Mio Sugita quit her job as a local government employee to enter the world of politics. She is now drawing attention as a member of the House of Representatives who is a thoroughly conservative politician as well as a wife and mother. Sugita is concerned about today’s mass media and has asked two questions at the National Diet regarding the press code. Toshio Motoya spoke with Sugita about topics including how she came to ask these questions, why she chose the Next Generation Party, and her expectations of the younger generations.
Motoya Thank you very much for joining me on Big Talk today. Because you were elected to the House of Representatives in Hyogo Prefecture, you recently gave a talk at the Kansai Branch of the Shoheijuku school.
Sugita Thank you very much for that opportunity, and I look forward to speaking with you today.
Motoya In my essay in the April issue of Apple Town, which was published on March 5, 2014, I mentioned the press code issued by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ) after the end of World War II on September 19, 1945, and pointed out that this trend of regulating freedom of speech continues even today. I also published this text as an advertisement in the Sankei Shimbun newspaper on March 12. Afterwards, in April you asked questions about the press code on two occasions: at the National Diet Committee on Judicial Affairs and Committee on the Cabinet. Why did you decide to ask these questions?
Sugita When I gave a report on national politics at the Takarazuka Hotel in my home area in March, during the question and answer session someone said that it seems there are many ways in which the impacts of the press code are still present today, and that this should be brought up in the National Diet. I knew about the existence of the press code but I wasn’t well versed in it, so I decided to learn more and ask questions about it.
Motoya I see. Perhaps the person posing that question saw Apple Town or my ad in the Sankei Shimbun.
Sugita I think that’s definitely a possibility.
Motoya I have been discussing the press code because I feel that the mass media of today is quite strange. I write a serialized column for Yukan Fuji, which is published by the Sankei Shimbun. I thought this was a conservative paper, but I am asked to revise my words over and over. I realized that this is due to the press code. After I did some research, I learned that the background to the media’s simultaneous, repeated criticisms of so-called “controversial statements” is found in the 30 items prohibited by the press code. For instance, when Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori was in office he suffered when the media ganged up on him for saying Japan is the “country of the gods.” This is because the press code prohibits describing Japan in this way.
Sugita I think so, too. When I asked in the National Diet if the press code is still valid today, Koichi Mizushima (counsellor, minister’s secretariat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) responded, “The press code was invalidated when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect.” Perhaps that is true on the surface, but the real situation is something else. The United States suppressed the distribution of pulp until the early 1960s, which effectively controlled the newspaper companies.
Motoya That’s true. The press code was supposed to have been invalidated, but the U.S. used this pulp to place pressure on Japan. Afterwards, the media itself has continued defending the press code as a type of voluntary restraint, which is exactly why it has gained the custom of all-out criticism. This is a deep-rooted problem with the mass media, and is also the main reason why Japan has become such a self-torturing country like it is today. We must stop this. I feel pride that my ad in the Sankei Shimbun was the first “incident” in which the press code has been printed in a newspaper during the postwar era. I also think you did a very historically significant, splendid deed by asking about the press code and having its text printed in the National Diet record of proceedings.
Sugita Thank you very much.
Motoya I hope more people like you will appear. Moreover, I hope your political party will continue working on this issue in a way that goes beyond the activities of one Diet member. By seceding from the Japan Restoration Party, you came to join the Next Generation Party that is the group of Shintaro Ishihara. Together with establishing an independent constitution, my hope is that the Next Generation Party’s platform includes the abolition of this press code.
Sugita I hope so, too.
Motoya This will be a difficult task, because the “stealth complex” that has controlled postwar Japan will put up fierce resistance. In the early postwar period the occupying U.S. Armed Forces put forth effort to regulate freedom of speech. More than 4,000 Japanese inspectors were mobilized to censor publications and even open and check postal mail. Even after independence was restored in Japan, the former inspectors worked with the U.S. to ensure they would not be blamed for their traitorous deeds at that time. They came to hold major positions in Japanese society, profiting from Japan’s defeat in the war. Their successors have formed an elite group that is a stealth complex composed mainly of graduates from the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law. They sympathize with the U.S. and control Japan. Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, and Japan needs to finally become a respectable country.
