Nami Katsuragi won the 4th APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize for her book Is it Wrong to Fight? What We Should Achieve Today in our Bushido Nation After the Disappearance of the Samurai (FUSOSHA Publishing Inc.). With a career as an actor and environmentalist, Katsuragi became a reserve Japan Self-Defense Forces official and is now working to resolve the various problems confronting Japan. Toshio Motoya spoke with Katsuragi about what is fundamentally lacking in today’s Japan and what we should accomplish to that end.
(M) Thank you for joining me on Big Talk today, and once again, congratulations on winning the APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize.
(K) Thank you very much. I feel like I’m the luckiest woman in Japan this year. The 10 million yen in prize money is a huge amount! A friend who saw my social media post about the prize wrote that she had fainted from shock.
(M) I hope you will use it to research your next book! You should also make sure to utilize the extra prize: a coupon for accommodation at our hotels around Japan. You can’t stay at the same hotel multiple nights, but it’s good for an entire year. A past prize winner spent 300 nights with us.
(K) I definitely want to take advantage of it.
(M) One of my “Words to Live By” is “Invention is proportional to distance traveled.” It’s important to actually see things with your own eyes, and in many cases you can’t understand something without actually going there.
(K) That’s the same policy I use in my journalism: actually going to the scene and experiencing it.
(M) My curiosity has led me to travel around Japan and the world, and this has been of great benefit in the work I do to express my views. Would you start by telling our readers about your career?
(K) Today I am mainly a journalist who collects information that I use to write, speak, and produce programs. Regarding environmental issues as my life’s work, I spent one year studying at the drama school run by Ben Wada, a performer from NHK. I also worked as an actor, but I wasn’t able to support myself with acting alone, so I did things like motor show narration on the side. I started leading tours of Ministry of Defense (MOD) locations in Ichigayadai. The MOD moved from Roppongi to Ichigaya in 2000, and I heard that regular women were giving tours of sites like the new building and the Ichigaya Memorial Museum, where the Tokyo Trials took place and where Yukio Mishima attempted a coup. I was taught by the postwar educational system to have anti-MOD sentiments, but my work as an environmentalist woke me up to the importance of defending Japan. I thought I could become a bridge between the MOD and regular citizens.
(M) That’s wonderful.
(K) But I became increasingly dissatisfied with just reading the texts I was given. That’s when the MOD started its new reserve candidate system for the general public, in addition to the past structure in which only former Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) officials could become reserve officers. A regular citizen can become a reserve official if they undertake 50 days of training within a period of three years. I was one of the first group. I started my 50 days of training at Camp Takeyama in Yokosuka City in the summer of 2002, and was appointed a reserve candidate in 2004.
(M) Was the training difficult?
(K) It was fairly easy for me because I’ve done Aikido since I was a student. I actually wanted it to be a bit tougher, but I think they went a bit easy on us since we were the initial group of regular citizens. Still, the first rifle I picked up was so heavy. It weighed about four kilograms. We used rifles for exercises and even shot them. It isn’t easy to practice crawling forward with a rifle; I couldn’t control it and it kept hitting me on the thighs. When I checked in the mirror, I saw that my thighs were dotted with countless bruises. But it was still a fun experience.
(M) You’ve also been to the Senkaku Islands.
(K) Yes, I’ve made 15 trips to that ocean area, which is like a symbol of how bizarre things have become in postwar Japan. Japan Coast Guard (JCG) patrol boats don’t allow Japanese fishermen and members of the general public to come within one nautical mile of the islands. If you approach, a patrol boat will block your progress. But within that area, official Chinese vessels are cruising right by Uotsuri Island. These are Japan’s territorial waters, so the JCG should be driving out the Chinese boats and allowing Japanese people free passage. Yet the opposite thing is taking place. I felt like this shows how Japan has come to personify the concept of “peace at any price.”
(M) The Senkaku Islands will come under Chinese control if this continues. It will be just like what happened at Takeshima.
