OPPOSITION PARTIES BACKING COMMON CANDIDATE IN NIIGATA IS A SHAM
“Come this way quick, little ants! You better move fast, or you will be run over.”
A little girl was desperately trying to guide an army of ants to the edge of a country road, worried that they would be crushed by passing cars. This was Megumi Yokota in her childhood in Niigata, the central northern Japanese port city where she was abducted by North Korean agents in November 1977 at age 13. Fondly recalling their happy times together, her mother Sakie (83) remarked recently:
“That’s how my little Megumi behaved all the time. She was very fond of all forms of life, large and small. She would often surprise me by bringing home some incredible little living things.”
As if remembering her vivacious little daughter with her plumb rosy cheeks, Sakie continued with a gentle smile:
“One day Megumi thought of bringing home a large toad, so big that it didn’t fit her hands, neatly wrapped in a cloth napkin. I found out about it, as the mother of her friend called me, surprised when she saw what my daughter was holding in her arms. Megumi was genuinely eager to please her twin brothers, three years younger, by showing them what a toad looked like. During those days, my husband Shigeru and I were very happy with our three little children always having fun like that.”
Actually, Sakie and Shigeru, now 86, thought their first child would be a boy and had chosen the name “Takuya.” She recalled as she lovingly looked at Takuya (51), her first son, sitting nearby:
“When we learned that our first child was going to be a girl instead, we decided to name her ‘Megumi’ and reserve the name ‘Takuya’ for our next child.” Sakie smiled.
“I clearly remember when Takuya and his twin brother Tetsuya were born,” she went on. “After Takuya came first, I was so worn out I almost fell asleep, but my doctor told me I was going to deliver another baby boy!”
I and upper house lawmaker Ms Eriko Yamatani, who was with me that day, could not help bursting into laughter. But Sakie had this to add:
“The doctor gently shook me, warning: ‘Please don’t fall asleep. Another baby boy is coming. Hang in there. Don’t fall asleep.’ That’s how Tetsuya, Takuya’s twin brother, arrived.”
“God’s Benevolent Will”
Sakie said that her twin sons were fascinated by professional wrestling when little and would frequently try applying various techniques they saw on television to each other. One day they were locked together like two sticky dumplings, rolling across the hall into the entrance of their house and shattering a glass door. But now they are mature citizens in their early fifties and wholeheartedly support their parents, faithfully committing themselves to campaigns to obtain the release of their sister and other abductees. Sakie added:
“It has been 42 long years since Megumi was abducted. Having since lived an unimaginably tough life, she must feel very encouraged now to realize that not only Japanese but also people around the world are concerned about her wellbeing. Thanks to the good offices of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, leaders of the world have gradually come to grips with the abduction issue. President Trump is also doing his best to resolve this difficult issue. The warm support we are getting from around the world has come as a great surprise to my family. I genuinely feel God’s benevolent will helping us.”
On the day we met Sakie, we attended a concert together by noted violinist Ryu Goto in Tokyo and later had him join us for dinner. Ryu, who deeply feels for the abductees, has held many concerts over the years to support their families campaigning to obtain the release of their loved ones from North Korea. His violinist mother, Setsu, has also been greatly moved by the fate of the abductees and has been extending invaluable support as well.
The abduction issue is closer to a possible solution than at any point in the past. Of course it will take an enormous effort to resolve it. There is no knowing if the summit Abe has proposed to Kim Jong-un will materialize. And yet, many of us are confident we are closer to a solution than ever before.
Takuya told us: “We are truly grateful that so many people have endeavored to resolve this difficult problem. They include Ichiro Tsukada, a lawmaker with the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party who was my sister’s school mate at the Yorii Junior High School in Niigata.”
Tsukada is an upper house lawmaker who recently made headlines by resigning as deputy transport minister over his April 1 speech concerning a road project linking Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, and Kita Kyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture over the Kanmon Straits. Tsukada told a gathering that in his position he had upgraded the project for administration by central government as an unrequested favor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Taro. That was what he felt Abe and Aso would have wanted, he said. The practice Tsukada said he had engaged in is known as “sontaku,” in which he accommodated the assumed wishes and intentions of political heavyweights.
