Yuichiro Wada successfully ran in the October 2021 House of Representatives election from the Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), which made great strides in that election. Wada has been a member of a city council and prefectural assembly, and has also landed on Uotsuri Island. Toshio Motoya spoke with Wada about the numerous issues facing Japan, such as the expanding China, how to safeguard confidential information, and the need to maintain technological strength.
(M) Thank you for joining me on Big Talk today, and congratulations on your win in the recent House of Representatives election.
(W) Thank you very much.
(M) You’re also head of the Shoheijuku academy’s Kansai Branch.
(W) Yes, this is actually the second time I’ve served in that position. The Kansai Branch was opened in 2012. I took part from the very first meeting, and I was the branch head back then. I stepped down after I lost the 2014 lower house election, but I’ve returned now that I am a House of Representatives member.
(M) Compared to your time on the prefectural assembly, I’m sure you’ll have many more opportunities to be active as a member of the National Diet. For a long time you have done great things for a regional legislator, including landing on Uotsuri, one of the Senkaku Islands, back when you were in the prefectural assembly.
(W) I went to Uotsuri right before the Shoheijuku Kansai Branch was established with a group of some 150 Diet members affiliated with the Association of Diet Members Working to Protect Japanese Territory. Ten of us, including myself, jumped into the ocean and swam to Uotsuri. I did this because, ever since I was a student, I have wanted to become a politician who is dedicated to Japan’s national interests.
(M) I think it’s great that someone like you was elected.
(W) Thank you. Still, one does lose heart at times during a long political career. Your teachings at the Shoheijuku have inspired me and reaffirmed my fixed axis. I’ve renewed my faith that I am doing the right thing, which is how I ended up in the National Diet. I am so grateful to you.
(M) Of course I speak at the Shoheijuku, but we also welcome many lecturers who give 10-minute speeches. That’s because I would rather have the audience members hear what many people have to say – and think about these things on their own – instead of just absorbing the views of one person. We hold question-and-answer sessions for that reason, too. Still, as the timekeeper I can cut off a speaker after three minutes if I don’t think their speech is worthwhile, and I can allow great speakers to continue for 20 minutes. Ten years have passed since I started the Shoheijuku. We consistently hold monthly meetings at our three locations in Tokyo, Kanazawa, and Osaka.
(W) It’s wonderful that you attend all of those meetings.
(M) I see my business activities and my efforts to express my views as the “wheels” of a car. When a successful businessperson speaks, I think their words seem more trustworthy and valuable. I also think the Shoheijuku has inspired many people to be awakened over the past 10 years at our three locations.
(W) It’s true that your words inspire more trust because you have built APA Hotel, Japan’s largest hotel chain. You’re not just a simple commentator.
(M) I launched my business 50 years ago. We’ve never had a deficit, and we’ve paid more than 100 billion yen in taxes. I believe it is only natural to pay taxes, considering that roads and other types of infrastructure are necessary for our business. I also think more people will trust those who pay taxes than those who do not.
(W) I agree.
(M) Some people in society switch between the right and left wings, but I express myself based on my solid perceptions of history, the nation, and the world. That’s why I’ve had a consistent way of thinking for the past 50 years.
(W) Thanks to that consistency, you’ve built a unique position among those who promote their views. I am truly honored to serve as head of the Kansai Branch under you.
(M) Sticking to one’s principles isn’t always an easy thing. In 2017 there was an online scandal about my book, which denies the Nanjing Massacre, being placed in APA Hotel guest rooms. The Chinese government even criticized APA Hotel by name. I posted a statement on our website that said we wouldn’t remove the books since Japan has freedom of speech, but I asked China to share any proof they had to refute my claims about the massacre. The Chinese government provided no rebuttal. Chinese travel agencies stopped booking APA Hotel rooms, and we no longer show up in Internet searches in China, just like Chinese citizens cannot search for information about the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Our number of Chinese guests fell to zero all at once. This was without a doubt an attempt to harm our business and coerce us into removing the books. But fortunately, we were keeping our ratio of foreign guests at a specific level, and travelers from North America, Europe, and other countries filled in the gaps left by Chinese tourists. Some Japanese guests also stayed with us to demonstrate their support, and we actually recorded our highest occupancy rates ever. As this incident shows, China tries to suppress speech that it does not approve of.
(W) I’m not surprised you were able to transform that difficulty into an opportunity.
(M) I compared my business and sharing my views to the wheels of a car. But when asked, without hesitation I always say that my efforts to express myself are more important. What is wrong with disseminating my views? I imagine that China regards me as a suspicious person now, and I might be the target of serious oppression if China ever became ruler of the world. China’s population is 10 times larger than Japan’s. It used to be a very poor country, but in recent years it is rapidly gaining economic strength and transforming it into military strength. China is becoming a military superpower that is trying to catch up with and overtake the United States, and it’s using this military force to move from the continent into the oceans.
(W) China is definitely striving to become a major naval power.
