On January 17, 2017, the news reported on the huge reaction to a video posted on January 15 by Kat (an American female student) and Sid (a young Chinese man) on Chinese microblogging website Weibo. This video said that Kat and Sid were staying at an APA Hotel when they saw in their room a copy of Theoretical Modern History II: The Real History of Japan, a book that negates the Nanking Massacre and forced transport of comfort women. According to the news, the video was viewed 68 million times over two days, afterwards reaching over 100 million views. Many media outlets contacted me, asking if I intended to apologize or remove the books. That day, we posted an official view on the APA Group website. It read:
On January 18, a deputy director-general of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Information Department censured APA Hotel for openly provoking Chinese tourists with this book that says the Nanking Massacre is entirely contrary to the facts. This news was picked up and spread around the world by overseas media including The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. The official APA Hotel website went down on January 16 because of unauthorized access thought to be a cyber attack, which greatly inconvenienced our customers. However, they were able to book rooms through travel agency websites as usual, so there was absolutely no impact on our sales – in fact, we set new sales and occupancy rate records in January. There was a considerable number of cancellations from Chinese groups after the China National Tourism Administration requested on January 24 that Chinese travel agencies cease handling APA Hotel rooms. However, recently Chinese tourists account for roughly 5% of APA Hotel guests, and most of these are Free Independent Travelers (FIT) rather than group travelers, meaning the impact was minimal. Many other guests stayed at APA Hotel to express their support, so our performance was hardly affected.
The Head Office and hotels have received more than 20,000 e-mails, faxes, telephone calls, letters, and other messages about this uproar. Most of these comments are highly encouraging, which I strongly feel is proof that Japan is breaking free from the bonds imposed by its masochistic view of history. On the other hand, I was deeply disappointed by the Japanese media’s biased stance. Most media outlets barely covered the messages of support from throughout Japan, instead reporting only on the backlash in China and reaction of the Chinese government. For example, a television program included the words of a commentator who labeled me as “deluded” and a “historical revisionist” as-is, without providing any specific proof. And regarding the issue of the Sapporo Asian Winter Games starting on February 19, I explained to the media that, when we received a request in April 2015 to book the entire hotel to serve as an athlete’s village, via an agency we were verbally asked to remove all informational materials from the guest rooms – not just the book in question. Afterwards, I explained that, via an agency of the Organising Committee, we received written instructions on January 30 regarding the fixtures, amenities, and other items to be placed in the rooms. I said that we would temporarily store all items, other than those specified, in the hotel during the Winter Games according to these instructions. Despite this, the reporters insisted on using the word “remove,” giving the impression that we removed the books due to comments from China and South Korea.
After this furor quieted down in Japan, news came out on criticisms from the Vancouver Jewish community, which said I had made anti-Semitic statements in the February issue of Apple Town. I learned about real estate investment methods using nonrecourse loans from a Jewish friend living in the United States in 1984, and this knowledge became the foundation of APA Group’s business growth today. I have also had friendly relations with successive Israeli ambassadors to Japan. When I visited Israel in 2012 at the invitation of the former ambassador to Japan, I visited Masada, which symbolizes the spirit upon which Israel was founded and is the pride of the Jewish people. I brought home a rock from Masada and displayed it on my desk, and I have always felt that we should learn from the Jewish spirit.
I sent a message to the Jewish community saying that I respect the Jews and have such a pro-Jewish stance that I have repeatedly told Japanese people that they should learn from the Jewish people. I expressed my sincere regret and remorse that one part of the Big Talk interview was used to label and criticize me as an anti-Semite. I always mean to praise the Jewish people as wise, with excellent skills in the fields of information, finance, and the law. But considering their history of struggle, I decided my statements had gone too far and removed them from the website. Some news reports are trying to treat this incident the same way as the criticisms I received from China for negating the fabricated Nanking Massacre story. However, these two issues are entirely different. I was attempting to correct a historical falsehood by providing proof that the Nanking Massacre never happened. In contrast, I meant to praise the Jewish people during that interview, but ended up speaking in an extreme way due to my lack of forethought.
February 11 was National Foundation Day. I wrote an essay five years ago entitled, “National Foundation Day is the Most Magnificent Public Holiday in Every Country.” Wondering how things are now, five years later, I checked out the morning editions of the different newspapers on February 11.