(K) After the Democratic Party of Japan government, Shinzo Abe became prime minister for the second time in 2012. I thought things might improve a bit, but instead we could no longer depart from Ishigaki Island’s port after that point. China’s de facto control of the Senkaku Islands is growing stronger with each year that passes. The government claims that the Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory, so they should create an environment in which Japanese fishermen can openly operate in that area with peace of mind. But that isn’t happening at all.
(M) If a country’s military troops or border guards cross a land border into another country, they will certainly be attacked. But in territorial waters, countries have the right of innocent passage and cannot be immediately attacked just for encroaching. Still, roaming around goes beyond the scope of innocent passage. Japan needs to be better at defending its territorial waters.
(K) I agree. An example is Indonesia, where Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti served a leading role in seizing all foreign boats engaged in illegal fishing. Indonesia has blown up and sunk approximately 500 ships in its offshore waters while ignoring demands for restitution. It displays a stance that says Indonesia will not be treated with contempt. The Republic of Palau, which has just 18,000 people, fired warning shots at a Chinese boat that was illegally fishing its waters in 2012. They killed one fisherman and arrested and prosecuted all of the other 25 crew members. Japan isn’t capable of what this small country is doing, which is deplorable. This awareness led me to write Is it Wrong to Fight?
(M) The content of this book is wonderful, truly befitting the winner of the APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize. The members of the judging committee unanimously decided to award you this prize.
(K) There’s one thing I’d like to ask you. Last year marked the 14th Annual “True Interpretations of Modern History” Essay Contest and the 4th APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize. Why did you start a contest for books in addition to your prize for essays?
(M) There is a leftward shift in the media, and it’s surprising how often people are not aware of the great books that get published. I thought many of these are not being read, and I wanted to provide opportunities for people to encounter them. People who learn the truth become conservative. If many people grew aware of this prize and more of them ended up reading such books, I am sure more citizens will start thinking about things and be awakened to a conservative point of view.
(K) Why are books given twice as much prize money?
(M) I made up my mind to provide such a generous amount as a way to demonstrate the value of this contest. I think it’s the biggest prize among similar contests.
(K) It’s truly a great honor.
(M) Your book was recommended by Yuko Sanami, who won the 3rd Annual “True Interpretations of Modern History” Grand Prize (Fuji Seiji Prize). She’s also a reserve JSDF official.
(K) The Citizens’ Alliance for Protecting the (Male, Paternal) Imperial Line was founded in October 2019. I am the chairperson, and Yuko is a promoter. We also have a weekly YouTube program called “Three Sisters Sunday” where we talk about all sorts of topics. I’m the oldest “sister,” Yuko is the second-oldest, and singer saya is the third.
(M) So you’re doing different things together.
(K) Yes, we are. The Citizens’ Alliance for Protecting the (Male, Paternal) Imperial Line was started out of a sense of danger about the many intolerable discussions in the media, including weekly women’s magazines and TV shows, suggesting that Princess Aiko should become the emperor. I feel like some people are secretly working behind the scenes to destroy the paternal Imperial line. Many people are so uneducated that they don’t even understand the difference between a “female emperor” and a “matrilineal emperor.” They simply assume that “gender equality” must be a good thing, and that there’s something wrong if a woman can’t become emperor. I want more people to understand the significance of the Imperial line and establish a healthy consensus about this.
(M) Today, the Japanese media and educational system have become more left-wing, and there are no chances for people to sufficiently learn about the Imperial lineage. We have a precious tradition that has lasted for 126 generations up until the current Emperor, and this should be carefully passed down to the future. Regardless of whether it means anything to compare different countries, it is true that no other nations have an imperial family that has lasted this long.
(K) I agree, and I devoted one chapter of Is it Wrong to Fight? to exploring the issue of Imperial succession. I am so thankful for the APA Japan Restoration Prize that has provided a way for my voice to reach more people.
(M) I’ve also been working for a long time to share my views with many people. I’ve been the editor of this magazine, Apple Town, for the past 31 years without missing a single issue. We print 100,000 copies each month to place in every APA Hotel room. I think a book that sold that many copies would be a best seller.
(K) It would be a huge best seller!
