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Sōsuke Uno
宇 野 宗 佑
Sosuke Uno 19890603.jpg
Prime Minister of Japan
In office
3 June 1989 – 10 August 1989
Monarch Akihito
Preceded by Noboru Takeshita
Succeeded by Toshiki Kaifu
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
8 November 1987 – 3 June 1989
Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita
Preceded by Tadashi Kuranari
Succeeded by Hiroshi Mitsuzuka
Minister of International Trade and Industry
In office
10 June 1983 – 27 November 1983
Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone
Preceded by Sadanori Yamanaka
Succeeded by Hikosaburo Okonogi
Director General of the Administrative Management Agency
In office
9 November 1979 – 17 July 1980
Prime Minister Masayoshi Ōhira
Preceded by Motohiko Kanai
Succeeded by Yasuhiro Nakasone
Director General of the Science and Technology Agency
In office
24 December 1976 – 28 November 1977
Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda
Preceded by Masao Maeda
Succeeded by Tasaburo Kumagai
Director General of the Japan Defense Agency
In office
11 November 1974 – 9 December 1974
Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka
Preceded by Sadanori Yamanaka
Succeeded by Michita Sakata
Member of the House of Representatives
In office
20 November 1960 – 20 October 1996
Personal details
Born (1922-08-27)27 August 1922
Moriyama, Shiga, Empire of Japan
Died 19 May 1998(1998-05-19) (aged 75)
Moriyama, Shiga, Japan
Political party Liberal Democratic Party
Alma mater Kobe University of Commerce
Military career
Allegiance  Japan
Service/branch  Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service 1943–45
Rank Second Lieutenant
Battles/wars Second World War
  • Soviet-Japanese War
    • Soviet invasion of Manchuria

Sōsuke Uno (宇野 宗佑, Uno Sōsuke, 27 August 1922 – 19 May 1998) was a Japanese politician who was briefly Prime Minister of Japan in 1989, the first Prime Minister who came from Shiga Prefecture. A scandal exposed by the geisha Mitsuko Nakanishi contributed to his premature resignation from office after just sixty-eight days.

Early life and education

Sosuke Uno 1952
Sōsuke Uno (at the Daikokuza Theatre on 1952)

Uno was born in Moriyama, Shiga. His family owned a sake brewery called Arachō, and had served as town officials (toshiyori). The family had previously ran a hotel and a general store in his birth home.

In 1943, he graduated from Hikone Commercial College (later, Shiga University) where he led Hikone Commercial College to the national champion of Kendo among the commercial universities and colleges in Japan and attended the Kobe College of Commerce but had to leave the University two months later after the enrollment because he was called into the Imperial Japanese Army as an officer during World War II. After the war, he was sent to Siberia as a prisoner. He never came back to Kobe College of Commerce again.

As well as a politician, Uno was an accomplished writer, who wrote a book considered classic in Japan about his experiences as a prisoner of war in Siberia.

Political career

Town Council Visiting Oak Ridge Fire Department (6883074718) (2)
Sōsuke Uno (at the Energy Research and Development Administration on September 14, 1977)

In 1960, he entered politics, winning election to the Diet of Japan. Six years later, he was promoted to Vice-Minister at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, then similar positions with the Science and Technology Agency, then the Administrative Agency until earning his place in Cabinet as Minister for Trade and Industry and then Foreign Secretary until he was Prime Minister. Whilst Foreign Secretary (in what were conflicted times) he was applauded for his tact as foreign secretary, navigating international demands for increased Japanese contributions to international commerce with stern loyalty to his own nation's interests.

In 1974, he served briefly as Director General of the Japan Defense Agency. As the Foreign Minister under then-Prime Minister Takeshita, Uno became the first Japanese Cabinet member to visit Israel since the 1973 oil crisis. Uno's career reached a peak in the most fraught times his party had seen, as he took the reins of his party after the Recruit Scandal, when 47 Japanese MPs (including mostly other members from his own Liberal Democrat Party) were found guilty of taking bribes and unfair trading. Of all prime-ministerial candidates, only Uno was free of blame from them, and he was given charge over the party, the government, and Japan. By this stage he had served his country for almost fifty years, and was placed in office on 3 June 1989.

Geisha affair

Sōsuke Uno Cabinet 19890603
with the Ministers of Uno Government (at the Prime Minister's Official Residence on June 3, 1989)

Uno encountered public scandal in 1989, when accused by the Geisha entertainer Mitsuko Nakanishi of being "immoral" and stingy in his financial support during their four-month affair in 1986. Nakanishi would claim in following newspaper interviews that Uno had treated older geisha with arrogance and contempt, had not paid the appropriate fee of ¥300,000 per month (roughly US$21,000 at the time) for her company of four months, and had not provided a traditional parting gift (a further monetary fee) as had been custom in geisha etiquette.

A Washington Post article published in July 1989 brought international attention to the affair, with some geisha denouncing Nakanishi as a whistleblower, effectively compromising the discreet nature of the profession and engaging with political and economic affairs in the public sphere. Nakanishi later quit the profession, remarried and divorced once, attended a Shingon Buddhist school temple in Shiga Prefecture, and held various jobs unrelated to the geisha community. Due to the severity of the scandal, Nakanishi's own son disowned her during this time.

To avoid further scandal, Sōsuke Uno resigned as prime minister on 10 August 1989 after just 68 days in office, but continued to serve his country in various government posts until he retired fully in 1996. On 29 April 1994, he was awarded with the highest possible honour for a non-head-of-state, the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flowers.


At 72 years of age, Uno then enjoyed a peaceful retirement in Moriyama city. He died on 19 May 1998 in his private home. He had two daughters from his wife. He published two collections of Haiku poems, as well as his book on prisonership in Siberia, along with painting, poetry, and music. A year later in 1999, his Geisha affair was highlighted in the Secret Life of Geisha, a TV documentary.


  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flowers - (29 April 1994)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Sōsuke Uno para niños

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