Japan's finance minister swallows his medicine
Japan's outgoing Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa is an outspoken political heavyweight and close ally of the prime minister who has long been reputed to be fond of drinking.Updated: Feb 17, 2009 16:08 IST
Japan's outgoing Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa is an outspoken political heavyweight and close ally of the prime minister who has long been reputed to be fond of drinking.
Nakagawa, who resigned on Tuesday for what appeared to be drunken behaviour at a meeting of the Group of Seven world powers in Rome at the weekend, admitted to sipping some wine with lunch but blamed cold medicine for his slurred words.
"I think I can hold quite a bit" of alcohol, the 55-year-old told reporters on Monday.
The Fuji tabloid reported that the minister said in an interview that he had downed three or four gin and tonics on the plane to Rome, followed by two glasses of wine with dinner Friday and two more gins afterwards.
"When I returned home and immediately phoned my wife, she told me: 'Dear, you are in big trouble.' I was scolded sharply. I feel pathetic," he was quoted as saying.
Nakagawa, a former trade minister who favours public spending to revitalise Asia's biggest economy, was named finance minister in September when Prime Minister Taro Aso took office.
His father, who was also a ruling party heavyweight, was found dead in 1983 at a hotel room in his native Hokkaido. The death was later ruled to be suicide. After his father's death, Nakagawa successfully ran to replace him.
Nakagawa took over as finance minister at a crucial time for the economy. Working closely with Aso, he chose the path of trying to spend the country's way out of recession before getting to work on reducing its huge public debt.
The media lambasted him after appearing incoherent during Saturday's joint press conference with Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa, despite insisting he had only sipped wine and was not inebriated.
"I relished it, having a little in my mouth. If 'to drink' means to swallow, I didn't swallow," he said, drawing jeers from opposition lawmakers.
A sneezing Nakagawa said he would voluntarily check into hospital to take a good rest and focus on his job in his remaining days in office.
Nakagawa joined the Industrial Bank of Japan in 1978 upon graduating from the elite University of Tokyo.
He has also previously served as farm minister but was shunned by Aso's immediate predecessor Yasuo Fukuda, known for his efforts to reconcile with China.
Nakagawa has triggered controversy with strong criticism of China and calls for Japan -- the only nation to have suffered an atomic attack -- to consider developing nuclear weapons.
He is also known for being pro-Taiwan, admiring independence-minded former president Lee Teng-hui. Beijing regards the island as part of Chinese territory.
In June 2007, when he was the ruling party's policy chief, he told The Daily Telegraph in an interview: "Women have their proper place: they should be womanly."
"They have their own abilities and these should be fully exercised, for example in flower arranging, sewing, or cooking."
First Published: Feb 17, 2009 16:03 IST