Japan Offered Margaret Thatcher Twenty ‘Karate Ladies’
In 1979, leaders from seven countries gathered in Tokyo to discuss important money matters. They had to talk about their continued agreement regarding tariffs and trade, the Iranian Revolution’s effect on oil prices, and theories about what future Star Wars movies might mean for the global economy.
This was the fifth meeting of the group, a group called G7 at the time but sometimes called G6 or G8 depending on just which countries they’ve allowed into their club that week. New to the group was Margaret Thatcher, whose party had won power in the United Kingdom just one month previously.
Thatcher happened to be the first woman to represent a G7 country. Britain had earlier sent Prime Ministers James Callaghan and Harold Wilson, and Thatcher would actually go on to be one of only a handful of women to ever represent G7 countries, along with Angela Merkel and Canada’s Kim Campbell. Apparently, Japan believed that Thatcher needed special protection during her visit. For this reason, they offered to provide her with 20 “karate ladies” as her security escort.
We only learned about this offer in 2009, when Britain’s National Archives, under the law, had to release its 30-year-old documents to the public. These documents included correspondence between Japan’s foreign officer and Britain’s Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, who is a very real person. Originally, the Lord Privy Seal kept a literal seal for Crown documents, while nowadays, it's similar to most British positions, in that the person in the role does nothing.
In 1979, the Lord Privy Seal turned down Japan’s offer. Twenty karate ladies would make the prime minister look awkward in photos, he said. Britain wanted no extra security detail for Thatcher just because she was a woman. He said he would be open to every single G7 leader having a karate escort twenty fighters strong (probably, the other leaders would get “karate gentlemen,” he said). Japan did not put that plan into action. A gathering of 140 karate experts in one place could pose an even bigger threat to the G7 countries than anyone previously targeting them. A seven-nation army couldn’t hold them back.
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Top image: Hthaostudio.com