THE MAN BEHIND THE POLKA-DOT TIE
TOKYO — Toshiki Kaifu is an eloquent politician. Twice appointed education minister, Mr. Kaifu is well versed in education policies. As early as the mid-1980s he was regarded as a future candidate for prime minister.
Born in 1931 in Aichi Prefecture, Kaifu won his first seat in the parliament's lower house in 1960. He was a friend of the late prime minister Takeo Miki, known as ``Mr. Clean'' for his opposition to political corruption. The Miki faction now is headed by Toshio Komoto.
Kaifu has been elected 10 times. He was appointed chairman of the lower house's committee on rules and administration in 1972, when Kakuei Tanaka was prime minister. He was named deputy chief Cabinet secretary in 1974 under the Miki government. Kaifu served as education minister in the mid-70s and mid-80s. In his second term, when Yasuhiro Nakasone was prime minister, he tackled educational reform and worked as senior deputy secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Since his school days, Kaifu has been a leading orator. He demonstrated his speaking ability in 1975, when labor unions of Japanese public corporations went on a long-term strike. When the social situation worsened, Kaifu appeared on television as a spokesman for the government, and gained popularity with the people because of his eloquence.
Once before, in the summer of 1985, Kaifu had emerged as a likely successor to Komoto when the faction leader resigned from his Cabinet post to take responsibility for the bankruptcy of a shipping line company he virtually owned. However, the 78-year-old leader still exercises his leadership.
The politician, whose trademark is his polka-dot tie, is close to former Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and former LDP Secretary General Shintaro Abe, also serving his 10th term in the lower house.