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Prime Minister of Japan, 1964-1972
Eisaku Sato was born in Tabuse, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on March 27, 1901. After graduating from high school in 1921, he entered Tokyo Imperial University (now Tokyo University), from which he graduated with a degree in German jurisprudence in 1924.
Sato passed his senior civil service examinations in 1923 and, after graduating from college, joined the Ministry of Railways. He subsequently held a variety of important posts there, including Director of the Osaka Railways Bureau (1944-1946) and Vice-Minister for Transportation (1947-1948).
Having worked his way up the bureaucratic ladder, Sato next set his sights on climbing the political ladder. A protégé of Yoshida Shigeru, he rose quickly in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which Yoshida helped found. He became Chief Cabinet Secretary in the Yoshida government in 1948, and was elected to the Diet in 1949. He subsequently served in a number of important positions, as follows: Chairman of the Policy Affairs Research Council of the LDP (1949-1950); Secretary General of the LDP (1950-1951 and 1953-1954); Minister of Postal Services and Telecommunications (1951-1952); Minister of Construction and, concurrently, Minister of State in charge of Hokkaido Development (1952-1953); Chairman of the Executive Council of the LDP (1957-1958); Minister of Finance (1958-1960); Minister of International Trade and Industry (1961-1962); and, Minister of State in charge of Hokkaido Development and, concurrently, Minister of State in charge of Science and Technology, as well as Minister of State in charge of the 18th Olympic Games (1963-1964).
Sato became Prime Minister on November 9, 1964, following the retirement of Ikeda Hayato. While serving in this office, he presided over a period of unprecedented growth in the Japanese economy, and also made enormous strides in Japanese foreign policy. In 1965 he negotiated normalization of relations with the Republic in Korea; in 1969 he negotiated the return of Okinawa and the other Ryuku Islands to full Japanese sovereignty; and he also negotiated a treaty with the United States which guaranteed the removal of all U.S. nuclear weapons from Japanese soil. In 1972, Sato sought to improve relations with the People's Republic of China, but faced strong opposition from Mao Zedong and Chou Enlai because of his long-standing support for Chiang Kai-shek and the Republic of China on Taiwan. The issue led to a division within the LDP, and Sato was forced to resign as Prime Minister on July 7, 1972.
Eisaku Sato was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 for his work in negotiating the Non-Proliferation Treaty and lifelong opposition to nuclear weapons. He died in Tokyo on June 3, 1975.
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This page was last updated on June 16, 2018.