Big Talk

Japan Can be an Affluent Nation Even With a Falling Population

Shuhei Shiozawa, a professor in Keio University’s Faculty of Economics, has won prizes in three “True Interpretations of Modern History” essay contests: the Honorable Mention and Prize for Excellence (Adult Division). He has also given talks as a lecturer and special student at the Shoheijuku school. In addition to his field of theoretical economics, he also gives shrewd consideration to issues of historical awareness in Japan. Toshio Motoya spoke with Shiozawa about topics spanning from perceptions of history to the future of the Japanese economy.

Academic progress is impeded by evasion based on prevailing views

Motoya Thank you for joining me on Big Talk today. You won the Honorable Mention prize in the 4th and 5th annual “True Interpretations of Modern History” essay contest, as well as the Prize for Excellence (Adult Division) in the 6th annual contest. I feel that our ways of thinking are very similar. Incidentally, you used to be the dean of Keio University’s Correspondence Courses. I also studied in Keio University’s Faculty of Economics Correspondence Course. However, I didn’t graduate (laughs).

Shiozawa Is that so? I look forward to talking with you today.

Motoya You have spoken several times at the Shoheijuku school. The 52nd session was this September. I talked about FDR: The Other Side of the Coin by Hamilton Fish, a United States Senator in the Republican Party who was Franklin D. Roosevelt’s political opponent. Roosevelt kept the existence of the Hull Note – the ultimatum that was presented to Japan – a secret from the American people as well as the Senate and House of Representatives. Fish, who did not know about the note, gave a speech right after the Attack on Pearl Harbor in which he switched from resisting to agreeing with participation in the war. However, he learned about the Hull Note after the war and vehemently regretted his speech. This book was published in 1976. All sorts of new facts have come to light during the 70 years since the end of World War II. By all rights we should consider modern history in a logical way while incorporating these new facts, yet the Japanese media and historians are bound by the Tokyo Trials historical viewpoint and ignore these new facts. That’s why I wrote my book entitled Theoretical Modern History.

Shiozawa I was very impressed when I heard about Theoretical Modern History. Theoretical economics, my specialization, has a fairly long tradition and history as an academic field. I think that dividing modern history into the theoretical and logical fields is a brand new endeavor, and I have great scholarly expectations regarding it as well.

Motoya The media and many academics do not pay attention to new historical facts, but evade them in favor of prevailing views. Then they brand people who advocate for a new history as “historical revisionists.”

Shiozawa This labeling disregards the process of scholarly progress. After all, scholarship involves overturning and broadening commonly accepted theories.

Motoya I agree entirely. Yet according to the logic of power, we cannot avoid the fact that victors create the history that becomes the common knowledge of a certain period. If history changes in the denomination of 100 years, shouldn’t we be coming to the time of reconsidering it now, 70 years since the end of the war?

Shiozawa I think so.

Motoya The atmosphere of the world has changed as well. The turning point was when Toshio Tamogami, then-chief of staff of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, won the Grand Prize in the 1st Annual “True Interpretations of Modern History” essay contest, and was actually dismissed by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government. That may have been the peak of Japan’s increasing leftist sentiments. All of the media outlets criticized Tamogami, creating a huge uproar. Yet this caused many citizens to wake up, and now Japan has become more conservative.

Shiozawa During that uproar, there were almost no objections regarding the content of Tamogami’s essay. The criticisms began and ended with things that were quite divorced from its true nature, such as saying what he wrote was not in line with the government’s views or that he was in no position to discuss history. People are free to say the content of his essay was mistaken, but claiming that he must not express his opinions is a clear violation of freedom of speech.

Motoya I agree. I had the entire text of Tamogami’s essay printed as an ad in the Sankei Shimbun newspaper, and received many telephone calls and faxes from people who sympathized with it. After he stepped down from the Japan Self-Defense Forces, he has become a hugely popular lecturer and writer. I think this has led to the world proceeding in a correct direction, and also to Shinzo Abe gaining the position of prime minister for a second time. This year marks the 8th Annual “True Interpretations of Modern History” essay contest. It is certainly true that perseverance leads to strength. Keiichiro Kobori, University of Tokyo emeritus professor, and Tsunemi Koyama, Ohtsuki City College emeritus professor and member of the Japan Historical Academic Society, are serving as judges for the first time this year, and the judging is underway right now.

Shiozawa People who are not historical experts should use these essays to express themselves as a way to overturn persistent, established theories.

