Hiroshi Hase took up the post of minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology in October of last year, replacing Hakubun Shimomura. He has been friendly with Toshio Motoya for more than 20 years and served as a “True Interpretations of Modern History” essay contest judge until 2014. Motoya spoke with Hase about his future goals as minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology; his feelings as a cabinet member that upholds the Shinzo Abe administration; and other topics.
Motoya Please accept my belated congratulations on your appointment as minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology. I was sure you would someday take up an important position. Your first role in the cabinet is an important one, even among the different ministers.
Hase Thank you. Looking back, I first met you in 1995 in Pyongyang.
Motoya Has 21 years really passed since then? Some time after we met at the pro wrestling match in North Korea, you told me that you were running for office, and now you are a minister.
Hase I’m not sure if it feels like a lot or a little time has gone by since then. Personally, I think I became minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology at an extremely good timing.
Motoya Would it be accurate to say you are a National Diet member with a special interest in education?
Hase Yes, I have worked as a teacher and also was involved in sports.
Motoya So it’s a long-sought position for you. I am often impressed by how much lawmaker-initiated legislation you are involved in. You have submitted a fair number of bills.
Hase I have submitted 26 or 27 up until now.
Motoya Of course, Kakuei Tanaka was the one who introduced the most legislation in the past, but your number is quite large as well. There are many Diet members who have never introduced legislation. Your number proves that you are fully engaged in political activities.
Hase I was a professional wrestler, so at first some people told me that I was out of my domain. Article 41 of the Constitution of Japan clearly states, “The Diet shall be the highest organ of state power, and shall be the sole law-making organ of the State.” This indicates that Diet members should serve an important role. Since I became a Diet member, I do not want people talking about me behind my back, so I have carefully embarked on each of these lawmaking activities.
Motoya Since you were a teacher of the Japanese language, I often associate you with haiku poetry.
Hase People think they’re interesting. Sometimes they end up as humorous senryu poems (laughs).
Motoya The same is true of my “APA Words to Live By.” Value has been produced through continuation – I guess perseverance is a source of strength. It is more difficult to express one’s thoughts in short sentences than long ones, which I am sure applies to haiku as well.
Hase All of your APA Words to Live By are quite accurate; they skillfully fuse your experience with the conditions of the times. I sometimes look back at the APA Words to Live By from old issues of Apple Town, comparing them to my present circumstances and finding encouragement or admonitions in them.
Motoya Thank you for utilizing them in that way! I have made reading a part of my daily life since I was young. When I was small I saw how my father enthusiastically read the newspaper. After he was bedridden from tuberculosis, I thought that I, as the oldest son, had to become the master of the household although I was an elementary school student. As I looked at the newspaper as a way of imitating him, I came to love reading.
Hase What part of the newspaper do you read first?
Motoya I suppose I start with the articles that have the largest headlines. Next I focus on those fields I am interested in. But when I was in elementary school, the newspaper was full of words I didn’t know. Now you can search online for unfamiliar words using a smartphone, but at that time I had to look up each one in The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Words. This encouraged my curiosity, so I started reading the different sections of The Encyclopedia of Contemporary Words like philosophy and medical terminology.
Hase You still possess that great thirst for knowledge and inquisitiveness from your childhood.
Motoya Perhaps I inherited them from my father. Because he was sick, I didn’t get a chance to speak much with him, so I don’t know whether I resemble him or not. But my mother’s younger sister’s husband worked at my father’s factory, and he often said I was exactly like my father.
Hase Did you inherit your decisiveness and conceptual skills from him?
Motoya Yes, because he also started from scratch as a businessman. He began working when he was 15 or 16. He founded the Motoya Woodworking Factory, which employed 100 people in its busiest period. During World War II, his factory was a war plant that built ship helms. Apparently, he received various types of favorable treatment because of this army-related work. After the war the plant switched to private demand, such as producing paulownia chests. But maybe my father worked too hard, because he contracted tuberculosis, which was quite common at that time. I have journeyed across the world, driven by this curiosity I inherited from my father. I have also engaged in debates with many different important persons. I think this has led to my business success.
Hase As I watch you travel around the world, sometimes I am not sure if you are working or enjoying your hobbies.
Motoya My motto is “have fun while working.” My thinking is that “he who runs after two hares will catch both.” It’s not always the case that working extremely hard will produce good results. For that reason, one should try to find fun in work to the best of one’s abilities. I may look like I’m just playing around at times, but I always find work-related hints by doing so. Rather than becoming an expert in one thing, I try to be interested in many.
Hase I see.
Motoya Considering this intention, nothing is as wonderful as Japanese newspapers. Newspapers cover politics, the economy, culture, and scholarship from Japan and across the world. Nothing should be more interesting for people who have discernment related to the news and a true sense of self. Yet when people who lack knowledge read them, there is the risk that they will be unilaterally taken in by the newspaper’s arguments. My hope is that newspapers will consider a broader range of viewpoints and revise their biases… Various reports were made on Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Sanae Takaichi’s responses at the National Diet, but we should avoid news coverage in which all newspapers have arguments with consistent tones. And by all rights, it is bizarre that newspaper companies also own television stations. Commercial television news commentators belong to the newspaper companies that own their station. Naturally, only newspapers were bound by the Press Code determined by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ), because televisions did not yet exist. The Press Code is still in effect today through voluntary restraints, and has even reached to television through the newspapers.
