The Japan That Can Say "No” (1989)
"What I Was Really Trying to Say”
The Japan That Can Say “No” (co-written with Shintaro Ishihara) has become a topic of discussion in the States. I’m talking about the press conference preceding the HDTV hearing, where a section of the American press suggested it was anti-American after reading materials that had been translated into English and circulated.
The fact that the book was quickly translated is one piece of evidence that reflects the concern that America had about Japan at this time, and besides, it was a kind of pirate copy, as it had been done without our consent.
The book originated from the occasional lectures that Shintaro gave and at which I also spoke. A publisher that read some quick recordings of the event thought they were really interesting and suggested a book, so we met again and talked at length.
We didn’t verbally spar about the issues, but on a given topic I would share my thoughts and then Shintaro would share his. The lecture on which the book was based was also done in this style, with Shintaro speaking, and then myself speaking in answer to each question.
The book therefore was also laid out, not in a discussion style, but as a relay essay, with Shintaro expressing his thoughts, followed by myself.
The main points and contentions of my criticism of America were the same as those laid out in “Made in Japan” (Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc.). Moreover, in “Made in Japan” there was a page critical of Japan.
For example, I suggest that Japanese corporations in America should immerse themselves in the community. If there is a PTA meeting, a Japanese couple should go together, as the Americans do, rather than just the mothers going, only speaking to the other Japanese mothers, and returning home. They didn’t need to do ‘exactly as the locals do’, but they shouldn’t neglect their community service.
There was also a request in there for the Japanese government—to think more about its role in the world. In the case of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), out of the top 18 GNP nations, Japan is 15th, and in terms of aid without so called ‘strings attached’, we are bottom. This is embarrassing for the World’s second largest economy.
As a country influenced by Christianity, there is a strong emphasis on philanthropy in the United States. There is a belief that people in trouble must be helped, and it is wrong to ignore or avoid helping.
Japan, which was helped when in trouble, despite becoming wealthy, does not help others in need. This was a criticism laid against Japan and I made this criticism in “The Japan That Can Say “No””.
America understood this and when I skimmed over articles published in Time, The New York Times and Fortune Magazine, I got the impression that they reasonably reflected what I had said.
Rather, it was Japanese media that has a tendency to react. One Japanese newspaper reported that the US Government and Diet would see Shintaro’s tone as brash and as the book was co-written by Akio Morita, it would alarm government and business circles that Japan’s leading technologies were bent on dominating the World.
However, this was excessive imagination and there’s not much one can say to the suggestion that publishing this book somehow equates to World domination. There were people that also concluded that Shintaro and myself were on the offensive against the American government, but this was also a grave misunderstanding.
(Continued in Volume 11)
( Extract from"Nijuisseki e" (Towards the 21st Century), published by WAC)