Jirō Shirasu (白洲 次郎) was a Japanese bureaucrat and businessman. He was born in Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture, on the 17th February 1902, and was known for his good looks, his 185-cm height, his love of Bentley sports cars, and his fluent English. As a young man he studied at Clare College, Cambridge.
During the Allied Occupation, Shirasu was a member of Shigeru Yoshida’s government. He is particularly remembered in Japan for an incident that occurred in 1945 when he delivered a Christmas present from Hirohito, Emperor of Japan to General Douglas MacArthur. When MacArthur told him to place it on the floor, Shirasu demanded a table to show respect.
Shirasu’s typewritten correspondence
After returning from Cambridge in 1928, Shirasu first worked as a journalist at The Japan Advertiser — an English-language newspaper later acquired by The Japanese Times.
Actor Yusuke Iseya, who played the lead role in the 2009 NHK drama “Jiro Shirasu”, is one person who thinks modern Japan has much to learn from Shirasu.
“He said what he believed in, especially in the field of politics,” 32-year-old Iseya explained to The Japan Times. “If there were people standing up today and saying what they thought was right, on the basis of their own principles, I think people would look at politics differently.”
Born into wealth, Shirasu married into more of it. After marrying Masako Kabayama, another student recently returned from overseas, he was introduced to the political world by his father-in-law.
Masako Shirasu (白洲正子) , a collector and expert of fine Japanese art and ceramics, published a number of books on the subject.
During the war, Shirasu predicted food shortages and the aerial bombing of Tokyo, and quickly moved his wife and three young children west out of central Tokyo to begin a quiet life farming. Their house Buaisō (it translates as “unsociable” or “inhospitable”) was named with the intention of dissuading visitors and is now, ironically, a museum.
Among the many exhibits, one of Shirasu’s Bentley’s…
And his Olivetti ICO MP1 portable typewriter …
Possibly suffering the after-effects of multiple minor earthquakes?
After the war, his politician mentors remembered his English skills and he was recruited by then-Foreign Minister Shigeru Yoshida to work in the Central Liaison Office, the government team that negotiated with the Occupation forces.
Shirasu was later made head of the government’s trade ministry and played a key role in establishing the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and thus helped set the course for Japan’s postwar economic development.
Jiro Shirasu died on the 28th of November 1985, aged 83. Masako Shirasu died on December the 26th 1998, aged 88.
The front cover of Masako Shirasu’s autobiography