Hase Lately many people are talking about a blog post called, “Die, Japan, a Country Where Preschools Don’t Have Enough Room!” It has even been brought up at the National Diet. I feel that this phenomenon symbolizes how the online media has gained the same power as past media outlets.
Motoya I don’t think this blog would have become such an issue if the mass media didn’t report on it so much. I also cannot agree with the media that seems to portray the owner as a hero. It is a fact that there are not enough preschools, especially in urban areas, and that some people are unhappy when their children cannot be placed. This individual has the freedom of speech to make rash remarks on a blog, such as “Japan should die” or “the number of Diet members should be halved.” What I can’t understand is why the media would purposefully report on it.
Hase As minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, I have to say that there are extreme issues with that blog from the viewpoint of the Japanese language. At the same time, I am interested in what the mass media’s intention is in reporting on it. People can say anything they want on the Internet under the cover of anonymity. But as soon as the mass media reports on this, its editing can result in bashing the government or raising the question of insufficient nursery schools. I feel like the problem is whether the mass media has a proper understanding of this…
Motoya Surely it is bizarre for the mass media to mention these extreme statements by a totally unknown author.
Hase On the world of the Internet, the truth is applauded even if it is on a blog by an anonymous individual. That did not exist in the media of the past – all outlets like The Asahi Shimbun or Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) have merely reported under the name of their company. The issue of this blog demonstrates both the freedom and risky nature of the Internet.
Motoya Still, it is impossible to build a society that everyone is satisfied with. I think it is a fact that dissatisfied people will inevitably emerge if there are people who are satisfied. In the past, complaints by the dissatisfied were limited to idle gossip, but today they are propagated across the world via the Internet. Posts on the Internet are only viewed by people who purposefully go looking for them, but through TV reports they can be spread even to previously uninterested parties. Considering this, I think the mass media has an even greater responsibility in the Internet age, and that a certain amount of forethought is necessary. If nothing else, it is clearly misleading for the views of an anonymous author to be reported on as if they represented the majority of citizens.
Hase I agree. Politicians cannot neglect to think about the phenomenon of the Internet infiltrating the mass media in the future. However, we Japanese people are supposed to have a sense of moderation and shame. I don’t think it’s right for a mother to say, “die, Japan.”
Motoya The mass media didn’t report on extreme, anonymous comments like “die, Japan,” which I guess is a type of moderation. Incidentally, do we know who wrote this blog?
Hase Some media outlets have apparently found and interviewed the author.
Hase Speaking of which, APA Hotel has been criticized by the mass media before. I think most businesses that were subjected to that kind of concentrated fire would have found themselves in critical situations, but you have always managed to overcome these stormy seas.
Motoya Perhaps that is because I have dealt in an open and positive way with the people who attack us. A bear will chase if you start running, but if you stand still and try to make yourself look bigger, it will slowly back away. The same applies to handling the mass media – I just calmly repeat the question asking what they are criticizing without running away.
Hase When I watched your press conference, it looked like you were attempting to discover the truth yourself without running away.
Motoya I hold press conferences and would admit if I was wrong and promptly resolve any problems that exist. I think lying is the worst thing to do. There may be some times when one cannot speak the truth, but lying is wrong. If you lie as a means to escape, it may become your fatal wound.
Hase I think these wonderful responses to risks are also reflected in your business management. Is that a sensibility you were born with?
Motoya It’s probably from my experience of growing a business from nothing. I naturally gained this wisdom.
Hase But how can we cultivate people like you? These are the sort of human resources that should be developed by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). Why do we cultivate people in university, high school, junior high school, elementary school, and early childhood education? This is unambiguously for one’s own sake, but in the end I think it is also for the sake of one’s family, the community where one lives, company one belongs to, and even the nation. We must conduct education so as to develop people like yourself, who feel a sense of purpose regarding your country and corporation.
Motoya There are few people who can clearly answer when asked what they would like to become in the future.
Hase That has become a hot topic at the House of Councillors’ Committee on Education, Culture and Science. Apparently, some children say that their future dream is to become full-time employees. I don’t think that is wrong, but since they are being asked about dreams I would rather they responded in ways that are more agreeable to adults, such as saying they want to be a soccer player or company president.
Motoya I also felt it was a bit odd that some people say they respect their fathers. I wish they had a broader outlook.
Hase What was your childhood dream?
Motoya In the graduation anthology when I finished elementary school, I wrote that I wanted to become the president of the “World Federation.” That was because I read in the newspaper that Japan would join the United Nations, which then headed by Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. I wanted to be the president chosen democratically in the future when wars no longer exist and a World Federation had been created.
Hase I’m not surprised to hear that!
