Shoji Nishida is in his first term as a member of the House of Councillors, but he is highly evaluated by both his fellow members and the media for his shrewd questions and remarks in the National Diet. He intended to make a living as a licensed tax accountant, but his fate was to become a member of the Kyoto Prefectural Assembly, where he won the top number of votes five terms in a row. Afterwards, he became a House of Councillors member. Toshio Motoya spoke with Nishida about the focal points of this summer’s election, including the necessity of constitutional reform.
Motoya Thank you very much for joining me on Big Talk today.
Nishida Thank you for having me.
Motoya Our way of thinking is very similar, and you gave a wonderful lecture at the Shoheijuku in November of last year. I also saw your question in regards to the restoration of Japan Airlines (JAL) at the House of Councillors Budget Committee in February; there are few people who ask as astute, shrewd questions as you do. The goal of the Shoheijuku is to increase the number of decent politicians who can speak honestly. You carry out investigations and preparations to the degree that no one can make any rebuttals. And while there are many objections from people who don’t see things as you do, I think it’s wonderful how you consistently make honest assertions as a member of the National Diet.
Nishida I think that’s an unmerited evaluation, but thank you anyway. The JAL restoration is an outrageous act.
Motoya Any corporation can be victorious when debts are cancelled through official adjustments; this is exceedingly unfair. If one invests in such a corporation, they will certainly gain easy money. For the reconstruction of JAL, Kyocera – the company founded by Chairman Kazuo Inamori who has taken responsibility for JAL – underwrote JAL stock before it was listed, and is making huge profits afterwards…
Nishida It’s just like the Recruit scandal. Normally, people can’t act in such a nonsensical way. Inamori is a businessperson who has become deified, so I think he is deceiving people.
Motoya Underneath the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration that lasted three years and three months, countless numbers of outrageous incidents took place. These included the JAL restoration and the appointment of Uichiro Niwa – who you have questioned in the National Diet – as the ambassador to China, who said the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s nationalization of the Senkaku Islands would endanger the Japan-China relationship. Yet the public opinion is growing more conservative as a backlash against this, and the percentage of citizens who approve constitutional reform has grown to 65%.
Nishida Because the current constitution was created during the occupation of the United States, I think it should not be recognized.
Motoya I agree entirely. I believe the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) should embark on a double election this summer based upon the theme of constitutional reform. How many terms have you served in the House of Councillors?
Nishida I am still in my first term. I will attempt to win a second term in the election to be held this summer.
Motoya I am sure you will gain an overwhelming victory.
Nishida I will do my best!
Motoya To that end as well, I think a double election should be carried out. North Korea continued engaging in provocative speech and conduct from March to April; the goal of this brinkmanship by Kim Jong-un was a purge of the military authorities. Military personnel have a fundamental desire to not engage in war. I think Kim Jong-un is stirring things up until the breaking point so that he can say the army leaders who oppose him are cowards, and then dismiss them. All of the top army brass who carried the coffin at Kim Jong Il’s funeral have disappeared from the center of political power.
Nishida Is that so?
Motoya Yes, it was reported in Newsweek. Kim Jong Il was almost assassinated in 2004, when some North Korean military personnel set 800 tons of TNT explosives on a branch line at Ryongchon Station, which was instigated by Jiang Zemin. According to information from the American and Russian intelligence agencies, as well as Mossad (the Israeli secret service), Kim Jong Il was close to losing his life. The reason behind this assassination attempt was Kim Jong Il’s refusal to relinquish his nuclear weapons – nuclear weapons were indispensable for Kim Jong Il in order to maintain independence from China. After this incident, he probably conveyed his fears about China in a fervent way to Kim Jong-un. When Kim Jong-un gained power, China must have pressured him to abandon his nuclear weapons. Yet Kim Jong-un refused to do so because he knew that North Korea would become a puppet of China upon their abolition. If that happened, the risk would grow that Kim Jong-un would be assassinated in a coup d’etat by the North Korean military authorities according to the will of China, just like almost happened to his father. The series of brinkmanship by Kim Jong-un is one facet of the dismissal and purge of the top army brass, which he carried out to preserve his own life. Some people say he is stupid, but that is incorrect. However, North Korea’s provocative speech and actions, as well as the Senkaku Islands issue, have made Japan more conservative and have led to the second government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The possibility of constitutional reform has also increased. I suspect I’m the only one who would say this, but I hope Kim Jong-un will keep at it (laughs).
Nishida It’s true that you’re the only one (laughs).