Motoya Yes. Four years and four months have passed since I founded the Shoheijuku, declaring that a future prime minister would come from the school. The other day, The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper mentioned Tomomi Inada (a lecturer and special student) as a possible successor to Abe. Her way of thinking is in line with Abe and myself, and as the chairman of the Policy Research Council she gives clear responses to questions. She has been elected just a few times, but I think she will be qualified at the right time since it’s likely that Abe will last for at least three years, or maybe another three years after that. Inada would be perfect as a female prime minister after Abe, but I don’t know who would be a good male candidate.

Shiozawa I met Inada the other day to talk about national securities. My impression of her is the same as yours.

The Soviet Union was constantly involved in the course to World War II

Motoya A regime change will take place in the U.S. before Japan. I hope that Republican Senator Marco Rubio will become the president after Barack Obama. He is young but eloquent. He declared that the Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory and presented a resolution censuring China for establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone in the vicinity of the Senkaku Islands, which was passed. Some people mention that his parents immigrated from Cuba, that he is a Catholic rather than a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP), and that he is only 44 years old. However, both John F. Kennedy and Obama became president without being WASPs, and Kennedy was just 43 when he was elected. In the Republican Party Donald Trump is gaining support for his eccentric statements, but he will lose momentum sooner or later. I think it’s fully possible that Rubio could become the Republican presidential candidate.

Shiozawa Looking back at history, there were many cases in which Republican governments were more favorable for Japan.

Motoya Yes. The Democratic Party was in power when war broke out between the U.S. and Japan, Democrats dropped the atomic bombs, and the Democrats also expanded the Vietnam War. Harry S. Truman was president when the atomic bombs were dropped. He did not know about the atomic bomb development plan until he was promoted from vice president to president upon the death of Roosevelt. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes was the one who was in charge of everything and brought about the decision to drop the bombs. The reason was to restrain the Soviet Union’s actions to communize the world and prevent the outbreak of World War III. All countries lie for the sake of their national interests and do not balk at slaughtering massive numbers of people.

Shiozawa It’s likely that World War II started because the U.S. wanted to participate in the war in Europe, so it provoked Japan relentlessly through oil embargos and other measures.

Motoya That’s true. The Soviet Union also exists in the background to that. The Roosevelt administration contained 200 Soviet operatives, which was confirmed by the Venona Files. These decrypted communications, sent between Soviet operatives and the Soviet Union, were released to the public afterwards. Harry Dexter White, a senior U.S. Treasury department official, wrote the draft of the Hull Note. He was also a Soviet operative. The history of World War II stretches back to the Huanggutun Incident in 1928. A report was released in 2007 that said there had been an assassination attempt two years before. The British Army Far East Intelligence Department, which performed an investigation after the incident, concluded that the Soviet Union was behind it. Therefore, it is mostly established that the Soviet Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), its secret service, worked to make it seem like the Kwantung Army was behind the incident. However, the media and scholars are fixated on the established theory that it was the work of Colonel Daisaku Komoto of the Kwantung Army, and do not attempt to change their views.

Shiozawa I think we must first share fundamental facts, including new ones, and then have discussions.

Motoya All countries have various issues related to history. Japan had no choice but to accept the historical views created by the U.S. until the end of the Cold War. But now that a quarter century has passed since then, we need to have a decent history of the Japanese people. We must be aware that, through the end of the Cold War, Japan became a hypothetical enemy of the U.S. in the economic sphere.

Shiozawa That’s certainly true.

Motoya Right now, people are in an uproar about Volkswagen’s defective software. I never imagined that a scandal like this would occur in Germany, which is currently the central member of the European Union (EU). Nuclear weapons are the source of power between countries. After World War II, the EU controlled Europe using France’s nuclear weapons and Germany’s economic power. Germany was aiming for currency devaluation by introducing the euro. In that way, it drastically increased its exports and enjoyed economic prosperity. In contrast, during that period Japan was compelled to undertake policy to appreciate the yen, the economy stagnated, and the GDP fell below China’s. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is striving to reverse this and help Japan rid itself of deflation.

Shiozawa I think the Abe administration is amazing not only in terms of economic and security policy, but also because it makes earnest efforts, on a nationwide basis, in an upright manner in the realms of historical views and ideologies as well.

Motoya During Abe’s first term as prime minister he expressed his true feelings in a direct way, which incurred the anger of the U.S. and led to his resignation. Right now he is focusing on 1) the economy, 2) the economy, and 5) the economy (there is no three or four). Japan’s defense costs are set at 1% of the GDP, so as the economy improves we will gain suitable military strength. Yet it is improbable that Japan would become a major military power that invades other countries. That is not the era we are living in, and the people would never allow it. That’s what Russia and China are doing today.