(M) China frequently talks about dividing up the Pacific Ocean with the U.S., which would bring Japan under Chinese control. I cannot endure hearing this. The more considerate the Japanese government is of China, the closer China comes to achieving hegemony. China is also providing economic aid and vaccines – mainly to Africa and Asia – as a way to spread pro-Chinese sentiments. Japan proposed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) between Japan, the U.S., Australia, and India to oppose this. The AUKUS security pact between the United Kingdom, U.S., and Australia was also established. Japan should build a collective defense framework centered in Asia, rather like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as a bulwark against China.
(W) I think so, too.
(M) China already has intercontinental ballistic missiles that can directly strike the U.S. And by continuously increasing its amphibious assault ships, its ability to land on Taiwan increases day by day. In November, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that a Taiwan crisis would be a crisis for Japan. He was right on the mark; if Taiwan were in danger, the Senkaku Islands and Okinawa would be threatened as well. I think Japan should work with other countries to keep putting pressure on China and prevent a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. China makes decisions about all matters according to whether they are “pro-Chinese” or “anti-Chinese.” Parties with anti-Chinese sentiments are punished harshly. However, China’s attempts to punish APA Hotel were all in vain.
(W) I think China’s efforts were fruitless because APA Hotel has such a solid business foundation. Your presence remains strong even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(M) APA Hotel’s high profit rate is our biggest strength. Most hotels have profit rates from a few percent to less than 20%, but ours exceeded 30% before COVID-19 with a profit of 30 billion yen. Last year our profit reached one billion yen. This year we are planning for profit of five billion yen. I expect that we will return to the 30-billion-yen level next year, and I’m planning for us to reach 50 billion yen after that. We pay taxes on this profit, and for that reason I feel comfortable saying what I want.
(W) Apparently, the biggest taxpayers in the U.S. are invited on military tours of submarines and other facilities. That might be a way to show them what their money is used for and demonstrate that they have the right to express their views. You have a similar awareness.
(M) I’ve been invited to ride on an F-15 fighter and take part in military and naval reviews. Regular Japanese people are too alienated from military affairs. They should learn more about military affairs so they understand the significance of defending Japan. For a long time, emphasizing the importance of military knowledge has resulted in being branded as a right-wing person with dangerous views. However, peace is actually maintained in the world through a balance of power. Wars break out when there is a powerful party and a weak one. We cannot be negligent about strengthening our military force while China is becoming a military superpower. Japan’s population is significantly less than China’s, so we must constantly refine our military technologies, improve the efficiency of our weapons, and develop better weapons than other countries. China is steadily deploying Chengdu J-20 fighter aircraft, and today it has more naval vessels than the U.S. The only thing that can intimidate China is the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (MSDF) submarines, which some theorize can travel and attack at 900 meters down, as well as its torpedoes that can be used at great depths. I think these are the top technologies in the world, but we can’t assume this will always be the case.
(W) MSDF submarines are built at factories and shipyards owned by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Kobe. You can see the submarines being constructed from a sightseeing boat on the ocean. Foreign spies can easily take photos and send them home to be analyzed. The local government should be conscious that this confidential information must be safeguarded. We should also work to make the public aware that we need to control this intelligence.
(M) I think things are much too open. All countries hide their military secrets. If these secrets are stolen, another country can quickly copy weapons, which means all the money and time spent on them was wasted.
(W) The US-2, a Japanese amphibious aircraft of the top level in the world, is also produced at ShinMaywa’s Konan Plant in Kobe. This aircraft made news in 2013, when TV anchor Jiro Shinbo was on a yacht that crashed into a whale. He was saved by the MSDF, which landed a US-2 on the ocean in a storm.
(M) The US-2 can land on ocean waves that are three meters tall. I doubt Shinbo’s rescue could have been accomplished with a regular amphibious aircraft. Japan has long possessed advanced technologies in this field.
(W) Yes, and the Konan Plant has been using the same factory since before World War II. However, China has started making amphibious aircraft with a similar level of performance. I wonder if it stole Japanese technologies to do so.
(M) It would be a big problem if these vital Japanese technologies were being leaked. Japan cannot win with its population alone, so we must achieve victory through the quality of our technological development. Japan would have to abide by China’s outrageous demands if we ever came under its control.
(W) I am concerned about that as well. I think now is the time when the public must share a sense of danger and have a viewpoint to understand these things in a rational way.
(M) Yes, and once we have a consensus about that, Japan must work to increase its military spending so we can compete with China. I also think it’s a good idea to start by cooperating with Vietnam to build an Asian framework for opposing China. Vietnam has been in conflict with China for a long time. After fighting with the U.S., Vietnam invaded its neighbor Cambodia in 1979. Vietnam toppled the Chinese-backed Pol Pot government, and China started an invasion of Vietnam as a punitive measure, which was the start of the Sino-Vietnamese War. But the Vietnamese army had a great deal of combat experience due to the war that had just ended. Furthermore, it had abundant American-made weapons that were provided to the former South Vietnam. Vietnam was able to oppose the Chinese army that had an overwhelmingly larger quantity of material resources, and the war eventually ended with China’s withdrawal. Both countries claim they won the war, but I think we should view it as a Chinese defeat. Vietnam has triumphed over China in military conflicts since then, so I think it is worthy of a great deal of trust as a country to join forces with.
