Former Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, an outspoken politician who jousted with U.S. officials over the auto trade and brought "Big Bang" financial reforms to Tokyo, died on Saturday at 68, Kyodo news agency said.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto speaks to reporters as he leaves Yasukuni Shrine after offering a prayer for the war dead in Tokyo in this August 14, 2005 file photo. Hashimoto, an outspoken politician who jousted with U.S. officials over auto trade and brought "Big Bang" financial reforms to Tokyo, died on July 1, 2006 at the age of 68, Kyodo news agency said. [Reuters]
Hashimoto, who retired from politics last September citing poor health, had undergone surgery to remove a large part of his intestine after being rushed to hospital on June 4.
Hailed as a forceful leader who would tackle reform when he took over as premier in 1996, he ultimately faltered in the face of financial crisis, political scandal and economic stagnation.
By the time Hashimoto made a second run for the premiership in April 2001, losing out to reformist Junichiro Koizumi, the one-time media favourite had become an emblem of the ruling party's resistance to change.