A respected international relations expert solicited my views on Yoshiko Sakurai and her Japan Institute for National Fundamentals . Mindful of his specific purpose, I tried to give as nonjudgmental an assessment as possible of her place in Japanese politics. My answer was necessarily brief (free samples always are), rendering it appropriate in size and subject for this blog, so I’ve left out the irrelevant bits and lightly edited the remainder and posted is below. If anyone has any opinions of their own, feel free to comment. I’ll answer them to my own satisfaction and ask the expert to look in.Yoshiko Sakurai is the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals as far as I see it. In my view, she is a prominent member of the nationalist-conservative wing of mainstream Japan, as are the JINF board members whose names I recognize. As such, the graceful, unflappable award-winning investigative journalist and pioneer female newscaster espouses views on history issues that are deeply inimical to Western liberals, as well as embarrassing to their conservative counterparts who agree with her views on, say, dealing with North Korea's nuclear weapons and other security issues. But she is not a fringe figure, nor a demagogue. Among the dailies, the Sankei editorial board likely supports her, and the Yomiuri board would give her a respectable hearing. The Asahi board probably thinks she's nuts, while the Mainichi board lies somewhere between Yomiuri and Asahi. Many of her views on history issues are shared—I use the word in a broad sense; history is never either-or, never black-and-white—and given respectful hearing by mainstream conservative politicians, including some recent prime ministers.
You may not agree with her on history issues, in fact may think little of her views in that respect. But think about it this way: Would you dismiss as irrelevant Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara (who is on the JINF board)? Or Kyoto University Professor Terumasa Nakanishi? Ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? Ambassador Hisahiko Okazaki?
One thing: If you want to debate her, you'd better come to the table with a full brief. She has a most impressive command of the facts, like an evangelical preacher with the Bible. Also like a preacher, indeed most advocates, she tends to ignore or make light of inconvenient evidence and facts, but you still have to be prepared to match her chapter for chapter, verse for verse.