(W) I agree. I think we should have closer military ties with Vietnam and Taiwan. I also think Japan should actively invest in military technology development, as you have said before.
(M) Costs are not considered when developing military technologies. There are many cases of these technologies being extensively applied to civilian purposes, such as the Internet. That’s why private-sector technical prowess grows when a country focuses efforts on military technology development.
(W) Space and aviation technologies cost immense amounts of money to develop, but I think Japan should continue doing so. The Mitsubishi SpaceJet (previously MRJ) has been “paused,” but it seems like it’s actually been cancelled, which is truly unfortunate.
(M) I think the U.S. is against Japan developing its own aircraft. America wants to sell its high-priced products to Japan.
(W) That’s exactly why we must refine our original technologies.
(M) Yes. Wanting to beat Germany and Japan to the punch, the U.S. spent vast sums of money and used secret funds to covertly develop atomic bombs during World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt thought the project would be called into question in Congress if the war ended without a chance to effectively use the bombs. He purposefully kept the Emperor’s treatment ambiguous in the conditions for Japan’s surrender as a way to buy time for atomic bomb development. Although the U.S. is a democratic state, it does have a structure for fully protecting military secrets.
(W) Perhaps due to the influence of foreign institutions in Japan, an environment has been established in which the government and bureaucrats have to disclose information. The Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets was finally enacted in 2013 after a great deal of fuss, but Japan’s protection of secret information is still insufficient.
(M) If a spy were arrested according to the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, they would still be given an extremely mild punishment. This act is fundamentally a way to penalize civil servants who leak specially designated secrets. We also need a law that clearly prevents espionage.
(W) I agree. The goal of policy should be strengthening Japan, not revealing its secrets.
(M) There are anti-Japanese people and media outlets in our country who want to betray Japan’s secrets as much as possible. The government and its agencies release information that should be protected because they are afraid of criticism from the people and media.
(W) Some Diet members feel that way, too.
(M) Secrets are more prone to exposure in a democratic nation than in a dictatorship, which is why legislation is important. Other democratic states have anti-espionage laws. I think it’s also important to prevent technologies from being leaked at the private-sector level.
(W) There are many examples of people being lured away by other countries.
(M) It seems there are lots of cases in which engineers of retirement age are seduced by large sums of money to move abroad. They take high-level technologies with them. I’m not sure if we should simply cut loose these skilled experts, just because they have reached retirement age. Of course there are things to consider regarding human rights, but I think we must discuss and consider establishing restrictions from the standpoint of Japan’s national interests.
(W) Passing down these technologies is also of great importance. Today there are fewer engineers in the atomic energy field, but Japan should be trying to keep up with the new nuclear fusion reactor technologies that are appearing.
(M) We must protect and cultivate nuclear power technicians as we enter the era of nuclear fusion. Thanks to Japan’s great abilities, it achieved a recovery in a short time after World War II to become the world’s number-two economic power. I hope Diet members will learn about these things to safeguard and develop Japan’s abilities. I also hope you will establish laws that align with Japan’s national interests.
(W) I will take that to heart.
(M) You ran in the last election from the Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party). Were you always a member of that party?
(W) No, at one point I had no party affiliation. I was basically part of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) during my time on the city council and prefectural assembly, but I joined Nippon Ishin before the recent election.
(M) Nippon Ishin won a much larger number of Diet seats, and I look forward to seeing what it does in the future.
(W) Many citizens have become fed up with opposition parties that do nothing but voice their disapproval of the government. I think Nippon Ishin gained so many seats because it doesn’t just try to sabotage the ruling party. I plan to sincerely respond to the expectations of people who want us to serve a complementary role by doing what the LDP cannot, and to fulfill my responsibility in the National Diet.
(M) Nippon Ishin is extremely powerful in Kansai, but less so in other regions. You will need to work hard here, since Tokyo is the heart of Japan.
(W) We won in some areas where Nippon Ishin has never had Diet members before, and I think this trend will accelerate and expand across Japan going forward. Nippon Ishin is a realistic party that rejects impractical and useless theories. We have accomplished things in Osaka together with the prefectural governor and mayor. I feel this resembles the pragmatic way you have done business.
(M) Entrepreneurs are useless if they cannot produce results. People come to the Shoheijuku to hear what I have to say exactly because I have won so many successive business victories. At the end of the interview, I always ask for a “word for the youth.”
(W) I hope young people will take a direct look at true history and think in more profound ways.
(M) People who learn the truth become conservative. The media doesn’t always convey correct information. I want young people to discern the truth by reading between the lines of the news. Thank you for sharing such an interesting conversation with me today.
(W) Thank you.
Born in 1964 in the City of Kobe. After graduating from Waseda University, he completed the Master’s Program in International Economics at the Kobe City University of Foreign Studies. He worked in positions including as secretary to a House of Representatives member before serving two terms on the Kobe City Council and five terms on the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly. He was elected to the House of Representatives for the first time in October 2021.