinary people rather than those of an economic élite, the creation of a Japan open to the world rather than friendless against the world, improvements to welfare