Motoya In junior high school, I wrote, “Adversity itself is a splendid opportunity.” My father died when I was in my second year of junior high school, and I felt those severe circumstances were an ideal chance for me to become a better man. I used those words in the title of the book I published last year about my life until now. Afterwards, I entered Komatsu High School and was put on the course to entering college. But considering my home circumstances, I wanted to start a local business as soon as I could. I also wanted to study finance for the sake of business, which is why I decided to work at a credit union. But I also felt that academic achievements would be prized in the future, so I entered Keio University’s Faculty of Economics Correspondence Course without talking to my mother or teachers.
Hase Did you graduate?
Motoya I didn’t attend any in-person classes because I was also working at the credit union. I studied the massive textbook I received in a fair amount of detail, but I didn’t graduate. Yet the economic theory I learned in that way is still useful to me today.
Hase You are still studying every day now.
Motoya I pick up a lot of second-hand knowledge. I debate with many different people, such as our dialogue today, by which I confirm my own common sense. When I speak with someone who has specialized expertise, I often expand my breadth of miscellaneous knowledge.
Hase The MEXT is recently stressing the importance of “active learning,” which is different from the lecture-type classes of the past. Instead of students just sitting in a classroom and passively listening, they engage in communication of their own initiative and master knowledge and abilities while cultivating their power of expression and decisiveness. I think that is exactly what you have done.
Motoya We are now in the season when many people are searching for their first jobs. I hold the final interviews for APA Group. When I ask people about what they did in college, 70% talk about their part-time jobs, and the majority of the rest talk about their clubs in school. Not even 10% discuss what they studied. It seems to me that students in the humanities don’t study at all in particular. They read almost no books. When they encounter something they don’t know, they look it up on their smartphone – they are true members of this digital era with disconnected ways of thinking. Makeshift measures can be good, but they lack the analog way of thinking that connects various events together.
Hase It’s true that Internet searches have some adverse effects.
Motoya And while some students don’t study, there are some like Shimomura – the previous minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology – who received a scholarship to be one of the first Ashinaga students while delivering newspapers to pay his tuition and then graduating from Waseda University.
Hase He is one of the people I respect.
Motoya Me too. The role of the minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology is to provide educational opportunities – such as national tuition fee waivers and scholarship systems – to young people in various environments.
Hase Yes, that’s true. We are also considering a system for easier scholarship conversion.
Motoya I hope you will give opportunities to study to many people through your political measures.
Hase I will.
Motoya I have visited 81 countries across the world, which has shown me that history is written by the victors. The current world history was created by the major Western powers, which are Christian. One can also say that Japanese history was written by the GHQ. Japan is actually an excellent country, both today and in the past, yet it is demeaned due to inaccurate history. The issue is not what people from what countries are bad; there are enemies in Japan that have profited from Japan’s defeat in World War II. We must regain Japan’s true history and revive it as a homeland that is worthy of pride. Education and the mass media must be promptly rectified. Today’s media is biased. In programs about the security legislation, more than 90% of the time was devoted to showcasing the dissenting opinion, while the people in favor were given just around 10%. The voices of some extremists who demonstrated in front of the prime minister’s official residence were reported on as if they represented the great majority of citizens. Because these outlets use radio waves – a public asset – they should be more impartial and balanced
Hase I am a member of the government, so I will deal with media reports in a solemn way.
Motoya I hope the Shinzo Abe administration will last as long as possible so that Japan can change. According to the current Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) rules, his maximum term is until September 2018. But if he wins in the House of Representatives election, which will likely take place near this year’s House of Councillors election, I wish for his term to be extended for three years as a reward. After all, it looks like Japan is finally on the way to becoming a decent country.
Hase When Abe was prime minister for the first time, I think he experienced the largest setback of his life. He was able to come back five years after because of his mental strength and solid determination.
Motoya I think that setback was positive in the end. Instead of continuing to govern in that way, the experience of stepping down once made Abe stronger. When he became the prime minister for the first time, I think he gained some sympathy votes because Shintaro Abe, his father, died right before becoming prime minister. Shinzo Abe resigned one year later. He studied and gained greater courage in the five years between, and his return to the position of prime minister was a good thing for Japan. You have maintained your parliamentary seat since you were first elected in 1995, even during difficult circumstances.
Hase Thanks to your support.
Motoya It’s significant that you haven’t lost one election. And now that you are minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, you can accomplish things you weren’t able to before. Now is the era in which you can play a very active role. Please work hard and use your skills to help Japan become a decent country. I will keep supporting you.
Hase I will. I will emulate you and keep studying without being defeated by adversity.
Motoya Thank you very much for joining me today.
Hase Thank you.
Born in Toyama Prefecture in 1961. Won the National Athletic Meet in his third year at Seiryo High School. After graduating from Senshu University’s Department of Japanese Literature, School of Letters in 1984, he taught Japanese at Seiryo High School, his alma mater. He also represented Japan at the Olympics in Los Angeles in the 90-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling tournament. He became a professional wrestler in 1985. He was elected for the first time to the House of Councillors in 1995, and to the House of Representatives for the first time in 2000. He became a cabinet member for the first time as the minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology in October 2015.