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Early Spring Issue (Apr.)

Message to the second century

Origins of a man who continues to face the times lie here, at Waseda

Tadao Koike
Mainichi Shimbun advisor

Koike, who started his career as a political reporter in the 1960s, was on hand for the normalization of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations and the Okinawa Reversion Agreement, critical points in the history of Japanese foreign relations. Since his appointment as president, he has followed the reaction to protest activities by Aum Shinrikyo, but the origins of this man, who has continued to face the times with a strong sense of mission, can be found on the grounds of Waseda. We asked him his thoughts of the university while looking back on the path he has followed until now.

Feeling the "Waseda of Discussion" on a daily basis

——How did you spend your student life at Waseda?

With seminar colleagues while attending Waseda (Mr. Koike is on the left side)

For four years I studied hard, played hard, and absorbed many things. Looking back on my 70 years of life, I feel that my student years were truly "good times." What really left an impression were the words of Professor Tadashi Yoshimura. At the time, the world was in turmoil with demonstrations by the National Federation of Students' Self-Government Associations etc. but the professor stated, "Precisely because it is a troubled time, students should learn the fundamental of politics. You can make a racket anytime. I want you to spend your precious time at Waseda studying."

Heeding those words, with the likes of Katsuji Ebizawa (former NHK president), we formed a circle called "Seiji Gakkai (political academy)" in which we read in turn original political science works. Also in Professor Yoshimura's seminar, we learnt the realist ideologies of E.H. Carr and Hans J. Morgenthau. I have fond memories of discussing realism and idealism while drinking sake with friends at a soba restaurant near the university.

——What made you want to become a newspaper reporter?

Entering Waseda University was one of the main reasons. At the time, campaign speeches by Diet members were frequently held at the Okuma Auditorium, and seniors from Waseda who were political reporters for Asahi, Mainichi and Yomiuri would come to make an appeal. Each university had their traits such as "Tokyo University if you want to be a government official" and "Keio if want to be a businessman or banker" and Waseda's was, of course, "speech and journalism." In an environment where you could feel that up close, I too couldn't help but be aware of the reporting profession. That's where I got the thought, "a reporter is the only job where I can put to use the political science I studied at university." Reporting was a popular job at the time, and in my job-hunting activities, I whittled my choices down to one newspaper company, and was employed by Mainichi Shimbun.

Becoming a living witness to history at the political section I dreamed of joining

——What is the beauty of a reporter's work?

September 1972. Reporters group accompanying the LDP delegation to China to interview Prime Minister Zhou Enlai (Mr. Koike is the 2nd from the right in the front row)

Being able to witness historical events close up is a reporter's true joy. In my case, after entering Mainichi Shimbun I worked in a regional branch office before being moved to the political section which I longed for. What I particularly remember of that time are the Sino-Japanese normalization talks I covered in 1972 as captain of the foreign diplomacy team. I accompanied the LDP visiting delegation to China as head of the reporters' group immediately prior to the talks between the Japanese and Chinese premiers, Kakuei Tanaka and Zhou Enlai. I was also allowed to attend the talks between former Foreign Minister Zentaro Kosaka and Premier Zhou, where, right in front of my eyes Zhou said the famous words "put aside our differences for the sake of common good." I also attended Prime Minister Tanaka's visit immediately afterwards, and on the Japan Airlines plane I was able to hear stories on the normalization talks directly from the prime minister.

The chain of events relating to the reversion of Okinawa during the time of the Sato administration also left an impression. In the "leakage of foreign ministry confidential information scandal" that complicated agreement negotiations, Takichi Nishiyama, who I entered the company with, was arrested, and I was assigned to cover the scandal directly as political section chief for Mainichi's secret nuclear pact scoop. I think that being a newspaper reporter is a job where you truly become a "living witness to history."

What was also useful for foreign diplomacy-related reporting was realism theory of international politics that I studied at university. Thinking about how foreign diplomacy and politics develop became an extremely good reference for reporting.