Motoya I think the Abe administration should abolish its alliances and embark on a double election. If it did, the opposition parties would not be able to prepare for the election, and the LDP could probably win two thirds of the House of Representative seats in one fell swoop. Half of the House of Councillors would be re-elected, so it would be extremely difficult for the LDP to secure two thirds by itself. But if the trends of the world turned towards constitutional reform, I feel that many National Diet members who weren’t re-elected would also show their support for constitutional reform. The Abe administration should emulate Junichiro Koizumi’s postal privatization election; it should decide upon official recognition depending on whether a person is for or against constitutional reform. It should even take the step of sending “assassins” to take down the people who are against constitutional reform.
Nishida That’s one way of thinking about it. You are certainly considering many things besides business.
Motoya I have grown the company I established to a great scale, and intend to continue doing so in the future. But in addition to commerce, I am also making efforts related to activities to regain pride in Japan. Incidentally, I heard you originally managed a licensed tax accountant office.
Nishida Yes, that’s right. I still have my licensed tax accountant qualification. My family had a poultry farm for many generations; my father was the third generation. However, my father was born late in my grandfather’s life. When my father was in high school, my grandfather had senile tuberculosis. My father quit high school and began managing the farm, which was apparently very difficult. A close friend of my father’s was a member of the Kyoto Prefectural Assembly. My father became a member through his recommendation, and finally ended up becoming a member of the House of Councillors. I earned my licensed tax accountant qualification as a way of becoming independent from my father, and worked in that field. When my father entered the House of Councillors, his successor in the prefectural assembly was unable to run because of his household circumstances. It turned out that I hurriedly ran in his place.
Motoya So you entered the world of politics without meaning to.
Nishida Yes. My father died of cancer when I was in my fifth term as a prefectural assembly member. I announced my candidacy in the House of Councillors election in his place, and was elected. That was six years ago. When I was in the prefectural assembly, there was one thing I found strange. The Japanese Communist Party is very strong in Kyoto, and I often took part in discussions with them. They say that social welfare should be further enhanced. There is some truth in what the Communist Party says, but the ethic also exists of protecting one’s family by oneself. Therefore, aren’t self-supporting endeavors the most important thing? When I made that rebuttal, I was asked if I had read the Constitution of Japan. It’s true that Article 25 of the constitution reads, “All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living. In all spheres of life, the State shall use its endeavors for the promotion and extension of social welfare and security, and of public health.” It says that it’s the State’s job to guarantee these things. I reread the constitution because of this discussion; the ways of thinking of the Japanese people that have been passed down are not reflected in it at all, probably because this constitution was created underneath the occupation.
Motoya I think so, too. Furthermore, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ) carried out occupation policies so that Japan would have a masochistic view of history. Japan had built aircraft carriers and had the power to fight with the U.S. in an equal way – the U.S. was afraid that Japan, which had been beaten, would gain this power once again. At the last stage of World War II, the Soviet Union was preceding forward with a battle to communize the entire world. To intimidate the Soviet Union, the U.S. developed the nuclear bombs that were nearly completed, and then dropped two of them on Japan. The U.S. was afraid that Japan would take vengeance for this if it were revived with a desire for revenge. An editorial in the New York Times immediately after the war was accompanied by an illustration of a soldier pulling the fangs out of an enormous monster. This showed that Japan was still dangerous, even though it had been defeated; the U.S. couldn’t rest easily until it had fully removed the fangs and bones of the monster. That’s how frightening Japan was to the U.S.
Nishida The Constitution of Japan was created to defang Japan for all eternity. Since we were in elementary school, we have been taught that peace has been maintained after the war thanks to this constitution. Even if one thinks this is odd, saying so is a taboo. If you were a teacher, you would even be dismissed.
Motoya The LDP set out constitutional reform as one part of its platform when the party was founded, but it has become more leftist along with the times. Toshio Tamogami, the chief of staff of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force at that time, won the Grand Prize in the “True Interpretations of Modern History” essay contest that was set up by APA Group in 2008. The LDP had become such a ridiculous party that it dismissed him.
The system changed in 2002, when it became possible for people who were not former JSDF members to apply to be reserve personnel as long as they passed a test with subjects such as the Japanese language and math, as well as strength measurements. People can apply from age 18. I felt relieved to see there were many young women as well. One initially receives 50 days of training for JSDF reserve personnel, and then is appointed to the position afterwards.
I see. After one becomes a JSDF reserve personnel member, there are several additional days of training per year, correct?
Reserve personnel members have to report for five days of training each year. This includes training for natural disasters, lifesaving, firing practice with live ammunition, etc.
What did your initial training involve when you became a JSDF reserve personnel member?
My first task was cleaning. I had to learn the thorough cleaning rules and to follow them to clean various locations spanning from the classrooms to living rooms, bathrooms, and washrooms. It was as detailed as if one was doing major spring-cleaning every single day. We had to polish from behind the lockers to below the beds, without leaving even one speck of dust. We even put cloths on our fingers and cleaned the windowsills.
That sounds like some training!
