Despite the undeniable importance of Japan in world affairs, both politically and economically, the office of the Japanese prime minister has received far less attention from scholars than have the top political offices in other advanced industrialised democracies. This book offers a systematic analysis of the Japanese prime minister's role and influence in the policy process. Kenji Hayao argues that the Japanese prime minister can play a major if not a critical role in bringing about a change in policy. In Japan the prime minister's style is different from what is considered usual for parliamentary leaders: rather than being strong and assertive, he tends to be reactive. How did the role develop in this way? If he is not a major initiator of policy change, how and under what conditions can the prime minister make his impact felt? Finally, what are the consequences of this rather weak leadership? In answering these questions, Professor Hayao presents two case studies (educational reform and reform of the tax system) involving Nakasone Yasuhiro to see how he became involved in the policy issues and how he affected the process.
Hayao then examines a number of broad forces that seem important in explaining the prime minister's role in the policy process: how a leader is chosen and his relationships with other important actors in the political system - the political parties and the subgovernments; and the structure of his "inner" staff and advisers.