Exactly like five years ago, only the Sankei Shimbun printed the words “National Foundation Day” underneath an image of the Japanese flag. The other papers did not include the Japanese flag, while the Nikkei Shimbun did not even specify that February 11 is National Foundation Day. Both the Sankei Shimbun and The Asahi Shimbun printed editorials on the topic of National Foundation Day. The Sankei Shimbun’s was entitled, “Let us Consider the Significance of 150 Years Since the Start of the Meiji Period.” It read:
Japan has been invaded by foreign nations, such as the Mongol invasions of the Middle Ages, but the people joined together to weather these difficulties. In 1873 the government designated February 11 as Empire Day, an occasion for national celebration. At that time Japan saw the might of the major Western powers and was rapidly modernizing while fearing that it might be colonized. We should recall that the creation of Empire Day was meaningful as a way to teach the significance of the nation’s founding, thereby asking the people to band together in solidarity.
The future of world affairs is entirely unclear, including the growing sentiment of unilateralism in Western nations. Is this not the time for the Japanese people to unite and take another look at the question of how the new Japan should be?
The Asahi Shimbun’s editorial was entitled “Looking at History With Sincerity.” It also started by pointing out that, as of next year, 150 full years will have passed since the start of the Meiji Period. It is critical of the government’s policy of commending this day and takes the tack that there are different opinions on National Foundation Day. The editorial concluded:
Takahito, Prince Mikasa, who passed away last year, is known for severely censuring as having no scholarly basis the movement to restore the pre-war Empire Day, regarded as the day when Empire Jimmu was enthroned. What happens after we depict this single image of history, reject science and reason, and rejoice in a beautiful story? We must have a new awareness of the importance of sincerely looking at history on this 51st National Foundation Day, which was created after many twists and turns on the former Empire Day.
The newspaper companies’ stances have hardly changed over the past five years.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Donald J. Trump held their first meeting as heads of state in the early dawn on February 11 (JST), seemingly timed to the occasion of National Foundation Day. All of the morning newspaper top pages contained articles about this meeting on February 11. The results of the meeting had yet to be released when the articles were run, but the different headlines clearly show the varied attitudes. The Sankei Shimbun’s article was entitled “Protecting Japan With Nuclear Weapons and Conventional Forces: A Firm Japanese-American Alliance,” emphasizing the national security-related results of this meeting. The Yomiuri Shimbun also highlighted national security with its headline, “Indicating a Strong Japanese-American Alliance: Affirming that the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Covers the Senkaku Islands.” The Nihon Keizai Shimbun’s main headline was “Confirming a Stronger Japanese-American Alliance,” but its subtitle was “Haggling Over Commerce and Foreign Exchange,” casting doubt on the results for economic issues. In the same way, The Asahi Shimbun also strongly declared its economic concerns in its article headlined, “Meeting Between Japanese and American Heads of State to Affirm a Strengthened Alliance: Focusing on Car Trade and Foreign Exchange.” The lead said that Trump is prepared to treat automobile trade as a priority issue, and that it was possible he would refer to bilateral trade agreements and foreign exchange policies. However, although the actual meeting did affirm a strong alliance including Trump’s statement that the U.S. will protect the Senkaku Islands, the two leaders did not speak about foreign exchange or trade imbalances. This meeting accomplished big things, just as hoped by the Abe administration.
Six years have already passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, a tragic earthquake and tsunami in which many people were killed and homes destroyed. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station’s electrical power source was located at a low height above sea level. The tsunami knocked out all power and the reactors couldn’t be cooled, which raised the reactor core temperatures and caused meltdowns. A redox reaction occurred on the zirconium cladding on the fuel rods, producing hydrogen. This unvented hydrogen built up, setting off hydrogen explosions that blew the roofs off the reactor buildings and released radiation. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government’s evacuation plan – based on scant evidence – only increased anxiety about radiation. People living in regions where it seemed likely that the radiation dose would reach 20 millisieverts per year were forced to evacuate, as was everyone in a 20-kilometer circle around Fukushima Daiichi, regardless of the wind direction. Residents were quickly and forcibly evacuated, including elderly persons in senior citizens’ homes and hospitalized patients with serious illnesses. As of the end of September 2016, over 2,086 people in Fukushima Prefecture alone have passed away in disaster-related deaths, including causes such as stress and the lack of proper medical care due to the compulsory evacuations. Radiation death or damage is caused by momentary blasts that are thousands or tens of thousands of times larger. The 20-millisievert dose is the annual average for low-level exposure, so there would have been absolutely no increased risk of cancer when staying in these areas for a week or 10 days. We can say that the level of 20 millisieverts a year is definitely of no concern.