You won't work at the top if you aren't resolute

——After that you were assigned important posts in the company. What hardships did you go through that were different from your reporter days?

When I worked as managing chief editor, I suffered from head to toe with dismissals and demotions. It started with an error in the English-language Mainichi when the ailing Showa Emperor's health became critical. The editorial that had been prepared for print after his death was printed by mistake. This was, of course, a social issue and I promptly submitted my resignation.

Mainichi Shimbun has in its manifesto that "the chief editor presides over all reporting" and the final responsibility lies, not with the president, but the chief editor. So I thought "I must resign." But leniency was shown and my resignation was turned down. Although I had experienced demotion, my later nomination as president may have been put down to everybody watching my actions as chief editor and feeling my sense of responsibility and mission. In any case, I believe it is important for someone in a position of responsibility to have a course of action.

It was really tough after I was made president. Exactly at that time, the Sunday Mainichi pitched a campaign to interrogate Aum Shinrikyo, and people related to the religious group would incessantly visit to lodge protests. In the trial that followed, it was revealed that they even planned to plant explosives in the basement of Mainichi headquarters. My home was placed under strict police guard, I even wore a bulletproof vest, and my family members were given whistles to use in emergencies.

Presidents of newspaper companies receive attacks from various groups. In public institutions such as a newspaper company, you won't reach the top if you aren't prepared for such events.

——You have spent many years as a screening committee member for the Waseda Journalism Award in Memory of Ishibashi Tanzan.

While many prime ministers such as Shigeru Yoshida, Nobusuke Kishi, Hayato Ikeda and Eisaku Sato came from the bureaucracy, Tanzan Ishibashi started out as a journalist. He took a firm stand for liberalism, and was a determined man whose antiwar and antimilitary ideologies never catered to the trend of the times, and espoused Small Japan policy. The screening committee had many discussions over which work should be presented the award bearing his name. In the ten years since the inception of the award, I believe we have created an award worthy of the name Tanzan.

——At a talk you gave at our university, male students were also positive when it came to posting questions. What is your impression of our students?

They were attentive listeners who responded well and appeared to absorb what I said with ease. I felt they were extremely talented people and their questions were also appropriate and of a high level.

——Finally, is there anything you would like to say to the students?

The anti-elitist philosophy has continued at Waseda going back to the days of Shigenobu Okuma. Monitoring the authorities is precisely the role of journalism. There can be no overstating that that is the primary factor behind Waseda sending many graduates into the press. I hope that in the future, that "Waseda-ness" is still pushed to the front. My being on the screening committee for the journalism award is also because of that way of thinking.

Also, speaking from a position of having worked as chairman of the Pacific League, I hope you produce new players on whom the professional baseball can pin the hopes. By winning this year's Hakone Ekiden and so on, I am pleased with the healthy state of Waseda sport. Looking back in the past, when sports teams weren't competing well, the university, as a whole, lacked energy. I want the invigoration of sports to give power to the university in the future too.

To all students, I want you to study the rules and principles of things properly, because "you can make a racket anytime." I studied political science, but the importance of learning the fundamentals is also the same in humanities and law. Please learn the basic knowledge you need to live while at university.

Tadao Koike
Mainichi Shimbun advisor

Born in 1932. Entered Mainichi Shimbun after graduating from the Faculty of Political Science and Economics in 1956. Joined the political section after spending time in a regional branch office. Has held positions as Political Section Chief and Tokyo Head Office Managing Editor, Chief Editorial Writer, and Chief Editor before becoming Representative Director President in 1992, and Chief Executive Officer in 1999 (until 2001.) Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association President 1995-1999. Strived hard to revitalize the Pacific League by introducing the playoff system etc. as Pacific League Chairman from 2001 to 2009. Screening committee member for the Waseda Journalism Award in Memory of Ishibashi Tanzan 2001-2011.