Tofu and natto are made from soy beans. Both of them are quite healthy and contain high quality vegetable proteins and fibers. They are very affordable (less than $5) in Japan, so it is quite common for regular consumers in Japan to eat them. Tofu is popular in foreign countries, and it has a fairly plain taste. However, natto has very unique texture and smell, and foreigners do not usually like it.
In the April 20 issue of the magazine AERA, the wife of commentator Shigeaki Koga was quoted as saying that she would be willing to eat only tofu and natto for the rest of her life. Most of the article was about Koga himself, but there were a few quotes from his wife. The article was written by his friend, Hajime Imai who is a journalist. As Imai is one of closest friends of Koga, he is friendly with Koga’s wife. Thus, in the article, he interviewed Koga’s wife as well.
The article was written a couple of weeks after Koga made an appearance on a live news show where he stated that he would no longer be invited to the show due to the decision by the network executives, who had given in to political pressure. This incident was seen as shocking and it was reported under headlines such as “Koga’s Suicide Bomb Attack at TV Asahi” and “Koga Conducts Attack On Pearl Harbor.” After that, his scheduled appearances on key TV stations were cancelled, but he continued to appear in local TV stations. Koga and his wife expected that, as a consequence of this behavior, he would temporarily lose part of his income. But still, his wife did supported him.
Koga is often referred to as “Don Quixote” meaning that he challenges people in power and institutions that are so much bigger than him, and he does not mind if there is no chance of prevailing. Because he always lives like this, there have been many times when he missed opportunities to make money because he stuck to his political convictions. For example, he was offered a cushy job when he retired from METI, but he refused such opportunity. Through the custom of amakudari, he could have earned ten million yen (approximately 82,300 USD) per year by working at a corporation or organization with close ties to METI, but he declined to do so. (Amakudari is the custom by which ministry officials are hired by private corporations that have close ties with ministries after they retire.) Imai reported that his wife did not complain about this at all.
For example, after Koga retired, the CEO of a company offered to establish another company with a focus on making Japan better. The CEO offered to pay one million yen monthly (approximately $8,233) to Koga until the company generated enough revenue to become profitable. However, he declined this offer, saying that if he obtains funding from a corporation, then he will not be able to say anything critical about that corporation. This would limit his scope as a critic.
In the article, Koga’s wife said that she is not interested in having a luxurious life, and that she is okay with eating tofu and natto everyday since they are good for one’s health. There are many Japanese people who like tofu and natto, but even for those who like them, it would be extremely hard to eat just that every day for the rest of their lives. Even the food eaten by Buddhist monks — called shojin ryori — that does not include any meat or fish has more variety. So in some sense, Koga’s wife is willing to adopt a diet that is much stricter than monks, which says something about how much his wife is dedicated to him. Koga is able to live according to his political beliefs because he has a partner who is willing to eat only tofu and natto for the her rest of her life.