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Kazushige Hirasawa: Illustrious non-editor

Kazushige HirasawaI call Hirasawa a "non-editor" because he never did anything that even remotely resembled editing. In fact, he almost never came to the editorial office. I recall seeing him only once — when he went from desk to desk, early one January, to wish everyone a happy new year. He had been a diplomat, and was Japanese consul in New York at the outbreak of the war in the Pacific. He was repatriated the following year, and joined The Japan Times in 1956. After his exacting stint as "editor", he became a personal aide to former prime minister Takeo Miki. He was typical of those Japanese "executives" who use their notional job, for which they are highly paid, as a platform on which to preen and posture, as they seek opportunities to pursue other ambitions.

Hirasawa, who had nothing intelligent to say about anything, was nevertheless in demand as a speaker at international conferences, where the appetite for right-wing rhetoric is apparently insatiable. Here is a sample of his inane waffle at the 20th Annual Conference of the World Affairs Council of Northern California on May 7, 1966 (as reported in The Japan Times of May 11, 1966): "The criticism is that the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war overtaxes American capabilities. This criticism seems to be based on the feeling that Asia will after all go its own way. This may be my misgivings that have no justification. I hope I am wrong. But whether this is the case or not can be determined by the outcome of the U.S. policy in Vietnam. For this reason, I hope that the U.S. will not fail in its policy toward Vietnam. It's got to succeed."

A few paragraphs later, he says: "I believe that a comparatively few Japanese understand that one of the important purposes for which the U.S. is fighting in Vietnam is, besides her living up to her commitments, to prevent world war III."

Well, the Vietnam war, which was based on lies and distortions, cost 58,000 American lives, an estimated 3 million Vietnamese lives, and left much of Vietnam poisoned by dioxins. The Americans eventually lost, and the sky didn't collapse. There was no world war III. Footnote: Hirasawa died of cancer on March 7, 1977, aged 67.

Tamotsu Ogata: Managing editor, mid-1960s

Tamotsu Ogata
Ogata — known as "Little O", to distinguish him from "Big O" (Masaru Ogawa, see below) — was the only managing editor I actually worked with. The photo on the left is from Japan Times Monogatari; the photo on the right is one that I took while he was sitting opposite me on the news desk.

The story was that Ogata was from a family of sake manufacturers in Nara, and that he was of Chinese descent. During World War II, I was told, he took off to the mountains with some books on English grammar, and taught himself to write the language perfectly. While we were looking at a page proof, he would, on occasion, spot errors before I did.

Masaru Ogawa: Managing editor, early 1960s

Masaru OgawaOgawa was the one who said "Welcome aboard" when he hired me, at ¥40,000 a month, in May 1963. And that was, if I remember correctly, the first and last time I spoke to him. He was still managing editor at the time of the Kennedy assassination. As I arrived for work in the late morning, he was directing operations in the composing room — with sleeves rolled up and cigar clamped in mouth.

Unfortunately, Ogawa was just another of the right-wingers who staffed the upper echelons at The Japan Times. Most, if not all, of them were rabid imperialists who made an alacritous volte-face in September 1945. I still remember the groans of disappointment that came from this crowd when it was announced by Kyodo news agency, via the "squawk box" in our office, that Lyndon B. Johnson would not be running again for the presidency. They all supported America's war in Vietnam, and had hoped to see LBJ "finish the job".

The following is from Ogawa's obituary in The New York Times in 1990:

"Masaru Ogawa, former editor of The Japan Times, Japan's largest English-language newspaper and one of the country's most prominent journalists, died on Sunday of heart failure at his home in Tokyo. He was 74 years old and had been ill for several weeks.

"Born in Los Angeles in 1915, Mr. Ogawa spoke English as his first language and spent his career moving between the nations. As editor of The Japan Times, he was known as a voice against ties with China and in favor of strengthening military ties with the United States, at a time many editorial voices in the country disagreed."