Shiozawa That’s right.

“War bills” is a label that is contrary to the true nature of the legislation

Motoya Russia intervened in Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula. China demarcated its border with Russia through the Zhenbao Island incident of 1969. China has also settled its continental territory through invasions, conflicts, etc. with Mongolia, Tibet, East Turkistan, India, and Vietnam. Now that it has finished on the continent, next it is advancing into the South and East China Seas because it wants to gain hegemony of the ocean.

Shiozawa Of course, Japan is insisting on its legitimate territorial rights to the Senkaku Islands in response to China’s ambition.

Motoya However, no matter how insistent Japan is upon what is correct, international relations are determined by the logic of power in the end. Lately I am advocating that Japan should utilize Jewish-funded marketing companies in the U.S. to promote Japan’s assertions across the entire world. The Jewish people have a worldwide network in the media and financial realms. We should leverage this network to make clear assertions not only about our territorial rights to the Senkaku Islands, but also about the false nature of the Nanking Massacre and comfort women stories. We should pay remuneration based on actual results, such as a certain amount for the prevention of one comfort woman statue being installed. I suspect that some people will object to paying this money, but each day 10 billion yen is being spent on fuel since Japan’s nuclear power plants were shut down. It shouldn’t be a problem to use this small amount of money. The new National Stadium plan has been totally revoked because of criticisms regarding the cost of 300 billion yen. Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Hakubun Shimomura took responsibility for this and stepped down from his position, but he did not have to do so. Considering the economic effects of the Olympics, 300 billion yen is a cheap figure. Yet the media stirred people up, saying this amount is too expensive, which is what caused this incident. It’s true that the enemy of the Japanese people is the Japanese people.

Shiozawa All countries place the utmost priority on their national interests and look down on other countries, so it is pitiable that Japanese people show contempt for their own country. We must make immediate rebuttals. Last year The Asahi Shimbun apologized to its readers for publishing articles on the comfort women based on its belief in the testimony of Seiji Yoshida. It should have apologized not only to its readers, but to all the citizens of Japan.

Motoya Furthermore, The Asahi Shimbun should tell the entire world about its mistaken reporting in English. In addition, the media reported only on demonstrations by and the claims of people against the security bills, which was very unbalanced.

Shiozawa The people against the bills labeled them as “war bills,” which runs contrary to their true nature. This label was reported on as-is, but the bills are actually to prevent war. The people who are against them do not understand the concepts of deterrence and a balance of power.

Motoya Their ability to sense real threats has likely been numbed by brainwashing. I can’t comprehend how people can frankly read the current Constitution of Japan and believe it is a great constitution. This constitution was originally an illegal one because it violated the Hague Convention with Respect to the Laws and Customs of War on Land, which said an occupying country must not determine permanent laws for the occupied country.

Shiozawa That’s true. Also, Japan had no sovereignty when the constitution was enacted. We must carry out discussions based on a sufficient awareness of this.

Motoya By all rights, the constitution should have been revised when the Treaty of San Francisco came into effect.

Shiozawa I agree.

Motoya There’s no point in tedious talk about the past; the question is what we must do in the future. There are few people across the world who can speak Japanese, so we must transmit more of Japan’s assertions in languages that many people understand such as English, Spanish, French, and Chinese. Japanese people tend to have a preference for foreign-made things and to listen more honestly to what foreigners say. For that reason, I also think there would be domestic benefits to using American marketing companies.

Shiozawa Yes, I see.

Motoya We should also establish a “Ministry of Information” with a budget of 300 billion yen and 3,000 personnel members who check media reports from across the world and refute any mistaken news within 24 hours in the local language. Silence makes it look like we approve. Japanese people tend to have a large-hearted attitude that says the truth will someday inspire understanding, but that does not work on the international stage. It’s important to be first – regarding the intrusion of official ships into the territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands, if we had sunk one ship the second would not have come. Japanese people also believe that all people keep their promises, which is not true. When someone does not keep their promise, we should not wait until they do. Instead, we should immediately break the promise ourselves and switch to a counteroffensive.

Shiozawa I think your idea about the Ministry of Information is a wonderful one. When Japanese people interact with each other, they often try to negotiate. But that doesn’t apply in the international community. Unnecessary negotiations are not interpreted as good intentions, and lead to being taken advantage of.

