Dewi Sukarno

Dewi Sukarno, nee Naoko Nemoto, 68, is the widow of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno. When she married him in 1959, the then 19-year-old Japanese beauty was no accidental Cinderella: From age 5, she had meticulously prepared herself for a leading role in history. Much like Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the 16th-century daimyo who catapulted himself from humble beginnings to the nation’s most powerful post, the cultivated Dewi rose to the challenge to support Sukarno’s nation-building. The pair established strong ties between Japan and Indonesia, but following assassination attempts, a military coup and ultimately her husband’s death in 1970, Dewi went into exile from Indonesia. By the ’80s, though, she was back in Jakarta working on major deals for American and European engineering and construction contractors. After 40 years abroad, in 1999, she moved to Tokyo, where she runs several companies and charities, and a household where 11 dogs chase staff and guests around.

Dewi SukarnoDewi Sukarno

Words will capture a woman’s heart faster than riches. I could have married many wealthy men before I met Sukarno. But he asked me to be his inspiration, his strength, and the joy of his life. I knew I would never hear such poetic words again even if I lived to be 100. So I dedicated my life to him.

We all have lots of opportunities. Only those with no purpose or aim fail to realize all the chances they are presented with.

Everything was calculated. In 1945, Tokyo was devastated. I looked at the sky and promised myself that I was going to fly out of this place and see the world.

I was a child of anger. Now I’m grateful for the experience of war and poverty, because it made me strong. I only wanted to know about world history. Then, I wanted to make history.

Even if we are poor, literature can make our lives rich. My uncle had lots of books and I borrowed them all: Stefan Zweig, Stendhal, Zola, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Andre Gide, Emily Bronte, all of Shakespeare and more. I created a world in my head that was fair, just, fun and full of color.

People who ask for advice never succeed. I never got any. Asking for advice means one wants to confirm whether one is right. I know I am, so I don’t need to ask anyone anything, ever. And if and when I am wrong, I take full responsibility for my mistakes. Not that I’ve made many.

It’s shameful to feel guilt and atonement. Japanese politicians should get rid of their inferiority complex about the war. All Japanese need to feel more pride. Those who make Japanese feel guilty are the real criminals. I am amazed at the strong guilt complex Japanese have about World War II. Japan entered the war for its own survival. At that time, other nations had imposed economic sanctions against us. To be or not to be, we had no choice.

A dream is nothing unless you make it come true. The difference between successful people and dreamers is the effort and work they put into a day. Most people dream of this and that, sitting down, doing nothing. I dream, get up and work for it.

Behind every success, there is always tremendous sacrifice. If you want to get something, you always have to lose a lot, too. I lost my beloved mom and brother. If I didn’t marry Sukarno, they’d be still alive. My mother missed me too much and her heart broke. Two days after her death, my brother committed suicide. That day was my 22nd birthday. Those two deaths crucified me. I will always wonder if there was a way to have saved them.

People often give names to things to hide their real nature, not reveal it. Between 1966-69, General Suharto’s people, backed by the United States, killed over 1 million Indonesians with the excuse of “red-hunting.” Of course, those victims were not all communists; many were just followers of Sukarno. The White House wanted Sukarno out of the way because he was becoming too popular and was uniting Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Arab countries. He was creating a third force to balance the power of the world. This third force was later called the Third World by people who gave it a meaning that was very different from what Sukarno envisioned.

God never even existed. If he did, the world would not be this unfair. I have studied every religion and come to this conclusion. We create our own gods; it’s a state of mind.

I can handle anything. I’m a fighter, and I never give up. From 1980-90, I worked in Suharto’s regime under his cronies and fought humiliation every day. These were people in high positions who used to be below us.

If you stand apart, they will try to shoot you down. The United States and the Soviet Union dominated the world around the 1960s via all-out war, trade embargos or covert operations. The U.S. needed Indonesia, which is the third-richest country in natural resources. But Sukarno had just achieved independence from the Dutch and didn’t want to be controlled. The U.S. requested that Sukarno allow them to have military bases in Indonesia in order to control the Pacific, but he refused, while Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand all accepted U.S. bases. Therefore the Pentagon hated Sukarno, and the CIA tried to assassinate him five times.

Once you marry a man with real power, you can’t just marry anyone. When I went into exile in Europe, Paris society rolled out the red carpet and admired me as the Pearl of the Orient. Prince Aga Khan, the Duke of Sabran, I met so many charismatic men, but none compared to Sukarno.

Look at history as it is. History is the lies of the winners validated by biased reporting. I can never trust the media anywhere, anytime. The news is usually incorrect, and the problem goes beyond local journalists who might be honest and try their best. The information supplied to them is all wrong and controlled by the powerful. Recently, MI6 and the CIA admitted to supplying fake facts to news organizations during my husband’s presidency. Today, mobile phones provide fresher news and bring us closer to the truth than day-old newspapers.

Independence means luxury. I’m spiritually, physically and financially free. I don’t owe anything to anyone.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK’s “Out and About.” Learn more at:

Coronavirus banner