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Matsuoka’s reported suicide May 28, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in Japan, Politics.

I don’t think there is any need to rehash the details of the various scandals which Toshikatsu Matsuoka, the late minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has been implicated in. (Google for a refresher course)

It is reported that he committed suicide, and most of the speculation seems to be giving one of three potential explanations as in the below excerpt from JapanProbe:

How should this be viewed? As an innocent man who couldn’t take the pressure of accusations? A shamed and guilt-ridden man who took responsiblity for his actions? Or possibly: a wrong-doer who has failed to take responsbility for his actions, and simply took the easy way out?

But are these the only three viable explanations?

There was another suicide which was not widely reported in the major newspapers (According to this article, only a regional edition of the Nikkei picked it up).

The suicide occured on May 18th, in Aso City in Kumamoto Prefecture, home to Matsuoka’s constituency. A 62-year old man hanged himself in his home. The man is said to have been a classmate of Matsuoka at school, and was believed to have been involved in some capacity with Matsuoka’s constituency office. The man’s name does not appear in the article (he is mentioned as Mr. “U”) – which, given the timing of the incident and the public interest in the death of a close acquaintance (if not direct subordinate) of a national politician embroiled in multiple scandals,seems rather “odd”.

Intial reports of Matsuoka’s suicide mentioned specifically that no suicide letter was found (eg this article). But a couple of hours later, we are hearing this.

Is it the real thing? Does Matsuoka finally give a full and truthful account of his involvement in the various scandals, or does he take those secrets to the grave?
If and when the contents of that letter become public, we’ll know if Matsuoka’s ultimate loyalties were to the electorate or to his associates who are probably trying, right now as I type this, to make sure that his untimely death will be the end of the matter. It would certainly give the media an excuse to claim that the matter is now closed.

If I were a betting man I’d bet that, being a typical ex-bureaucrat turned politician, his loyalties were with the people who drove him to suicide, and that he has taken his secrets to the grave.

I ‘d be happy to be proven wrong though, and regardless of his past actions, he would go up considerably in my (and may others’) estimation if his final act was to betray the clique he had become enslaved to, and as a result did something, finally, which was in the general public’s interest.

After all, Matsuoka was most likely just the latest in a long line of politicians who had sold out to maintain the status quo to provide lucrative contracts to businesses whose main purpose in life was to provide lucrative employment opportunities for retiring bureaucrats.

Update: A little bit of Googling reveals the identity of the man who committed suicide 10 days ago. His name is(was?) Yukihiro Uchino, and he was a candidate in January’s Aso-City council elections where he missed out on election by just 5 votes. (see results here)


1. Japan’s Agriculture Minister Offs Himself » Japan Probe - May 28, 2007

[…] from the inside, looking in has a very good post discussing this topic, offering some interesting theories about the reasons […]

2. Landwirtschaftsminister Matsuoka begeht Selbstmord « Der gute Name - May 28, 2007

[…] zwei Monate vor der Wahl für das Oberhaus statfindet, als Probe für das Kabinett unter Abe. Wie fukumimi berichtet gab es erst einen Bericht, dass es keinen und dann plötzlich doch einen Abschiedsbrief […]

3. Global Voices Online » Japan: More on the suicide of Matsuoka Toshikatsu - May 29, 2007

[…] fukumimi at from the inside, looking in speculates about possible explanations for the suicide of the late minister of agriculture Matsuoka Toshikatsu. Responding to a report mentioning that a suicide letter was found, he writes: “If I were a […]

4. Global Voices Online » Japan: The Matsuoka Suicide - June 7, 2007

[…] director of a predecessor of J-Green, Yamazaki Shinichi, as well as the (less widely reported) suicide of Matsuoka’s former classmate Uchino Yukihiro, also possibly […]

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