[THE LATE] SAM JAMESON’S 1996 ACCOUNT OF Tanaka Kakuei’s fateful October 22, 1974, Club luncheon is more accurate than most (Number 1 Shimbun, August 2013).

Even so, it gets some important things wrong. He says the crucial Bungei Shunju article accusing Tanaka of kinmyaku (money connections) appeared in the late summer of 1974. In fact it was written much earlier, in May, by Shintaro Ishihara.

It pushed the stock market down by three percent. A nascent anti Tanaka mood quickly gained strength. (Tanaka was also being blamed for the post oil shock inflation and other sins such as the Seoul subway corruption scandal).

But in interviews and at press conferences he was generally able to brush it all aside. Moods were no match for “the computerized bulldozer,” as Tanaka was called.

It was not till he was scheduled to appear at the Club months later that things began to cave in. On the basis of another Bungei anti Tanaka piece in September, Bernie Krisher in Newsweek wrote a widely read article pulling it together with the original Ishihara kinmyaku and other allegations against Tanaka.

Published just before the October luncheon, it was for many Club members their first real hint that Tanaka was in trouble, as should be clear from the Bela Elias quote that Sam uses.

But for the massed Japanese TV cameras covering the luncheon the Bungei allegations were old hat. What was new was the fact that the world’s media were so willing to rudely attack their prime minister on the basis of those allegations.

Broadcast widely that evening, they provided the occasion for all the anti Tanaka rumblings that had been going on months before to surface.

So it was not a matter of the Club (and Newsweek) bravely exposing a scandal Japan was trying to hide. If anything it was the reverse it was precisely because Club people like Bela Elias had so little idea of what had been going on for months before that they were able, for all the wrong reasons, to give Japan the excuse it needed to dump a powerful prime minister a prime minister that, as Sam hints, did not deserve to be so rudely treated.

Little wonder that subsequent prime ministers were so reluctant to continue the tradition of prime ministers making courtesy Club appearances.

Kiuchi Akitane, the laid back, cooperative and highly respected Foreign Ministry official acting as secretary for Tanaka that Sam mentions as making such efforts to arrange the luncheon, remains furious to this day.

— Greg Clark