(b. 3 Mar. 1924).
Prime Minister of Japan 1994–6 Japan's first Socialist Prime Minister for forty-seven years, he was plucked from relative obscurity in late 1993 to lead the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) after its crushing defeat in the July 1993 House of Representatives poll. His party career prior to his election as leader was not marked by any conspicuous achievement, although he was a veteran of local and national politics, representing constituencies in the Oita prefecture for most of the postwar era. Possibly because he was so outstandingly unoutstanding, Murayama was chosen as the candidate to lead an unlikely and difficult coalition government in 1994. His administration included long-time political opponents, the JSP and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). In the event, Murayama proved to be a capable Prime Minister, not least in his defiance of widespread expectations that his coalition would collapse sooner. Aspects of Murayama's administration were dogged by criticism, such as the government's tardy response to the humanitarian emergency that resulted from the Kobe earthquake of 17 January 1995 and the financial crisis of the same year involving the collapse of housing loan corporations. Nevertheless there were some qualified successes in facing up to Japan's legacy from World War II. He also took a measure of credit for the resolution of other long-standing controversies such as the Minamata mercury poisoning case.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).