Tamogami behind 78 other ASDF essay entries?

Kyodo News

A total of 78 Air Self-Defense Force members submitted essays to the same writing contest that ASDF Chief of Staff Gen. Toshio Tamogami just got fired for winning with a piece trying to justify Japan’s war role, Defense Ministry officials revealed Thursday in a meeting with Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers.

Meanwhile, an Upper House committee on foreign and defense policies, dominated by the opposition, decided the same day to summon Tamogami to a committee session next Tuesday and grill him over his essay.

The finding fueled suspicion the essays were orchestrated by Tamogami, since 62 of the 78 belong to an ASDF unit in Ishikawa Prefecture formerly commanded by him.

In addition, the Apa Group, a hotel and condominium developer that organized the “True Modern History” essay contest, is headed by one of Tamogami’s friends and has a major office in the prefecture.

Tamogami, 60, retired from the ministry Monday with full benefits after being dismissed over the fallout from the prizewinning essay, in which he railed against Japan’s official stance on the war by stating: “It is certainly a false accusation to say that our country was an aggressor nation” before and during World War II.

The essay was publicized after it won the competition’s ¥3 million top prize and immediately drew condemnation from China and South Korea.

In disclosing the findings to the chief opposition party’s foreign affairs and defense panel, the officials also revealed that the education division of the Defense Ministry’s Air Staff Office told officers that writing an essay for the competition would help their training, DPJ lawmakers quoted the officials as saying. This implies Tamogami might have had a hand in organizing the submissions.

Since 235 essays were apparently submitted for the contest, the ASDF’s 78 would constitute about 30 percent of the total. Nobody from the Ground or Maritime Self-Defense forces participated in the contest, they said.

Of the 78, 62 belong to Air Wing 6 at Komatsu base in Ishikawa Prefecture, which Tamogami commanded from 1998 to 1999. One of the Apa Group’s head offices is in the prefectural capital, Kanazawa. Tamogami said he became acquainted with Apa Group chief Toshio Motoya while commanding the wing.

In a related move, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Thursday in the House of Councilors Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense that he wants Tamogami to voluntarily return his ¥60 million retirement allowance.

Hamada and three other senior defense officials have already taken partial pay cuts.