(M) With APA Hotel’s membership program, you can get 5,000 yen cash back if you spend 50,000 yen on lodging. We have a cumulative total of 20 million members, and many regular customers as well. This business success is one reason why our customers read and respond favorably to my essays.
(K) The president of APA Hotel gave a speech at the APA Japan Restoration Grand Prize party on December 7. I was impressed by her statement that she sees her employees as family members. It’s great that she has maintained those feelings while the company has grown so large.
(M) This year is APA Hotel’s 50th anniversary. We’ve never laid off a single employee. There are about 5,000 people working for us, and we do business with a huge number of people when you add in the companies we deal with. APA Hotel has major economic effects. I believe that a corporation has three duties: creating demand, creating jobs, and paying taxes. We reliably fulfill these responsibilities, which is why I think more and more people are willing to lend me an ear.
(K) I see Japan as a single “family” headed by the Emperor. I think that great businesspeople, like yourself and Sazo Idemitsu, have contributed to society through your companies. Your goal is to make things better for the people around you. However, it seems like more people today are focused on their own profit, with a mistaken understanding of what it really means to start a business or to work.
(M) Even if you earn money, if you don’t contribute to society it’s no different than if you just found some money on the ground. An entrepreneur must enlarge and expand while creating demand, creating jobs, and paying taxes. Some businesspeople brag about not paying any taxes, but their businesses are without a doubt enabled by social infrastructure like roads, which are built using taxes. I believe that not paying taxes is out of line with business ethics.
(K) What inspired the patriotic sentiments you have today?
(M) My father’s illness was the first thing that made me notice the inconsistencies in society. He fought against tuberculosis for a decade and passed away when I was in my second year of junior high school. He was originally a businessperson with a company called “Motoya Woodworking Factory.” He employed about 100 people before he fell ill. They made ship steering wheels during the war, and produced paulownia wood boxes and cabinets after the war. When he became too sick to work, my father shuttered the factory and made ends meet by renting it out. Medical bills piled up because we didn’t have much income, and he wasn’t eligible for public assistance because of his assets. The only choice was to sell off these assets and scrape together money to pay the doctors. I thought there was something wrong about this – after all, he didn’t choose to become ill. When I was in elementary school, I learned that the United Kingdom provided universal healthcare to everyone, free of charge. I thought Japan should introduce a similar system. I was somewhat left of center at that time. When I grew up, I started traveling around the world and saw that Japan – which is the target of so much criticism at home – is highly respected in other nations. I became aware that no other country is as wonderful as Japan. I do think it’s important to see the wide world, and traveling abroad made me more patriotic.
(K) While different countries commemorate their war dead in various ways, they all share a basic concept of honoring the spirits of their ancestors. Japan is abnormal in that way – visiting Yasukuni Shrine to express reverence for people who died heroic deaths is criticized as a militaristic act.
(M) Our assessment of World War II is fundamentally incorrect. If Japan hadn’t taken part in the war, I think Western colonies would never have been liberated, and racial equality wouldn’t exist in the world today. Although Japan was defeated, its efforts to help other countries become independent and throw off their colonial rulers certainly inspired many. We should evaluate this more highly and take note of the positive aspects of the war as well. Japan was safeguarded by the ocean, and the samurai played a central role in fighting against foreign occupation during the time of the Mongol invasions. Unfortunately, Japan was occupied by the United States after the war… In any case, Japanese people today lack a sufficient awareness of the need to defend our own country. We must not assume the U.S. will protect us.
(K) That irritates me more than anything. The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty cannot bring us peace of mind. We should fundamentally be a nation that is capable of independent self-defense, while the treaty should play a supplementary role, providing deterrence to prevent wars.
(M) Survival of the fittest rules in nature. I think humans gained the superior position in the natural world because we were victorious thanks to our ability to use fire and tools. If we had lost this fight, we would have gone extinct. Japan must place maximum priority on ensuring survival.
(K) I’m a hunter, so I have a real understanding of what you are talking about.
(M) I started with clay pigeon shooting and then got my hunting license. I stopped a few years ago because I was fed up with the police inspections of how I was storing my guns.