Motoya El Salvador and Japan have close ties as you have described. Can you tell us some fundamental information about your country?
Sugita Apparently, people in other countries cannot understand why there are Japanese people who are anti-Japan. However, the power of the educational system and media in Japan has cultivated these anti-Japan Japanese people over several dozen years. Student movements took place across Japan when the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty was concluded. Most of these people quit these movements, graduated, and took up corporate jobs, but some carried out their activities until the end before becoming academics at universities or members of the mass media. These impacts can still be seen in various ways today.
Motoya It seems the opposite at first, but in truth the U.S. controls the left wing and uses its power to turn Japan into a puppet. The press code is a tool for this, and the media has continually concealed it. That’s why the response to your question at the National Diet was not reported on at all in newspapers or television; the strategy is one of disregarding it.
Sugita That’s true. Also, Japan cannot respond in a resolute way to the Nanking Massacre or comfort women issues because of the press code.
Motoya Japan cannot criticize South Korea or China because the press code prohibits criticisms of Korean people and China. That’s why Japan is unable to refute the Nanking Massacre and comfort women issues, and people across the world today believe that these are historical truths. If the press code did not exist, Japan would have been able to thoroughly deny these issues after World War II, when there were still many living witnesses. However, these issues have been raised several dozens of years later when there are fewer living witnesses.
Sugita That’s certainly true.
Motoya I also read overseas publications such as Newsweek, which seem fresh at times because the articles are not subject to the regulation of freedom of speech. In Japan, the newspapers and television stations only report in a collusion-type way due to their voluntary restraints. This applies even to the Sankei Shimbun, a so-called conservative paper. Sports papers and weekly magazines actually have more freedom of the press, but the freest opinions can probably be shared via online media. Of course these individual statements are often mistaken, and it’s true that one must separate the wheat from the chaff. But truthful opinions end up gaining the support of many people. Via online selection, discussions come to converge with the truth, which is why the Internet is overflowing with so many true facts. I support Toshio Tamogami, who has an overwhelmingly large approval rating online. However, the elderly people who do not use the Internet vote, while the young, net-savvy people do not. Unfortunately, he did not win the Tokyo gubernatorial election. But in the end he still received 610,000 votes, which is a huge amount.
Sugita The mass media does not mention me at all, but my name has come to be known to a small degree online. The Next Generation Party has finally gained support online. In these and other ways the response has been quite favorable, but our approval rating is only 0.1% according to surveys. There is a major gap between people who use the Internet and those who don’t. I thought it would not be good to only use the Internet, so in May I published a book entitled, The Revival of the Nadeshiko: What Female Politicians Can Do (Seirindo Books). I hope elderly people in rural areas will also read this book, so I am in the middle of a huge sales campaign (laughs).
Motoya Two-pronged strategies of that sort are necessary. If the mass media were a bit more honest, I think you would have an easier time…
Sugita As you say, the mass media – which focuses on the movements incited by only some activists – and the Internet have tones that are polar opposites. When I came from the Kansai region to Tokyo, I was astounded by the demonstrations taking place near the National Diet on the cabinet decision approving the exercise of the right to collective defense. The newspapers said that Japan has become able to wage war, but the tone of the online discussion is that Japan is somewhat delayed in becoming able to exercise its right to collective defense, which is approved by international law. The online public opinion is fully aware of the threat posed by China, which is attempting to extend its reach to the Philippines, Vietnam, and other regions. On one hand I feel like Japan is becoming more normal, but I wonder why the media can’t write in that tone.
Motoya The Sino-Japanese Journalist Exchange Agreement, which says Japan cannot deprecate China in exchange for being able to dispatch correspondents, has a major influence in regards to China. It is an unequal agreement – after all, China’s information media often reports on Japan in a critical way. Because they are up against an entire country, individual media outlets do not stand a chance against China. The Japanese government should work towards abolishing this agreement.
Sugita I agree.
