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Ex-Finance Minister Nakagawa found dead at Tokyo home

Shoichi Nakagawa

Ex-Finance Minister Nakagawa found dead at Tokyo home

TOKYO —

Former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, whose political career went downhill after a February press conference in Rome at which he appeared to be drunk, was found dead at his home in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward on Sunday morning, police said.

The Metropolitan Police Department said the possibility of suicide was low and ruled out foul play as no note has been discovered at the residence, Nakagawa had no apparent external wounds, and there were no signs of trouble in his room.

Nakagawa, 56, had been taking prescribed sleep-inducing medication, and police said they will investigate the causal relationship between the drug and his death.

The time of his death is estimated at around 11 p.m. Saturday, while emergency personnel confirmed his death at 8:27 a.m. Sunday, they said.

Dressed in a polo shirt and shorts, Nakagawa was found lying face down on a bed on the second floor. His 50-year-old wife found him limp after going to check on him at around 8:15 a.m. as he did not emerge from the room, and called for an ambulance about five minutes later, they said.

There were traces of vomit on the bed, and packs of what appeared to be sleeping tablets were on the table and in its drawer in the room, police said.

The cause of his death was not determined in either the police’s initial examination of the body or a later administrative autopsy Sunday, and so a pathological examination will be conducted on his blood and tissue, they said.

A senior Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker said the coroners did not observe any evidence of a suicide and decided to do an autopsy as the cause of death was not apparent. But no judicial autopsy was performed as is done in criminal cases.

When Nakagawa’s wife came home at around 9 p.m. Saturday, she saw him sleeping with his upper body leaning against the bed, his face down, but did not sense anything was wrong, police said. Their 25-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son were not at home when he was found dead.

Hailing from Hokkaido, the University of Tokyo graduate once regarded as a future prime ministerial candidate held prominent posts in the cabinet and the LDP, including agriculture minister, trade minister and party policy chief.

Nakagawa, who served eight lower house terms after first winning a seat in December 1983, was appointed finance minister and financial services minister in September last year under the administration of then Prime Minister Taro Aso.

But he stepped down from the cabinet posts in mid-February after his widely ridiculed performance at the press conference after a Group of Seven financial leaders meeting in the Italian capital.

Then in late August, Nakagawa was among some high-profile LDP members who lost in the House of Representatives election in which the Democratic Party of Japan clinched a landslide victory over the long-ruling LDP to oust it from power.

Senior LDP lawmakers expressed disappointment over Nakagawa’s death, with Aso, who had been on close terms with him, saying, ‘‘I am so deeply shocked that I have no words.’’

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura surmised that Nakagawa may have been both physically and mentally exhausted due to the shock of losing in the election, adding, ‘‘Mr Nakagawa had good policymaking abilities, and he would have played an important part in Japan’s future political scene.’’

From the current DPJ-led administration, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama expressed his condolences in a statement saying that he was ‘‘very surprised’’ to hear the news and ‘‘feels regretful’’ as a fellow politician also representing a Hokkaido constituency.

Senior Vice Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda told reporters, ‘‘I remember playing parts in a historical play together with Mr Nakagawa and top executives of private companies. It is very disappointing.’’

People in Nakagawa’s home constituency in Hokkaido also expressed shock and surprise over the unexpected news.

‘‘He was a lower house member who carried the future of Hokkaido on his shoulders,’’ said Hidenobu Takeuchi of the LDP chapter in Japan’s northernmost prefecture.

Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii and Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa also expressed their condolences from Istanbul, where they attended talks involving G-7 financial chiefs. Shirakawa was present at the Rome press conference where Nakagawa appeared intoxicated.

After graduating from university, Nakagawa joined the now-defunct Industrial Bank of Japan, which has integrated management with two other banks to form the Mizuho Financial Group Inc, and entered politics after his father, Ichiro Nakagawa, a former farm minister, died in January 1983 at a hotel in Sapporo.

Nakagawa’s defeat in the Aug 30 general election marked the collapse of what had been dubbed the ‘‘Nakagawa kingdom’‘—a strong electoral power base built by his father.

A woman living in Nakagawa’s neighborhood said although she used to see him doing some gardening before, his garden had not been kept recently. Another female neighbor said he looked gloomy when she exchanged greetings with him several days earlier.

© 2009 Kyodo News. All rights reserved. No reproduction or republication without written permission.

Latest 15 of 57 Total Comments Show All

  • johnshiomi at 09:29 AM JST - 5th October

    Dead at only 56. So sad. If only he could have lived life a little differently. Maybe all of this wouldnt have happened.

  • Lovemustang at 09:46 AM JST - 5th October

    On a personal level, yes, it's sad. But this never offsets what he did throughout his political career - not to mention that embarrassing press interview he performed at G7 and his generally arrogant attitude and narrow minded, prejudiced nationalism. Just another sign to symbolize the death of LDP.