It was. We learned this wasn’t just due to a special liking for cleanliness – it was part of our training. For example, in actual combat if one leaves any traces when dismantling a camp, they can alert the enemy to our movements. We were told that’s why thorough cleaning is an important type of training.
I see. So there’s a meaning to this training.
During my training, I was surprised to learn that active JSDF members work to protect our country 24 hours a day. I saw that the safety of citizens is not something that just exists naturally; it is created every day by the great efforts of many JSDF members.
More people should know this fact. Do men and women receive the same type of training?
Yes, it’s exactly the same. During training nobody tries to put himself or herself forward. Rather, there was a strong atmosphere of everyone supporting each other in order to accomplish things.
So you also learn how to accomplish teamwork in that way.
Nishida I also read that essay back then, and at the LDP assembly I said, “There is absolutely no problem with the content. If you dismiss Tamogami, it will affect the morale of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF).” I guess first-year Diet members are afraid of nothing (laughs). Anyway, that response was abnormal. Tamogami ended up being dismissed in a way that paid too much consideration to the media and public opinion.
Motoya On the day Tamogami was summoned to the National Diet as a witness, the morning edition of the Sankei Shimbun newspaper ran the entire text of his essay as a full-page advertisement. We were immediately inundated with faxes and telephone calls, most of which supported him. I called Tamogami as he was on his way to the National Diet and told him this, and encouraged him to do a good job as he was summoned as a witness.
Nishida At that time, people couldn’t say Tamogami was correct, even under the LDP administration. Even during the time of the previous Abe administration, the public opinion didn’t keep up with Abe, who was in favor of proactive constitutional change. It’s only over the past few years that voices in favor of revision have grown louder.
Motoya I feel like the atmosphere of the world has changed due to the Tamogami incident, and probably because of the achievements of Tamogami himself, who has continually held frank lectures on his views throughout the country since then. Afterwards Lee Myung-bak of Korea landed on Takeshima, and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev visited the Northern Territories. China is raising a clamor about the Senkaku Islands, and North Korea is acting in arrogant, outrageous ways. In this way, the situations in Japan’s neighboring countries are greatly impacting the public opinion in Japan.
Nishida It’s not impossible to understand North Korea’s brinkmanship if one considers Kim Jong-un’s position, as you mentioned before. Rather, the problem is that in Japan there is no system for us to protect our own country. For example, Japan has more than 50 nuclear power plants but not one nuclear bomb. This is absurd. If one attacks a nuclear reactor, the same amount of damage is produced as dropping an atomic bomb. I don’t think countries should have nuclear power plants unless they have the deterrence ability conveyed by the possession of nuclear weapons.
Motoya I have visited 77 countries across the world and have taken part in dialogues with important figures in the government. I have also held discussions with more than 40 ambassadors to Japan. To other countries, Japan – which has nuclear power plants and great technical strength – is already a latent nuclear power. In that case, my view is that Japan should begin more realistic preparations for nuclear armament. We should prepare the type of nuclear bombs that could be assembled in just one month in times of emergency. We should also create laws in which it is not disclosed to external parties whether or not nuclear bomb development is taking place. Similarly, Israel does not affirm or deny its possession of nuclear weapons, so the world treats it as a nuclear state, which results in deterrence.
Nishida The most important effect of nuclear weapons is deterrence. Diplomatic negotiations and national defense cannot be accomplished without a background in which no preemptive strikes are made, but in which retaliations would be made if we were attacked. Yet all Japan has is the nuclear umbrella of the U.S.
Motoya Now that North Korea is completing Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles that can be equipped with nuclear weapons, the nuclear umbrella is nothing but an illusion. It’s unthinkable that the U.S. would protect Japan at the risk of a strike on its own country.
Nishida As you say, the nuclear umbrella is a ruse.
Motoya The U.S. purposefully sowed the seeds of conflict in Japan’s neighboring countries so that Japan would not become independent, and would always have to depend on the U.S. Immediately after the war, the U.S. was the only nuclear state in the world. If it had ordered the Soviet Union to not occupy the Northern Territories, it would not have done so. I also think this is why President Syngman Rhee, the puppet of the U.S., drew the Syngman Rhee Line that excluded Takeshima from Japan’s territory.
Nishida Still, these days it seems like the U.S. is troubled by Japan’s sense that the U.S. will protect us. Now the focal point of the Japan-U.S. relationship is the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP). People say the TPP will create rules for trade between the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region, and will be in opposition to China, but I don’t think that’s right. I believe the U.S. and China are already talking about how to demarcate their spheres of influence.
Motoya I agree. In a secret talk between U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1971, they said the traditional U.S.-China relationship would come into play if Japan were to rearm. It’s certainly true that the U.S. and China are potential allies. The idea of preventing Japan’s rearmament also stems from the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan that is in line with this. Nonetheless, Japan must participate in the TPP and declare it is on the side of the U.S. Yukio Hatoyama said the relationship between Japan, the U.S., and China is an “equilateral triangle,” which is ridiculous.
