Kaifu, who ran his premiership tenure for about two years from 1989, is best known for sending the Maritime Self-Defense Force to the Persian Gulf in 1991.
“He dedicated himself to tackling many policy challenges amid a turbulent international situation, including the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said during a regular news conference.
Kaifu, who is also famous for his love for polka-dot neckties, had an image of being politically clean, prompting his win for the premiership position in August 1989. Known to be close to former Prime Minister Takeo Miki, he was a breath of fresh air after his predecessors Noboru Takeshita and Sosuke Uno were dethroned over a major insider trading, corruption, and extramarital affair scandals.
Before becoming prime minister, the Nagoya native served in several key government posts, including deputy chief cabinet secretary and education minister. He started his political career as a lawmaker secretary and was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1960 with support from the Liberal Democratic Party.
He was forced to step down in November 1991 after failed attempts of political reforms, most notably a bill regulating single-seat constituencies in elections. The bill was eventually passed in 1994, creating the proportional representation scheme.
Kaifu retired from politics in 2009 after losing his seat in the Lower House election.