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The Japan That Can Say No - Why Japan Will Be First Among Equals.


THE JAPAN THAT CAN SAY NO -- Why Japan Will Be The First Among Equals by Shintaro Ishihara (Simon and Schuster) is a slim volume with a remarkably explosive history, and content to match. It was first printed in Japanese, essentially as a collaboration between Ishihara and Akio Morita, outspoken chairman of the Sony Corp., who has long been critical of American attitudes and industrial practices.

The idea apparently, was that -- as in so many other cases -- the publication would be read only in and by the Japanese. But, it was translated (and apparently very poorly so) by the U.S. Department of Defense, and the reverberations rumbled loudly across an outraged Washington.

Ishihara then wanted to arrange an "official" English translation, but Morita refused, apparently fearing a backlash against Sony's commercial interests in the U.S.

The current volume represents an "update" by Ishihara and is certainly a most outspoken representation of what probably represents a popular critical view of the United States, though it is rarely expressed by "high-level" Japanese.

It is difficult to understand why American officials and executives should be so resentful of Ishihara's pointed observations concerning the negative aspects of the U.S. industrial complex and its practices.

A lot of Ishihara's points have been made -- and probably a lot better -- by Americans themselves. Ishihara, though he does criticize the Japanese, certainly focuses his rapier wit on the Americans, going remarkably easy on his own people.

He does allow that Japan's foreign policy is "obviously inadequate" for today's world, and that Japan, as well as the U.S., are to blame for current bilateral tensions. But he argued that racial prejudice underlies Japan-bashing. "The American melting pot is a failure," he maintained, adding that "America is bigoted when it comes to the blacks and the Asians, and the Yanks should fight that attitude."

He casually mentioned that the "Japanese are probably prejudiced too," but failed to note that anti-black sentiment in Japan is so strong, it's difficult to release a movie starring a black actor--nor do the Japanese like the Koreans.

Not all of what Ishihara writes is this one-sided. Basically, his book argues that times have changed, and Japan is destined to become "the first among equals," an accepted and respected partner of the United States in world affairs, and not a resented upstart which these days, dares to criticize the U.S. and even has the nerve to propose improvements in the way American industry and the economy are run.

U.S. products, he stated flatly, are often faulty and foisted on a country like Japan, which -- by his lights -- would never turn out such shoddy merchandise.

"American management style and technique must change," insisted Ishihara, and must raise the low level of workers' basic skills.

Ishihara, a prominent writer, movie director, and member of the Japanese Diet, wrote that "Americans should realize the modern era is over. Their cherished beliefs in materialism, science and progress have born bitter fruit...and now, in economics, Japan is outpacing the United States."

As for American attitudes vis-a-vis Japan, Ishihara argued, "We are in and of the Orient. Calling us an unfair trading nation because we do not do things the American way is a low blow." The Western and Eastern versions of Japan are not incompatible, he felt. The future will be dictated by the U.S., Japan and Europe.

"The kind of trade friction that exists between Japan and the U.S. would not occur if a West Germany, Britain or Australia had achieved our economic power and standing," Ishihara argued.

"They must purge themselves of their bigotry and understand that the world is at one of those moments of epochal change. We are on the verge of a new genesis.

"America emerged as the premier world power only decades ago, towards the end of the modern era. That Japan, an Oriental country, is about to supplant them in some major fields is what annoys the Americans so much."

Yes, quite true. That and the patronizing tone of Ishihara's book. Perhaps he should take a look at Ichiro Kawasaki's equally outspoken book, Japan Unmasked. It tends to balance the equation.
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Title Annotation:A Guide for Bookworms
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 1991
Previous Article:Editor's letter.
Next Article:100-year plan makes Japan the world's leader.

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