Playback ’04] Prime Minister Koizumi’s face was bright red and his eyes were glazed over… Prime Minister Koizumi got drunk in Roppongi on the night of the Iraqi invasion. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Playback ’04] Prime Minister Koizumi’s face was bright red and his eyes were glazed over… Prime Minister Koizumi got drunk in Roppongi on the night of the Iraqi invasion.

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
Slurping sake with relish at a Japanese restaurant

What did “FRIDAY” report 10, 20, and 30 years ago? In this edition of “Playback Friday,” we take a look back at the topics that were popular at the time. This time, we bring you “Prime Minister Koizumi ‘Drunk in Roppongi’ on the Night of Iraq Deployment,” which appeared in the January 30, 2004 issue 20 years ago.

In July of the previous year, the “Iraq Special Measures Law” was enacted to dispatch Self-Defense Forces to Iraq. Amidst the clamor of opposition to the deployment, on January 9, 2004, Shigeru Ishiba, then 45, director general of the Defense Agency, held a press conference and announced that he had ordered the advance detachment of the Ground SDF and the main body of the Air SDF to leave the country. This is what Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (then 62) did that night as seen by this magazine.

Sake at quite a pitch ……

Immediately after that historic press conference, where was Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the man behind the forceful decision to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq? He was having a drink in Roppongi, one of the most popular entertainment districts in Tokyo.

After his comments at the Prime Minister’s Office following Secretary Ishiba’s press conference, Prime Minister Koizumi was interviewed by Russian state broadcasters at a hotel in Tokyo. He then traveled to Roppongi in a private car and entered a Japanese restaurant famous for its tai meshi (rice with sea bream) just before 8:00 pm. What was it like inside the restaurant? According to the article at the time, he seemed quite relaxed.

In the cozy restaurant with only counter seats, the prime minister began to eat in a relaxed manner, accompanied on his right by his “bag of wisdom” secretary Yasuken Tango (from the Ministry of Finance) and on his left by economic commentator Naoki Tanaka, who serves as an advisor on issues such as the privatization of the postal system. From outside the restaurant, we could see the prime minister tucking into his food, taking off his suit jacket and wearing a front robe. Judging from the way the prime minister sits slumped in his chair, it appears to be a rather informal “banquet.

The prime minister continued to drink sake at quite a pitch; after an hour, his face would become quite flushed. Sometimes he would make a forceful speech with gestures, and other times he would sink back into his chair and blather on and on. He is clearly drunk.

When it is almost 10 p.m., the proprietress comes out of the restaurant and loads two paper bags into the trunk of the prime minister’s private car. The prime minister is unmarried, but they are probably “souvenirs” for his sister and policy secretary Nobuko, who is said to be living with him at his official residence.

A short time later, the group emerged from the restaurant. Normally, Prime Minister Koizumi moves quite quickly, but on this day, he was relaxed, his face was bright red, and even his eyes were somewhat vacant. With a satisfied smile on his face, he left the Roppongi area with an SP in tow.

At that time, it was a historic decision to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces to a “de facto war zone” where U.S. forces were being attacked by armed groups and suicide bombings were occurring day after day. Moreover, in November of the previous year, a Japanese diplomat had been attacked and killed in Iraq.

When Koizumi became prime minister in the “Koizumi whirlwind” in 2001, he had an approval rating of over 80%. In 2002, he gained high support from the public by bringing about a Japan-North Korea summit and forcing North Korea to officially acknowledge the abduction of Japanese nationals. The issue of dispatching the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq may be said to have been the time when he faced the greatest headwind of all.

However, in 2005, Koizumi faced an even bigger challenge in the form of the “Postal Service Dissolution,” in which he sought to privatize the Postal Service. Perhaps he felt that he had done his job, rather than worrying about such comments as “It is inexcusable on a day when the Self-Defense Forces are about to be dispatched to a war zone. It is typical of Mr. Koizumi.

Prime Minister Koizumi is completely red-faced. On the day of the exercise, he was not only talking about the deployment of the Self-Defense Forces, but also about the privatization of the Japan Post.
A large-scale exercise by the Ground Self-Defense Force was held on January 10, 2004, at the Narashino Training Area. Behind the lined-up personnel is an armored vehicle that was scheduled to be used in Iraq.
The 1st Airborne Paratroopers, which performed the parachute drop, is one of the most elite units of the JGSDF.
  • PHOTO Shigeki Katano (1st and 2nd photos), Masayuki Kikuchi (3rd and 4th photos)

Photo Gallery4 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles