To begin with, a few basic details. Hashimoto Toru was born on the 29th of June 1969, thus making him 43 years of age (J). Though he now represents Osaka City as its mayor (the 19th to serve in that post since the end of the WWII), he was born and spent the first years of his life in the Hatagaya district of Shibuya ward, Tokyo. According to his Twitter comments, when he was in 2nd year of elementary school (i.e., around 7 years of age) his father, who was a member of a Boryokudan (or organised criminal) group, committed suicide (J). By this time Hashimoto was already living with his mother in separate accommodation, and so Hashimoto himself has said that he does not have many memories of his biological father. His mother was apparently quite strict in his upbringing, but did not pay particular attention to studies or how he developed as an individual.
When Hashimoto was in 5th year of elementary school, his mother moved with him to Suita City in Osaka Prefecture (『新潮45』（2011年11月3号）pg.34). One year later his mother managed to secure public housing accommodation in East Yodogawa ward in Osaka City. Apparently when Hashimoto’s mother applied for the accommodation, it was granted almost immediately. Yodogawa has long been associated with members of the Buraku minority in Osaka, and Hashimoto’s mother had never told him prior to this that his father was a member of the Buraku community. He had, in other words, grown up in Tokyo ignorant of this part of his family’s history. Thereafter Hashimoto would move around a number of Buraku neighbourhoods in Osaka City, and, according to Hashimoto, was brought up “torn between two worlds.” (『週刊新潮』（2011年11月3日号）pg.24) He was apparently quite large for his age and so stood out at school, and as a result became the target of bullying from his classmates. To compensate, Hashimoto modified his behaviour depending on whomever he was dealing with at the time, which would prove useful later in life (「橋下徹研究」 産経新聞大阪社会部編著 産経新聞出版 pg.15-16).
By the time Hashimoto had entered junior high school he was already 170cm tall and able to speak convincingly about various subjects thus earning him the nickname of “old man.” (『新潮45』（2011年11月3号）pg.36) During the summer of his second year of junior high he was caught stealing a bicycle and cautioned. Afterwards Hashimoto poured his energies into the school’s rugby team, soon after becoming its captain. Apparently he was meticulous in preparing the team, for other team mates at the time remember Hashimoto lecturing the team on why it was important to practice in order to build up the team over time. When time came for his classmates to prepare for the entrance exam season for high school, Hashimoto created a study group with his friends, although eventually Hashimoto himself became the educator, a role he apparently relished. His classmates also noted that he was particularly ambitious, and that he spoke of becoming a politician in the future (「徹底検証 橋下主義(ハシモトイズム)」 読売新聞大阪本社社会部編著 梧桐書院 pg.228-229).
One thing Hashimoto was not too keen on was being made to stand apart from other students because of his Buraku background, and in his graduation essay complained about this fact. What particularly bothered him was the practice of concentrating students together in their local area. In other words, academically gifted students would be made to attend local schools together with the less academically inclined as a means of preventing too great an academic disparity from emerging between them. Hashimoto railed against this system, and managed to graduate to Kitano High School (J), a fairly prestigious school noted for its scholastic achievements. There he found himself adrift among a sea of students from privileged backgrounds, which stood in stark contrast to his Buraku upbringing. This disparity served to fire Hashimoto’s resolve to make something of himself, and he regards his time spent in East Yodogawa as his formative years (「橋下徹研究」 産経新聞大阪社会部編著 産経新聞出版 p.23, 『週刊新潮』（2011年11月3日号）pg.24).
In high school Hashimoto earned himself the moniker of “Hashige” (apparently a play on the adjective “Hageshi”, meaning “intense”). One of Hashimoto’s former teachers remembers that during gym class Hashimoto would pay out any classmate who failed to perform sufficiently, whereas he would make himself scarce when time came to clean classrooms or engage in any other kind of group activity (『新潮45』（2011年11月3号）pg.37). In high school he again joined the rugby club, although his team mates from the time recall that he was not an enthusiastic member of the club, and was often late for training. As a result he was dropped from the regulars, an event which inspired him to put all of his effort into training. While Hashimoto disliked the monotony and predictable nature of practice, in a game he would become a completely different person. In his 3rd year of high school his team advanced to the 67th national schools rugby competition (in which Hashimoto was albeit briefly recorded by T.V cameras rushing down the sideline to score a try, which can be seen here), and thought up various plays aimed at getting the ball out of the scrum in a hurry. Recently Hashimoto, in a Twitter comment, stated that he was not the best student at high school (J), and that there were plenty of teachers who disliked him (J).
Upon graduating from high school Hashimoto gave up trying to gain entrance to Kobe University (mainly as a result of his mediocre high school grades), and attempted to gain entrance to Waseda University by taking exams for two different schools, but failed in both attempts. (高寄昇三 『大阪都構想と橋下政治の検証: 府県集権主義への批判』 公人の友社 2010年) A year spent revising proved useful, for in the following year Hashimoto passed the entrance exam to the economics department of the School of Political Economy of Waseda University. Shifting to the capital, Hashimoto took up lodgings in a tiny apartment in Tokyo, minus a bath, which he shared with one of his former high school female classmates (who later became his wife) (J). To make ends meet, Hashimoto would often do part-time jobs selling apparel, an experience which again led to a brush with the police and sparked his interest in the law.
Upon graduating from Waseda University in the Spring of 1994, Hashimoto took and passed the examination to become a lawyer. Two years of legal training paid off in the form of a solicitor’s certificate, and in 1997 Hashimoto was registered as a lawyer with the Osaka Law Association (時間管理の達人2004年5月/弁護士 橋下徹さん). In his second year as a lawyer (1998), Hashimoto established his own legal advice firm in Osaka City (appropriately named the Hashimoto Law Office), which became noted for its abilities in out-of-court settlement negotiations. A flurry of activity led to the office dealing with 400 to 500 cases per year. Hashimoto was predominantly responsible for corporate compliance, M&As, entertainment law, and sports business law. As a side note, Hashimoto, through his contacts, later formed a partnership with the Titan Entertainment Company (based in Tokyo), which then assumed responsibility for managing Hashimoto has a “personality” (more on this soon). In return Hashimoto represented Titan as its lawyer.
According to his Wikipedia profile, Hashimoto did his legal training in the Kabashima law offices in Osaka City (『週刊新潮』（2011年11月3日号）pg.27). The head of the firm, Kabashima Masanori, has been particularly scathing in his criticism of Hashimoto during his time as an intern (as detailed here). In a tweet in October last year, Hashimoto himself stated that the head of the law firm in which he worked loathed him, as did many of the other lawyers working for Kabashima (J). However Hashimoto shrugged off this criticism as merely a difference in methods. After entering the Kabashima firm, Hashimoto was at pains to remove himself from his association with the Buraku community, claiming that although he lived in a Buraku ward, he was not himself a member of that community, and did not receive any government subsidies. As such, Hashimoto played no part in the deposition launched by Asada Zennosuke Group of the Buraku Liberation Alliance against rent increases in residential areas of Kyoto City (『g2』（講談社、2010.December、vol.6）森功「同和と橋下徹」p.28).
It was while working as a lawyer that Hashimoto got his break into the entertainment industry. One of his high school seniors asked him to appear on a MBS radio program as a representative of the legal industry. By chance, a producer for Asahi productions happened to be listening to that broadcast and asked Hashimoto to appear on an Asahi production, “Wide ABCDE-su”, together with journalist Otani Akihiro. Thereafter he appeared with Otani on other Asahi TV programs “Super Morning” and “Move!”. Television producer Dave Spector, who happened to appear on the same Osaka based programs as Hashimoto, sent a tape of Hashimoto’s broadcasts to various major broadcasting stations in Tokyo. In April of 2003, the retirement of Kubota Noriaki from the nationally syndicated program “Gyoretsu no dekiru Horitsu Sodansho” (J) (literally ""the legal advice office that can line people up", or perhaps more accurately; “the Popular Legal Advice Office”) provided Hashimoto with an opportunity to step into the national limelight with his regular appearances. In July of the same year he also became a regular guest on the local Osaka program “Takajin no soko made itte iinkai” (produced by Yomiuri Television), where his unique way of phrasing and word choice raised his public profile, particularly in Osaka.
While Hashimoto was particularly noteworthy for his criticism of various entertainers and artists (together with the odd dirty joke thrown in for good measure), he also appeared on a number of variety programs in which he strongly promoted his views in relation to the issues and events of the day. He was also not averse to criticising the existing legal system, legal problems, and the qualifications of lawyers and judges, which occasionally came back to bite him in his legal affairs.
At this point, I would like to diverge yet again to just give a flavour of the type of individual Hashimoto is before delving into his political career. Given the paucity of siblings that he had as a child, Hashimoto has been no slouch in the family department. Between his wife and himself he has 3 boys and 4 girls (7 children in all), although he admits that he has not been responsible for their upbringing, leaving most of those activities to his wife (「まっとう勝負」p.253). In spite of his self-deprecating stance towards child rearing, in June of 2006 he was voted “Best Father” by the Yellow Ribbon award committee. However Hashimoto’s reputation suffered a beating earlier this year when the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun revealed that he had been having an affair with a high roller club hostess in her late 20s back in 2006 (apparently Hashimoto is a fan of “cosplay” and had the woman dress up as a stewardess) (J). After initially denying the accusations, Hashimoto appeared in front of the media following one of his regular press conferences and admitted his guilt (although he did partly excuse himself by saying that he had not lived like a saint before becoming city mayor).
In terms of personal interests Hashimoto is a fan of Okinawa group Orange Range, and confessed that he listened to Michael Jackson’s Thriller cassette tape until he wore it out. He was previously a smoker, but gave it up and now has a strong aversion to cigarette smoke. He also used to suffer from poor eyesight and wore glasses on a regular basis. However after undergoing eye surgery his eyesight recovered to the extent that he began wearing glasses purely as an accessory. Since becoming mayor of Osaka City Hashimoto has sworn off wearing glasses and has not been seen in public wearing them for some time. Quite surprisingly, Hashimoto is a fan of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team (which is based in Tokyo, leading to some to question his suitability to run as governor of Osaka prefecture in 2008) (J). Given his modest upbringing, Hashimoto has no particular love for gaudy aesthetics or archaic forms of entertainment, and earned the ire of traditionalists when in 2002 he suggested that people who like No and Kyogen drama are, quote, “oddballs” (『スポーツニッポン』 2003年10月13日). He also became the target of criticism for reducing the budget of the Osaka City orchestra, citing a lack of attendees to concerts as a reason for the cut. That prompted conductor Akagawa Jiro to wonder whether Hashimoto was therefore suggesting that the popular girls group AKB48 was somehow superior to Beethoven (「橋下氏、価値観押し付けるな」 朝日新聞2012年4月12日付け東京版「声」欄).
More recently, the insistence of the Asahi newspaper group to search for more evidence of Hashimoto’s family lineage led Hashimoto to refuse to answer any questions from Asahi reporters or appear on Asahi related programs. He labelled the attempts by non-fiction writer Sano Shinichi to track down aspects of his background as “synonymous with the Nazi’s obsession with ethnic cleansing”, and exceeding the limits of the right to freedom of expression (J).
While these anecdotes could go on at length, Hashimoto’s political ambitions are what concern us most here, and so the next post will look into the beginnings of Hashimoto’s move into politics and what that means of the domestic political scene in Japan.