Men’s Scandals Propel Woman to Unprecedented Post With AM-Japan, Bjt
TOKYO (AP) _ Four years ago, Mayumi Moriyama was excluded from a diplomats’ golf tournament she was holding because the Koganei Country Club, bastion of Japan’s power circles, didn’t admit women.
The fact that she was vice minister of foreign affairs at the time made no difference. Neither would her appointment on Friday to the highest government post ever attained by a woman, chief Cabinet secretary.
Although the country club still is closed to women in this male-dominated society, the scandals that have plagued the governing party have created some unprecedented openings for women.
Sex and bribery scandals and an unpopular sales have resulted in the resignations of three prime ministers in three months, critically weakening the conservative Liberal Democratic Party that has controlled government for decades.
With her new duties, Mrs. Moriyama, 61, will act as a highly visible spokewoman for new Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu and coordinate the turf battles among Japan’s fiercely competitive ministries.
She will also act as one of the Liberal Democratic Party’s chief public relations weapons against Japan Socialist Party Chairwoman Takako Doi, who also has skyrocketed in popularity amid the scandals involving male politicians.
Kaifu tried to link Mrs. Moriyama with the popular ″ordinary housewife″ image that helped propel many female opposition candidates into office in last month’s election.
″Mrs. Moriyama has an experience as a housewife as well as that of a bureaucrat,″ Kaifu said after appointing her. ″I would like her to push forward political reforms from the standpoint of the people.″
Ms. Doi, the charismatic socialist leader, led a slate of candidates packed with women to a major defeat of the ruling Liberal Democrats in elections for the upper house of Parliament last month.
Mrs. Moriyama replaces Tokuo Yamashita, 69, who resigned after apologizing for a much-publicized extramarital affair with a bar hostess 43 years his junior.
Kaifu himself replaced Prime Minister Sousuki Uno, who resigned because of his reported affairs with women.
Although seen as a competent and highly intelligent politician, Mrs. Moriyama is considered inexperienced. She also is hampered by being a member of the less-powerful upper house, with only two terms’ experience and only a small power base in the party.
She assumed her first Cabinet post just two weeks ago, when she was appointed head of the Environment Agency.
″The appointment is apparently aimed at bettering the image of the government,″ said Soichiro Tawara, a prominent political critic. ″But I can’t help thinking the choice was made perhaps a little too hastily and lightly. She may be helpful in some ways, but I am not confident that a politician with such limited experience can handle perhaps the most demanding position in the Cabinet.″
But if she lacks clout, Mrs. Moriyama enjoys general respect, and her education and civil service experience matches that of her male colleagues.
″As far as my near 40-year professional experience is concerned, I never felt any handicaps for being a woman,″ she said after her appointment.
Moriyama was one of just two women in a class of 686 that graduated in 1950 from the Law Department of prestigious Tokyo University, the breeding ground for Japanese politicians. She entered the Labor Ministry as one of its first female career officers in 1950, and was director general of its Women’s and Young Workers’ Bureau from 1974-80.
In 1980, she was elected to the House of Councillors from Tochigi prefecture, and in 1985 was appointed parliamentary vice minister for foreign affairs, when her exclusion from the golf club became a minor cause celebre. Mrs. Moriyama, whose official handicap is 26, was never admitted to the club.
Mrs. Moriyama commands greater international skills than many Japanese politicians. She is fluent in English and served as head of the Japanese delegation to the U.N. World Conference on the Women’s Decade in Nairobi in 1985.
She has experience dealing in Japan-U.S. relations and other international problems as chairman of the party’s Foreign Affairs Devision and as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the upper house.
Mrs. Moriyama is the widow of Kinji Moriyama, a legislator and former transportation minister who died of a heart attack in 1987, and is said to have inherited some of his power base. She has two daughters.