Motoya First, I hope the Next Generation Party will advocate for the all-out abolition of the press code. The next step should be creating a bipartisan Diet caucus formed of members from different parties. You could be a central figure in thoroughly investigating how the press code has been guarded as a type of voluntary restraint inside the actual media outlets. I could also approach the National Diet members I am close to, including members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), so I definitely hope you will serve in a leading role. The main reasons Japan has become a masochistic country are the educational system and mass media. Regarding education, the Shinzo Abe administration is carrying out reforms of textbooks and boards of education superintendents. My hope is that you will stand at the head of a Diet caucus to take on media reform.
Sugita I understand.
Motoya I also think the prohibition of article-related collusion is another important part of media reform. Some sort of organization should monitor and stop the mass media’s collusion, just like the Fair Trade Commission regulates collusion in business transactions. In addition, I think we should abolish press clubs and the giving of favors to the media, such as benefits provided by government offices.
Sugita That’s certainly true.
Motoya Still, as usual the left wing is holding Japan back from revival in various ways such as opposing the exercise of the right to collective defense. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 was a turning point. Their goal has changed from creating a socialist country to sabotaging proper political measures, which is backed by the media.
Sugita The left wing finds a series of things to oppose: the abandonment of nuclear power generation, Act on Protection of Specified Secrets (Special Secrecy Law), and the right to collective defense. The main actors in movements such as demonstrations are all the same, and they rapidly move from one topic to another. Before the abandonment of nuclear power, they were focused on the environment and global warming, which is quite inconsistent (laughs). The left wing is also involved with gender equality, so people who move into this realm are faced with a counter offensive. I asked Minister Masako Mori at the National Diet about the gender equality centers across the country, which she said have absolutely no legal basis. Yet these centers are constructed and there are many cases in which suspicious left-wing groups serve as the designated managers. This is exactly how the left wing works.
Motoya That certainly seems likely.
Motoya I was glad to see you break away from Toru Hashimoto and join the Next Generation Party. Hashimoto is capable of making great breakthroughs, but he hasn’t studied enough in terms of historical awareness. I think he’s aiming to join hands with Yuinotoh, take in a portion of the DPJ, and create the most influential opposition party. But this will end up in the creation of a benefit society for winning elections that lacks a party platform, just like the past DPJ.
Sugita I concur. Citizens did not like how the DPJ governed in a vague way. The DPJ contains conservative members as well as members who are farther left than even the Communist Party, so it is unable to form one single view. The Japan Restoration Party also had disagreements, but it was able to hold discussions and make decisions. I think this was because it had a conservative foundation. However, Yuinotoh contains a Diet member who read the entire text of the constitution in the National Diet, and its fundamental policy is that of protecting the constitution. It can settle on nothing even after discussions. We have also taken the ruling LDP on merit. But opposition parties that grow in size start to oppose everything the ruling party does. That’s why I decided to join the Next Generation Party.
Motoya I think that was an exceedingly wise choice, and feel that Japan would be in a critical situation today due to the threat of China if Abe had not become prime minister in the House of Representatives election the year before last. The Abe administration has given hope to the people over the past 1.5 years, and Japan’s future fate will be determined by how long Abe will be in charge of the government from this point. Yet the Abe LDP is being subjected to a concentrated attack by the other parties, which say it is the most right-wing party. That’s why Japan needs a party that clearly states its conservative views, even more than the LDP, so that Abe will appear to be more middle of the road – it should function like an icebreaker that moves in front of the LDP ship captained by Abe. That’s what I hope of the Next Generation Party of Shintaro Ishihara and Takeo Hiranuma, as well as the Japan Genuine Conservative Party founded by Toshio Tamogami.
Sugita I understand how you feel. The other day Ishihara took part in a meal with the young members of the Next Generation Party and the young, conservative members of Your Party. There, Ishihara talked about his observation of the Tokyo Trials. He didn’t understand all of the English spoken there, but he apparently felt these trials were entirely outrageous. Perhaps that was his starting point. Hashimoto said he cannot comprehend Ishihara’s sense that World War II was not an aggressive war. Of course, it may be unavoidable that people from different generations have different feelings. But I think without a sense of discomfort regarding this fundamental issue – evaluations of World War II at the Tokyo Trials – we will not be able to break free from the postwar regime.
