Satō Eisaku: One of Japan’s Finest Prime Ministers
Satō Eisaku was the prime minister of Japan from 1964-1972. Satō brought incredible economic growth in Japan and helped close some of the lingering wounds from the Second World War. Satō was former Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke’s brother. Like Prime Minister Ikeda Hayato before him, Satō had been the head of the Finance Ministry and MITI, “so his experience in government and business had put him in a good position to manage what turned out to be a record-breaking eight years” (Schoppa, 355).
Satō helped make Japan’s GNP the third largest in the world. Japan saw an annual GNP growth of 9.3 percent between the early 1950s and 1972. In 1972 when Satō’s term of office was over, “Japan could lay claim to being an advanced industrial nation, with a level of per capita income half that of the United States and ahead of those of some European countries” (Schoppa, 356). Satō also helped Japan benefit with economic relations by normalizing relations with South Korea from U.S. encouragement.
Satō may be best remembered for his foreign relations. The U.S. had pushed South Korea and Japan to fix their dispositions on one another and that brought the two economically close through trade. South Korea imported $162 million worth of goods from Japan in 1963. Between 1961 and 1965, Japanese companies were financing 67 percent of the ruling party’s budget in South Korea. Japan and South Korea signed an official peace treaty in April 1965 to normalize diplomatic relations. Japan had to give South Korea a grant of $300 million plus loans of $200 million as a part of their normalization.
Another of Satō’s better remembered foreign actions is how he regained Okinawa for Japan. Okinawa had been taken by the U.S. during the Second World War and was a pivotal military base. The military base on Okinawa was a staging area during the Vietnam War. Satō once said that “until the restitution of Okinawa is realized, our ‘post-war’ will continue” (Schoppa, 357). Japan was able to regain control over Okinawa in 1972 after several discussions and negotiations with the U.S. Japan only had to accept two concessions by the U.S. and both were hard to accept. The first was that the military bases would remain in Okinawa and the second was that in an emergency the U.S. could bring nuclear weapons in.
Satō was a prime minister who helped Japan’s post-war rise from ruin arguably the most during the decades following World War II. Satō created growth in Japanese economics and increased the nation’s GNP annually. Satō mended some relations with South Korea and regained Okinawa for Japan. Satō is one of the finest prime ministers in Japanese history.
- Schoppa, R. Keith. East Asia: Identities and Change in the Modern World, 1700-present. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2008.
- “File:Eisaku Sato 01.jpg.” Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eisaku_Sato_01.jpg.(Accessed April 9, 2015).