(K) Really? When I traveled to forests around Japan as a journalist, I learned there are too many deer, which is harming the forestry industry. I reached out to the Forestry Policy Council, but I also wanted to do something else, so I got my hunting license and gun license four years ago. I recently participated in a hunt in Hinohara Village (Tokyo).
(M) American citizens have the right to protect themselves, so many of them keep guns at home. All warriors had swords during the Edo period.
(K) I think Japanese people depend too much on others when it comes to safety. Of course the police and JSDF work to keep us safe, but people without an awareness of self-defense also lose their risk management abilities.
(M) I think the concept of “self-defense first” applies to all nations, companies, and even individuals. I’ve been a law-abiding fan of guns since my teens due to the influence of my cousin, but I feel like gun ownership is becoming more difficult each year.
(K) Even new JSDF recruits shoot rifles. But in the world of hunting, you can’t own a rifle unless you have a record of owning a shotgun for 10 years or more. You also have to store your firearm and ammunition in separate lockers, and they must be fixed in place as a measure against theft. I live in Shinjuku City, which is said to have the strictest gun ownership rules in Japan because it’s home to Kabukicho. A policeman once told me, “I would be fired if you committed a crime 10 years down the line.”
(M) Putting aside the question of weapons, when you’ve been in business for 50 years, you’ve experienced many different incidents. You have to take sufficient self-defense measures to handle these. In this way, APA Group has never yielded to pressure from or paid money to improper forces. It’s always easier to speak with the people in charge, so I’ve made sure to talk to the top figures in every organization.
(K) I’m glad to hear that.
(M) I sometimes shoot at a range in Las Vegas, and I’ve been able to try many different firearms from handguns to automatic weapons. I know from my personal experience that a handgun isn’t accurate at a distance of 30 meters. In movies you often see scenes of people shooting at each other with rifles and handguns, but you could never use a handgun against a rifle with a range of several hundred meters.
(K) That kind of experience is important. In Japanese schools, children are no longer allowed to have small folding knives because it’s “unsafe.” I cannot help but think this education is making all Japanese people weaker as living beings. Lately there are incidents of people stabbing others with knives. I feel like these would cause less damage if people were more familiar with knives and knew how to deal with them.
(M) Japan should teach its people how to protect themselves.
(K) I think that would be connected to independent national defense, as well.
(M) I agree. At the end of the interview, I always as for a “word for the youth.”
(K) Japanese people are born with a fantastic “Yamato Damashii,” the Japanese spirit that is part of our DNA. For many people I think this calls up an image of the fierce kamikaze unit. However, “Yamato” is written with the characters for “great peace.” As this suggests, the Japanese spirit is one of seeking peace. Peace is not something that comes from just sitting around and smiling. It must be upheld by a fierce spirit. The Shinto religion includes the concept of “wild” and “tranquil” souls. Yamato Damashii means that force is used to maintain peace, and this spirt has been passed down for many generations. I want young people to realize and embody this.
(M) They should make preparations according to the concept of Yamato Damashii. If you are prepared, there’s no need to worry about anything. Thank you for joining me today.
(K) Thank you.
Born in Tokyo in 1970. Journalist and actor. After graduating from the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Agriculture, she became involved in environmental and national security issues, and has shared information based on onsite experiences related to forest planting, rice growing, and fishing. She appeared on the TBS Radio program A Little Forest Story (2008 – 2011). She has traveled to the Senkaku Islands area on a fishing boat 15 times since 2011 to report on the circumstances there. Ministry of Defense opinion leader. Reserve sergeant. She is a radio announcer on Radio Sea-Breeze, a shortwave radio station broadcast to North Korea. She regularly appears on Front Japan Sakura (Nippon Bunka Channel Sakura) and writes articles for The Sankei Shimbun’s Fastball & Curveball column. She co-wrote Women Defending our Country (Business-sha) and The Lost Truth of the Greater East Asian War (Heart Shuppan). She also provided commentary for [Reprint] Elementary Japanese [Junior High School Edition] (Heart Shuppan).