The average background radiation dose is 2.1 millisieverts in Japan, so it is entirely bizarre to set a criteria for the decontamination of areas exceeding one millisievert. Across the world people are exposed to an average of 2.4 millisieverts of background radiation every year. There are also some regions with extremely high background radiation such as Ramsar in Iran, which reaches up to 260 millisieverts (with an average of 10.2 millisieverts). Yet 30,000 people live in this area, which is actually known for its longevity. Pilots and cabin attendants are exposed to a lot of radiation on international flights, yet I have never heard that they have a higher incidence of cancer due to their professions. The same is true of astronauts. This decontamination standard made many people afraid and also stole labor away from building projects across Japan. Great fear was fanned by the DPJ government’s unscientific evacuation and decontamination criteria alike. Many people have died from increased stress, giving rise to a major man-made calamity that has caused great suffering.
Recent hotels, which are designed to be highly seismically resistant, are the safest evacuation shelters. These hotels are not destroyed in earthquakes; guests should immediately take shelter underneath a bed or table, safe from any flying or falling items, and wait until the shaking stops. Not one person was injured or killed at the APA Hotels in Sendai. All Sendai hotels were closed right after the Great East Japan Earthquake and some asked their guests to leave, but the APA Hotels stayed open. We told customers that the electricity, plumbing, and gas were unavailable and provided rooms at no cost to individual volunteers and at extremely low costs to corporate volunteers and other persons. Doctors Without Borders personnel also stayed at APA Hotels in Sendai in much greater comfort than in tents, since all they needed was shelter against the weather. In addition to staying guests, we also opened the first and second floors to nearby residents as shelters with blankets and food. Our hotel was also used as a relief supply and product transfer station according to a request from a major convenience store head office. The existing station was destroyed in the earthquake, resulting in an extreme shortage for convenience store foods and other products. Many people were very grateful for this.
We also provide assistance for the reconstruction of disaster-struck regions in various ways. The disaster has reduced the number of people living in these areas as well as the tourists that come to visit, causing economic difficulties. Some people disagreed with me, but I thought the best reconstruction assistance method would be to create demand by building hotels and drawing people back to these regions. Soon after the disaster we began choosing sites to build hotels in the damaged areas. We found a site – a leased plot that offered good conditions – one minute by foot from Fukushima Station on the Shinkansen, and drafted a plan to build a hotel with 362 guest rooms, the largest in Fukushima City. Together with a partner company, we jointly developed the APA ECO UNIT SYSTEM – the world’s first integrated construction method for total insulation – to make this our most environmentally friendly hotel. Hotels are generally built with the internal insulation method of inserting heat-insulating materials inside the structure. In the new APA ECO UNIT SYSTEM, a new material with good thermal-insulating qualities is used for the outer walls that are integrated with necessary parts in the factory, such as exterior cladding and resin window frames, before efficient installation at the hotel site. This groundbreaking construction method enables improved insulation and shorter building times. APA Hotel Fukushima-Ekimae will be opened on March 1, 2017, and I would be thrilled if it helps stimulate the economy of Fukushima.
After the earthquake, people in other countries praised the Japanese for being orderly and unified as they properly lined up and shared aid supplies in the affected regions. Fights break out over such goods in other countries, but that didn’t happen once in Japan. I think this was due to the Japanese spirit, and National Foundation Day is an important day for Japanese people to reconfirm this ancient spirit and celebrate the founding of our country. I wish the media would recognize the significance of this day and lead people in great celebrations. I also feel like there is profound meaning behind the timing of Abe’s meeting with Trump on that day. Perhaps it indicates a strong will to achieve Japan’s “second founding” in this year, 150 years after the beginning of the Meiji Period. We can view this meeting as a great success because it affirmed the close Japanese-American relationship rather than economic issues, seemingly living up to this strong spirit. Moreover, Abe spent the weekend with Trump at his club in Florida, where they formed a close relationship. Based on this, I hope Abe will amend the constitution and proceed forth with Japan’s second founding, making it into a country capable of independent self-defense.
February 17 (Friday), 7:00 a.m.