Motoya Since I have begun advocating for the Ministry of Information, Japan’s governmental PR budget for overseas countries has been increasing every year. But this should be undertaken by a separate organization instead of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). The career bureaucrats in the MOFA are elite figures who have high test scores. They are good at rote memory but do not understand the concept of national interests.

Shiozawa That may be true.

Young people today are honest, talented, and will make great progress if cultivated

Motoya China created a 100-year plan from the time of the country’s foundation: it wants to defeat the U.S. and become the world’s top power in 100 years. Sixty-six years have passed since the foundation of China, so I think it will attempt to accomplish this objective in the next 34 years.

Shiozawa Japan must further strengthen its economy as a response to this. There is still great latent power in Japan, so we must come up with methods for actualizing this power.

Motoya Japan has sold its advanced sciences and technologies at cheap prices in the past, and has been made to purchase the weapons incorporating these sciences and technologies at high prices. Japan has the technical ability to send probes all the way to asteroids and collect rocks from them, so it should make more domestically produced weapons. Japan has won multiple Nobel Prizes in scientific fields such as physics, chemistry, and medicine, which is something China and South Korea haven’t done. We should be proud of this.

Shiozawa Yes, we should.

Motoya I constantly say that Japan should become a country focused on advanced technologies and medical care, as well as a tourism-focused nation. Japan is clean and safe. It is blessed with tourism resources including delicious foods, punctual public transportation, nature in all four seasons, and urban entertainment. Of course tourists would like to visit Japan! It seems that Japan will soon achieve the figure of 20 million foreign tourists who came this year, but it would be respectable for this to be raised to 30 or 50 million. We could expect that many Chinese people would learn about the wonderful qualities of Japan and cease having anti-Japanese sentiments. Japan developed its economy by shifting from the primary to secondary sector of the economy (processing trade). In the future Japanese people, while enjoying themselves, should attract more foreign tourists and develop the tertiary sector of the economy. Japan is surrounded by massive markets such as China and India filled with tourists who might visit. As income levels soar in developing countries, crude oil prices are falling, more discount airlines are available, and ticket fares are dropping. There are also more air routes between rural areas. Overseas travel is growing for these reasons, and the world is entering an era of tourism. This is an opportunity for Japan to become a major tourist destination. I think we should make it easier for people to come to Japan, such as by relaxing the requirements for issuing visas to countries like India.

Shiozawa I greatly agree with the idea of vitalizing the economy by enjoying life with a playful spirit.

Motoya People say that Japan’s declining population will impact its economy. However, couldn’t we make up for this by increasing the number of foreign tourists and people who stay? I’m not sure about immigration as a simple solution.

Shiozawa It’s true that we should think seriously about immigration. As you say, demand is decreasing as the population falls. It is possible to deal with decreased supply power by using technologies like robotics to boost productivity. I don’t believe the falling population will destroy the Japanese economy.

Motoya I hope we can create an affluent country even if the population is small. At the end of the interview, I always ask for a “word for the youth.”

Shiozawa I am constantly interacting with young people in my job as a university professor. Many of the young people of today are honest and talented. If adults cultivate them skillfully, they will make great progress. I hope that young people will have confidence in the latent powers they possess and be greatly active in the future.

Motoya I hope to cultivate human resources who can take part in debates. One can memorize the past, but the future cannot be memorized. I think wisdom and discernment for predicting the future should be acquired via debates.

Shiozawa Yes. It’s important to obtain fundamental knowledge, but the question is how to think based on that knowledge.

Motoya I picked up the habit of reading the newspaper when I was in elementary school. When I encountered a word I didn’t know, I looked it up in The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Words. That’s how I increased my knowledge.

Shiozawa I also hope that young people will treasure their friends. The personal relationships they develop in school will be greatly useful as they move into society. It’s also important to have several standards for evaluating people. They should not judge people by just one standard such as test scores. Also, lifelong learning is important, regardless of age.

Motoya I think lifelong learning will become more important as people have fewer children, and that more people will be engaged in work and studies at different times. Thank you for joining me today.


Shuhei Shiozawa
Born in Tokyo in 1955. Graduated from Keio University’s Faculty of Economics in 1978. Competed the Master’s Program at Keio University’s Graduate School of Economics in 1980. After earning his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1986, he worked as an assistant processor in Keio University’s Faculty of Economics from 1987. He became a professor in the same faculty in 1994. Afterwards, he was the dean of Keio University’s Correspondence Courses from 1995 to 2001. He was temporarily transferred to the Cabinet Office from 2001 to 2003, where he served as director for international economic affairs. He was the dean of the Faculty of Economics from 2005 to 2009.