Former Japanese finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa, who was forced to resign over his apparently drunken behaviour at a meeting of world powers, has been found dead at his home, police said Sunday.
"We will soon conduct an autopsy and specify the cause of his death," said a spokeswoman for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.
Nakagawa, 56, was lying face down on a bed at his home in Tokyo's residential district of Setagaya when his wife found him early on Sunday, Jiji Press news agency and other local media reported.
They said that no suicide note was discovered, and there was no suggestion of foul play. The reports said he had been dead for up to eight hours before he was found.
Nakagawa, a close ally of then prime minister Taro Aso, was incoherent and slurred his speech at a news conference in February after the Group of Seven talks in Rome amid the global economic crisis.
A heavyweight in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Nakagawa said he had sipped some wine with lunch before the press conference but blamed jet lag and cold medicine for his drowsiness.
"I'm too shocked to think of any words to say," Aso was quoted by public broadcaster NHK as saying after hearing the news.
"As finance minister and state minister for finance services, he backed the Aso administration with his outstanding ability as we were tackling the financial crisis," he said. "I offer my condolences."
The debacle dealt a blow to Aso, who resigned last month after his conservative LDP suffered a massive defeat against Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan in general elections in August.
Nakagawa, who had made no secret about his fondness for drinking, promised to swear off alcohol ahead of the elections, but lost his seat in his rural constituency in Hokkaido, northern Japan.
"I have no power anymore," a disappointed Nakagawa told his supporters following the poll. "But I want to return your favour," he added, hinting at running for a future election.
The former finance chief joined the Industrial Bank of Japan in 1978 after graduating from the elite University of Tokyo. He spent five years at the bank, which is now part of the Mizuho financial group.
His political career began with tragedy.
Nakagawa was first elected a lawmaker in the powerful lower house in 1983 by taking over the Hokkaido constituency of his father, Ichiro Nakagawa, following his suicide.
Ichiro Nakagawa killed himself by swallowing pills in a hotel room, a year after losing a bid to be prime minister.
Shoichi Nakagawa, who with his wry smile often topped polls on Japan's best-looking public figures, rose up the ranks to lead the influential ministry of economy, trade and industry as well as the agriculture ministry.
He triggered controversy with strong criticism of China and calls for Japan ? the only nation to have suffered an atomic attack ? to consider developing nuclear weapons.
Once regarded as a future premier candidate, he was also a regular visitor to the Yasukuni war shrine, which neighboring countries see as a symbol of Japan's aggressive past.
He was also known for being pro-Taiwan, admiring independence-minded former president Lee Teng-hui. Beijing regards the island as part of Chinese territory.