Yuriko Koike: Biography highlights
Japanese politician who currently serves as the governor of Tokyo. She was a member of the House of Representatives of Japan and was previously the Minister of Defense in the cabinet of the Prime Minister.
Born and raised in Ashiya, Hyōgo, a wealthy, small, city near Kobe, Koike went to Kōnan Girls’ Junior and Senior High School for her secondary education. Her father, Yūjirō Koike, was a foreign trade merchant who handled oil products. He was also involved in politics, supporting Shintarō Ishihara and the Tatenokai in the 1960s, and ran unsuccessfully for national election in 1969. He occasionally told Yuriko that it was essential for Japan to strengthen relations with Arab countries to ensure a stable petroleum supply lest the resource-poor Japan be thrust into war for oil again. His words convinced her to study in Egypt to master Arabic.
Koike was elected to the House of Councillors in 1992 as a member of the Japan New Party. She was then elected to the House of Representatives in 1993, representing the Hyogo 2nd district. In 1996, she was re-elected to the House of Representatives, this time representing the Hyogo 6th district for the New Frontier Party. She held this seat in the 2000 election as a candidate of the New Conservative Party. She joined the Liberal Democratic Party in 2002. She also has been a regular contributor to Project Syndicate since 2010.
She served as the Minister of the Environment and Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Jun’ichirō Koizumi. Along with Satsuki Katayama and Makiko Fujino, Koike became known as one of Koizumi’s “assassins” in the 2005 Lower House election, running in Tokyo against an LDP hardliner candidate who opposed Koizumi’s policies.
On 8 September 2008, she launched her bid to become president of the LDP and became the first woman ever to seek the premiership in Japan’s history: “I have received the enthusiastic support of my colleagues. In order to break through the deadlock facing Japanese society, I believe the country might as well have a female candidate. Hillary used the word ‘glass ceiling’ … but in Japan, it isn’t glass, it’s an iron plate. I’m not Mrs. Thatcher, but what is needed is a strategy that advances a cause with conviction, clear policies and sympathy with the people.“
Koike was elected Governor of Tokyo on 31 July 2016, becoming the first woman in the post. On 31 May 2017, in advance of the upcoming local elections, Koike resigned from the Liberal Democratic Party and officially became the leader of Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First). Koike founded the group in 2016 in preparation for the elections and formed an alliance with Komeito in an effort to secure a governing majority in Tokyo’s parliament. On July 3, 2017, the alliance took a majority in the prefectural election, pushing out the Liberal Democratic Party with a combined 79 seats of the 127-seat assembly.
Koike supports economic liberalism, promotes administrative and budgetary reform, and insists on further advancement of the status of women in the working world. In terms of the economy, she has used for aggressive privatization of Japanese assets to diminish the government’s debt burden. A strong turn towards IT development, natural sciences, sustainable infrastructure, and efficiency-based administrative reforms for public services were also on the docket.