Motoya I agree with Ishihara completely. He said he will not become the party leader, but then who will? No members of the current Next Generation Party are visible except for Ishihara and Hiranuma. That’s my biggest concern right now.
Sugita I understand your concern, but I believe the required decisions will be made.
Motoya The LDP formed an alliance with the New Komeito Party (NKP) in consideration of its large impacts on elections, but it seems likely that the NKP will disappear when its parent organization splits up. Due to this and other factors, Abe believes the NKP – which tasted how good it feels to be the ruling party – will not break away from the LDP by itself, and so Abe is able to carry out advantageous discussions in the exercise of the right to collective defense. However, I feel the LDP and NKP will part company in the near future, and that the LDP should collaborate with the Next Generation Party and Japan Genuine Conservative Party.
Sugita I think so, too.
Motoya I recently visited Vietnam with the members of the Shoheijuku. Vietnam does not make objections to South Korea regarding the many acts of barbarity perpetrated by the South Korean Army in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, such as massive killings, rapes, and the children of mixed blood called “Lai Dai Han.” The reason is because Vietnam is a country ruled by a single party, just like China. The members of the establishment, who receive benefits from the economic power of South Korea, don’t want to worsen this relationship through unnecessary actions such as bringing up past issues.
Sugita That is a raw deal for the people who have suffered.
Motoya It is probably of no concern at all to the people who have benefitted. Also, similar actions take place in Japan; the people who gained from Japan’s war defeat attach great importance to the relationship with the U.S., so they haven’t criticized the dropping of the atomic bombs. This trend has been propped up by the media and press code. The press code was originally created when the Asahi Shimbun newspaper printed Ichiro Hatoyama’s statement that the atomic bombs were a war crime that violated international law on September 18, 1945. The Asahi Shimbun was punished with a two-day publishing ban, and the press code was officially announced on September 19. Also, Japanese people were the first to pay attention to the Nanking Massacre and comfort women issues, but anti-Japanese people in foreign countries are using these issues. If true solidarity were achieved in Japan, we could strike back against these powers. To that end as well, I hope you will create a Diet caucus on the press code.
Sugita I will do my best.
Motoya At the end of the interview, I always ask for a “word for the youth.”
Sugita Education on how to master thinking is lacking in Japan today. The educational system of the Edo Period involved holding discussions with masters to cultivate the power of thinking – discussions and fights are two different things. I hope that debating will be taught in school education, and that young people will be trained to have a strong center so they can engage in debates with no fear.
Motoya Japan is a nation blessed with a single language and people who are mostly of the same ethnic group, so compassion and consideration have functioned. But these are not accepted in the international community. In the past Japan has regarded people with high deviation values, who are good at rote memorization, as the “elite.” But we should cultivate people who are good at debating and send them into the international society as diplomats and in other roles. Democracy involves engaging in thorough discussions and determining a direction based on assent. Rather than indiscriminately memorizing the assertions of the mass media, I think it’s important to study a range of different things and form one’s own opinion.
Sugita I agree. I recently read a letter left behind by a young kamikaze pilot who died during World War II, and was surprised by the high level of his education. Of course he had beautiful handwriting, but he also read poetry. I felt the young people at that time were not sycophants; they actually had individual ways of thinking and ample refinement that allowed them to express their views.
Motoya I was very moved by The Firefly who Came Home, a play about the kamikaze pilots I saw the other day. There were many young women in the audience, and I think more young women are sympathetic to conservative views these days.
Sugita Women will someday become mothers and raise children, so I’m glad to hear that more of them are becoming conservative.
Motoya I think you have the ability to become a female leader and make Japan into a good country. Please work hard, and thank you for joining me today.
Born in 1967. After graduating from the School of Forestry, Faculty of Agriculture, Tottori University in 1990, Sugita worked at Sekisui House Mokuzo, Ltd. before entering the Nishinomiya City Office in 1992. She quit in 2010 to become a politician, and was elected for the first time in 2012 as a member of the Japan Restoration Party.