  • GW at 10:32 AM JST - 5th October

    I bet this guy was toast already when the mrs noticed he was in bed at 2100hrs, I seriously doubt a boozer like this wud hit the sack that early

  • unrested at 10:35 AM JST - 5th October

    suicide...i wouldnt rule it out. lets look at the facts here. he had a crushing fall from grace after drinking himself out of a lucrative career. his father was also a drunk who commited suicide at 57. he was 56 and buried in regret and embarrasment after his drunken exploits at a meeting and then later an art muesem where he blatantly violated the rules by touching master works and setting off alarms in front of officials. afterwards he was mostly ostracized by his peers and colleagues who never lended a hand to a man obviously overwrought in a darknes i hope few of us ever venture into.

  • Klein2 at 10:42 AM JST - 5th October

    Strangely, I immediately thought of Elvis Presley. It turns out I was right. Nakagawa would have been gone at 42 if he had just put on another 40 kg or so.

    Chalk up another death to alcohol. Why do we even bother with looking for a cure to cancer while we have alcohol staring us in the face?

  • timorborder at 11:09 AM JST - 5th October

    My bet is a mixture of booze and pills. Here is the reasoning:

    When he made his famous press conference in Rome (the one that got him canned as minister), his excuse was that he stupidly mixed some cold medicine with a couple of glasses of wine.

    Nakagawa was also well-known in political circles as somebody who loved his booze. This has been widely reported in Japan over the years. His Rome escapade (which included some stupid behavior with some priceless works of art) was initially passed off as him just enjoying a liquid lunch/liquid dinner. I also remember seeing him the worse for wear at a diplomatic function I attended at an embassy here in Tokyo years ago.

    The police have reported that there was evidence of vomiting. This is usually an indicator of the body trying to get rid of something in a hurry (something the body considers as toxic). Acute food poisoning often results in vomiting (try eating some green potatoes), drug toxicity is another cause of vomiting.

  • maxjapank at 11:29 AM JST - 5th October

    It completely amazes me how little people know about alcohlism, but neither did I till I went through it. So although I am unable to prove it, I am still quite convinced that Nakagawa's death, whether it was from sleeping pills, cough syrup, or passing out and drowning in his own vomit, is directly related to this.

    Sleeping pills are commonly given to alcohlics in Japan. I was given them when I was first sobering up because after drinking so long, you are unable to fall asleep without alcohol. This is part of the withdrawal period, but unfortunately, you become dependant on the sleeping pills. So the first thing recovering alcohlics told me was to stop taking them. Endure the pain of sleepless nights, eventually you will fall asleep. Yet many alcholics who relapse, end up taking both, so doctors are really setting them up for a much worse situation.

    Why cough syrup? There's alcohol in it. Haven't you ever drunken NyQuil when there was no more liquor left? I have. Welcome to alcoholism.

    As for vomiting, many alcoholics have died from drowing in their own vomit. I once fell asleep on my kitchen floor with a lit cigarette. I don't remember it at all. All I remember is waking up in pain, wondering why i had the worst looking burn marks between my two fingers. The cigarette had completely burned down, and I never even woke to the pain of it.

    It may well have been suicide or accidental. But in my own experience, there are just too many coincedences that point to alcoholism.

  • Osakadaz at 12:51 PM JST - 5th October

    could be just exactly as you say maxjapank.The Japanese press say that there is a possibility that he had been drinking alcohol too.Well done maxjapank on shaking alcoholism by the way!

  • Manny3 at 01:53 PM JST - 5th October

    What's there to investigate? He topped himself like many Japanese do when all hell breaks loose.

  • blvtzpk at 02:00 PM JST - 5th October

    The police have reported that there was evidence of vomiting

    I had a conspiracy theory going for a while, but in the mind of the great criminologist, Nigel Tufnel, "You can't really dust for vomit."

  • Himajin at 02:40 PM JST - 5th October

    I bet this guy was toast already when the mrs noticed he was in bed at 2100hrs

    He was dead approximately 8-9 hours when found, they said.

  • Kronos at 04:06 PM JST - 5th October

    "When Nakagawa’s wife came home at around 9 p.m. Saturday, she saw him sleeping with his upper body leaning against the bed, his face down, but did not sense anything was wrong, police said. Their 25-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son were not at home when he was found dead.

    His 50-year-old wife found him limp after going to check on him at around 8:15 a.m. as he did not emerge from the room, and called for an ambulance about five minutes later, they said."

    I felt very sad when I read this. This is such a bad way to go. The wife was in the house when he died but did not notice it until the morning. I assume they slept together and she did not notice him die during the sleep. I feel sorry for the wife. I would be wrecked with guilt for the rest of my life if such a thing happened.

  • knews at 11:21 PM JST - 5th October

    Kronos

    It is more than likely that he and his wife didn't share the same bedroom at night. Quite common for his generation and especially considering the ridiculous hours he would have worked..... i.e. To avoid waking your family (especially partner), it makes more sense (according to many Japanese people) to sleep in separate rooms if you come home very late at night.

  • amerijap at 12:10 AM JST - 6th October

    There were traces of vomit on the bed, and packs of what appeared to be sleeping tablets were on the table and in its drawer in the room, police said.

    There's no doubt he had a health problem which might be family-oriented disease. Still not sure the pills he took for sleeping deficits or any other related symptoms were appropriate ones.

  • zMeina at 04:49 PM JST - 8th October

    Because it was a person who is the nearest prime minister's seat, it is very regrettable in the Liberal-Democratic Party today.

    And, I think that it renews and the report of Japanese news media is too excessive.

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