As it turned out, Tsukada actually had not upgraded the project and admitted he said so in order to “liven up the atmosphere of the gathering.” He immediately met stern objections from within and without the ruling party and was forced to submit his resignation five days later. In point of fact, not only the ruling party but two main opposition parties—the Constitutional Democratic Party and the National Democratic Parties—have been in favor of the project, which has actually been advanced without any “sontaku.” That Tsukada blatantly stated what is untrue was inexcusable. That is why he ate his words, apologized profusely, and resigned. He is now up for reelection from Niigata Prefecture. Commented Takuya:
“I think it is unfair to criticize Tsukada only for that one particular mistake without recognizing the many valuable contributions he has made. He has quietly done a great job for the people of Japan.” Tsutomu Nishioka, a specialist on the Korean Peninsula who heads the Association of Families of the Victims Kidnapped by North Korea (AFVKN), observed:
“In September 2017, President Trump revealed before the UN Security Council that among the many Japanese abductees still detained in North Korea is a woman who was forcibly taken to Pyongyang by North Korean agents at the age of 13. Trump thus made Megumi’s abduction dramatically known to the international community. Tsukada had worked behind the scenes to make the impossible happen.”
In May 2017, Katsunobu Kato, minister in charge of the abduction issue, planned on a trip to Washington to discuss matters with his counterparts in the Trump administration, but was forced to postpone his trip, as key members of the administration were unavailable. AFVKN members, who were to accompany Kato, decided a few months later to visit Washington on their own seeking American cooperation in resolving the issue. Explained Nishioka:
“We decided to make the trip to Washington anyway, as Tsukada told us we must do so at that juncture by all means. He took the trouble of arranging for us to call on Matthew Pottinger, a senior member of the National Security Council (NSC) in charge of Asia. Takuya explained to him what had happened to his sister Megumi, which moved Pottinger so much he promised then and there to be sure to refer her case to President Trump, whom he was slated to meet shortly. A week later, Trump mentioned Megumi in his address at the UN, rebuking North Korea. Then, two months later, on November 6, he and his wife Melania were in Tokyo, graciously meeting us AFKVN members for the first time.”
Opposition Parties’ Positions All Over the Map
AFKVN members question the wisdom of single-mindedly blaming Tsukada for his “sontaku” remarks, crediting him with having contributed significantly to a revision of the Abductees Support Act, an adoption of the government’s 13-article sanctions imposed on North Korea, and lobbying the US Congress to adopt a resolution to inquire after American student David Sneddon, who reportedly is living in North Korea after being last seen hiking in Yunnan Province in China in August 2004.
Niigata will be one of the hardest-fought districts in next month’s upper house elections, with Tsukada as a ruling party candidate clashing head-on with a candidate jointly fielded by a coalition of opposition parties. Virtually all of the opposition parties, ranging from the Japan Communist Party to the National Democratic Party, are backing feminist attorney Ms Sakura Uchikoshi, but one seriously wonders what these parties have in common.
Take the abduction issue, for example. Neither the Japan Communist Party nor the Social Democratic Party has done anything to date to help resolve it—a decisive difference from the National Democratic Party which, despite being an opposition party, has actively dealt with the abduction issue, setting up its National Headquarters for Countermeasures against Abduction.
Also, as regards the imperial system, the Communist Party has repeatedly chanted slogans to “overthrow or bring down” the centuries-old institution. Its chairman, Kazuo Shii, has declared that his party’s ultimate objective is to “establish democratic republicanism in Japan devoid of the imperial system.” Can the National Democratic Party really consent to such an assertion? With opposition parties with conflicting values backing Ms Uchikoshi, what type of politics will she be able to conduct if elected?
I also feel quite uncomfortable about her questionable grip on what is really happening in today’s Japan. The feminist “Love Piece Club” net site dated September 21, 2016, ran her column in which she stated, quite naively, I must say: “I am often surprised to hear my friends, whom I trust as noteworthy liberals, tell me that the ‘comfort women issue’ actually was ‘a fabrication by the Asahi Shimbun, wasn’t it?’”
The liberal mass circulation daily ran special features August 5-6, 2014, retracting as fabricated all of the 16 articles it had carried since 1982 quoting Seiji Yoshida, a self-styled “comfort women recruiter.” Yoshida (1913-2000) lied about having supervised operations in Cheju-do, coercing young Korean women into sexual servitude for the Japanese military during the last war. I was taken aback by Ms Uchikoshi’s claim that she was “surprised” when her friends told her a fact that is common knowledge among Japanese today. The important thing about the coming head-to-head race in Niigata between Tsukada and Uchikoshi, jointly backed by opposition parties with conflicting values, is whether the voters can trust the political position of a candidate who also represents the Japan Communist Party. (The End)
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 858 in the July 4, 2019 issue of The Weekly Shincho)