He is one unloved central banker. Since 1998, when Masaru Hayami took over the Bank of Japan, he has been harshly criticized on both sides of the Pacific. Yet when it comes to compromise on issues that threaten the BOJ's newfound independence or economic reform in Japan, the 74-year-old won't budge. Now he's causing controversy by suggesting the time is coming for Japan to pull back from its ultra-loose monetary policy and near-zero interest rates.
A devout Christian, Hayami says his spiritual foundation gives him strength. "We should be proud of the criticism," he says.
But critics can't attack his experience. He joined the BOJ in 1947 and has inside knowledge of the private sector from a stint as CEO of trading company Nissho Iwai in the '80s. In a society that's been putting off action for a decade, Hayami's willingness to make tough decisions may be just what Japan needs.