How influential are politics and political leadership in shaping a space program? Japan launched its first satellite fifty years ago (1970). What was originally an independent endeavor for space science using small, indigenous, solid-fuel rockets evolved into successful wide-spectrum program but recently altered course to focus on defense and security. This talk examines the role of the key personalities who shaped the program (Hideo Itokawa, Hideo Shima) and the political leaders who guided its direction (Shigeru Yoshida, Eisaku Sato, Yasuhiro Nakasone, Takeo Kawamura and Shinzo Abe) and the role of changing political sentiment. In Japan, the natural dynamic of the program in space exploration and applications was much affected by its personalities and politics.