A Japanese magazine paid $1,000 as a thank-you fee for an interview with Nancy Reagan after the person who arranged the interview approached the magazine and asked what kind of "gratitude" would be forthcoming once the interview was granted, a spokeswoman for the publication said today.
Speaking on behalf of Shufu no Tomo, a widely read women's monthly magazine, an editorial staff member said in a telephone interview that the money was meant as an honorarium for Mrs. Reagan in "gratitude" for granting the interview, which appeared in the magazine's March edition. She declined to name the person who arranged the interview.
The spokeswoman, who asked not to be identified, said the money was a token of gratitude and was not intended as a donation to charity, as earlier reports in the Japanese press indicated.
"The money was given to Mrs. Reagan in thanks for the interview," said the spokeswoman, who was present for the interview. "It is only common sense that we should have expressed our gratitude in some way."
Before the interview, she said, "We were asked by the person who arranged the interview what we were thinking about in terms of 'gratitude.' We gave the answer, again based on our common sense, which was $1,000. In our business, it is quite natural that we give thank-you fees to people who collaborate with us."
The interview, conducted by popular Japanese writer Fuyuko Kamisaka, appears in the magazine's March edition. In the seven-page article, Kamisaka indicates that U.S. national security adviser Richard Allen played a key role in helping to arrange the meeting with Mrs. Reagan.
Allen has denied that he arranged the interview, although he acknowledges that he took part in the meeting between the Japanese interviewing team and Mrs. Reagan. White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes said it lasted only about five minutes.
Kamisaka, however, said the session lasted "at least 15 to 20 minutes." Asked about Allen's denial that he arranged the interview, she said, "That's really funny, because without the assistance of Mr. Allen the interview would never have been realized."
Among the nearly 20 photographs in the March article is one of a smiling Allen seated beside Kamisaka and Chizuko Takase, who acted as Kamisaka's interpreter with the first lady.
In a chatty style, Kamisaka described at length how Takase, a close friend and the wife of a professor at Kyoto Sangyo University, acted as a go-between with Allen in helping to set up the meeting. Takase's husband, Tamotsu, has a longtime commercial and social relationship with Allen. Tamotsu Takase serves as a commercial consultant to a number of Japanese corporate and government interests.
When asked about Allen's role in the interview, she referred the questioner to the March article, which prominently mentions Allen and Takase as the persons who helped the magazine arrange the interview.
According to a White House account given by Speakes, Mrs. Reagan gave the interview to Shufu no Tomo on Jan. 21.
Mainichi, a Japanese-language daily, carried a front-page story on the incident, but its report quoted the editor who accompanied the interviewer as saying that the money, in an envelope, was given to someone in Mrs. Reagan's party.
Asked if the money had been given to Allen, Mainichi reported that the editor said, "I don't remember, but I thought he was a close aide to Mrs. Reagan ."
According to the account in Mainichi, the $1,000 was meant as an honorarium for Mrs. Reagan that was to be donated to charity under a prior arrangement.
Allen has asserted that he took the money and gave it over to his secretary because he understood such practices to be a Japanese custom and refusal to accept it would embarrass the Japanese journalists.
The spokesman for Shufu no Tomo said in her estimation, the White House version of the incident "is quite accurate."
A former executive editor of another widely circulated Japanese monthly magazine, who did not want his name used, confirmed that it is an established custom for weekly and monthly magazines here to offer token payments to individuals who grant interviews.
"If editors think it is a really big story," he said, "they may pay out large sums of money. Usually there is some kind of agreement between the parties on how much money should be paid and in what form."
Recipients of such generous "thank-you" fees, he said, may include Japanese political or business figures or any person in a position of respect and authority, especially if an exclusive interview is involved. As a general rule, large Japanese daily newspapers, which form the core of the press establishment here, do not pay honorariums for interviews.
The editor said, however, that the "usual case is not to push it very hard." If someone refuses to accept a gratuity, he said, the standard response is to "withdraw it and then try to express our gratitude in some other way, such as sending a Japanese doll or some other similar gift."
In the Mainichi article, Kamisaka said the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department asked her about the interview with Reagan but it "was not an interrogation."
Regarding the thank-you fee, she said in the Mainichi article, "It was just normal and correct" journalistic practice.
She quoted officials of the Metropolitan Police Department as telling her, "We are investigating a White House official, but there's no suspicion about you or the publishing house." The writer added, "I got a thank-you letter for the interview from Mrs. Reagan."