Nishida It’s true that an equilateral triangle is impossible unless Japan has its own defense capability.
Motoya That’s true, which is why we must reform the constitution. We should first amend Article 96 to decrease the number of National Diet members required for proposals from two thirds to one half in both houses. It will also be important to bring about a sense of reality when revising other articles.
Nishida I spoke about this with Prime Minister Abe the other day, but I think after amending Article 96, the hurdles will still be high towards sudden discussions of amendments to Article 9 under the current situation. In that case, I think the first priority is to – depending on interpretation – allow the usage of the right to collective defense, which is recognized by the LDP and DPJ alike. We should then create a constitution based on the presupposition of exercising the right to collective defense, so that we could utilize the JSDF in a reliable way.
Motoya I see. The JSDF would have more freedom just by doing that. But in the end I still think it will be necessary to use that as a simple step towards revising Article 9 and turning the JSDF into an army.
Nishida I am of the same opinion. We also need to change the Imperial Household Law in the same way as the constitution; this law was also created during the occupation.
Motoya That law aimed to bring about the downfall of the Imperial Family in an ingenious way. If things continue in this way, no one will be left to become emperor.
Nishida That’s right.
Motoya Shoichi Watanabe is the chairman of the judging committee for the True Interpretations of Modern History essay contest. He talks about the dual nature of history, which means that there are many aspects to history. The U.S. has different faces as well: the country of freedom and democracy created by the Puritans, and the country created by poor people from Europe that massacred the native people and gained prosperity by exploiting slaves from Africa. The U.S. moved into the Pacific Ocean as an extension of its cultivation of the West. It colonized the Philippines in 1898, and annihilated the Kingdom of Hawaii. Matthew C. Perry’s Black Ships came to Japan in 1853. After World War II, the signing ceremony for Japan’s signing of the Instrument of Surrender was held on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. There, the Stars and Stripes hoisted by Perry was displayed. The U.S. successfully occupied Japan after 90 years had passed since that point.
Nishida We need to precisely understand that history. We must not depend on the U.S. forever.
Motoya That’s right, because Japan is weak in terms of disputes with China. China is advancing and aiming to expand into the Pacific Ocean; the Japanese archipelago and the Senkaku Islands are in its way. China is scheming up various ways to weaken Japan and take possession of the Senkaku Islands. The JSDF is extremely powerful. It doesn’t have weapons for offensive use, but it is still one of the world’s leading armies in terms of equipment and skills. If we revised the constitution, we could give the JSDF the independent power to fire back if Japan were attacked – the ability to deter attacks. If that were the case, China might instantly change its attitude towards Japan; Japan and China would become friendlier if Japan grew stronger.
Nishida I agree, and I think Japan enhancing its own military force would also be to the benefit of the U.S. We would buy large amounts of weapons from the U.S., and the defense industry would profit. Conversely, if the U.S. Forces in Japan were drastically decreased, there would be benefits for both countries. Prime Minister Abe agrees, but in talks with President Barack Obama it seems that the U.S. hates the scenario of an independent Japan more than anything.
Motoya I think we should maintain our relationship with the U.S. for the immediate future as we make steady progress down the road towards strengthening our military force. At the time of the House of Councillors election in 2007 I proposed a double election to Prime Minister Abe, but he rejected this, saying he couldn’t sacrifice anyone. A double election should be held this summer. The House of Representatives members were chosen through elections and continually pass unconstitutional judgments. Even if someone proposed constitutional amendments, proceedings would be taken and the situation would deteriorate into a smear campaign. I believe elections should be conducted according to constitutional demarcations, and we should make open and aboveboard progress towards constitutional reform. I hope that Prime Minister Abe will recall my previous proposal and decide to hold a double election.
Nishida Prime Minister Abe has given no indication of this, but I think it’s fully possible.
Motoya I hope you will work hard, as well. At the end of the interview, I always ask for a “word for the youth.”
Nishida For people, the fundamental thing is protecting one’s own family. The extension of this is the nation. In other words, people should think about what they can do for the country’s independence, which in the end helps protect families. I hope people will follow various paths based on this way of thinking, whether they are industrialists, civil servants, or JSDF personnel.
Motoya I agree entirely. Thank you for sharing some of your precious time to speak with us today.
Born in Kyoto City in 1958. After graduating from Shiga University’s Faculty of Economics in 1981, Nishida opened the Shoji Nishida Licensed Tax Accountant Office in 1987. He was elected to the Kyoto Prefectural Assembly for the first time in 1990 with the top number of votes, a position he maintained for the following five terms. He won his first election to the House of Councillors in 2007.