Obituary: Kenji Miyamoto, postwar Japanese Communist, dies at 98
By Douglas Martin
Published: July 20, 2007
Kenji Miyamoto, a Japanese Communist who emerged from jail in 1945 to lead his party on a jagged postwar course in which it renounced Russian and Chinese communism - and even the phrase Marxist-Leninist - in favor of more popular bread-and-butter issues, died Wednesday in Tokyo. He was 98.
Miyamoto, who occupied top party posts from 1958 to 1977, joined the party in 1931 after graduating from what is now called the University of Tokyo. He was convicted two years later of conspiring to beat and kick a police officer to death, a charge he adamantly denied.
He was released after World War II, when his sentence was annulled by imperial decree.
But the episode came back to dominate the news in Japan in 1988 after Koichi Hamada, chairman of the budget committee in the House of Representatives, publicly called Miyamoto a murderer.
Japanese decorum required that Hamada apologize, which he refused to do. After pressure mounted for a week, Hamada did so.
After the war, Miyamoto led the Communists' campaign in the 1949 elections in which the party won 35 seats. The Communists lost ground a year later, just before the outbreak of the Korean War, when General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, barred Miyamoto and several other members of the party's central committee from public service.
The Communists rebounded, however, overcoming that rebuke as well as their unpopularity with many Japanese over the party's rabid opposition to Japan's imperial family. Fielding candidates in subsequent elections, the Communists reached their height in 1979, when they won more than 8 percent of the seats in the lower house of Parliament.
The independent path along which Miyamoto led his party drew wide attention, with many comparisons to Italy's Communist Party. In 1958, Miyamoto abandoned his support for violent revolution in favor of what he called "smiling communism," with its emphasis on issues like inflation, housing and education.
In 1966, he visited China as it was going though the radical social changes of its Cultural Revolution. "The situation" there, he said, "is abnormal." Two years later, he denounced the Soviet Union's invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia.
At a political convention in 1990, Miyamoto said he had never supported the line of old European Communists. He said the collapse of communism in Europe did not represent a failure of socialism, but a defeat of Stalinism and subsequent Soviet regimes.
He consistently opposed the U.S.-Japan alliance.