Japan bashing, passing progresses to ‘fixing’

by Eric Johnston

Staff writer

FUKUOKA — Over the past decade, the U.S. relationship with Japan has gone from “Japan bashing” to “Japan passing” to “Japan nothing.”

Now, with Washington dishing out increased criticism of Japan’s economic policies, the relationship is in a period of “Japan fixing,” according to delegates to an international symposium of Japan-American societies.

Addressing both countries’ roles on the world stage, Takakazu Kuriyama, former ambassador to the United States, noted that a Japanese prime minister was once derided for being a “transistor salesman,” but that all world leaders now serve as sales representatives for their countries.

Globalization of goods and capital is forcing political change, and as the U.S. and Japan have shared values — including respect for human rights and democracy — the relationship will remain important in the 21st century, Kuriyama said.

Stephanie Weston, a local university professor who once worked at the U.S. consulate in Fukuoka, spoke after Kuriyama. Weston challenged some of Kuriyama’s assumptions, especially in regard to how both countries view human rights in Southeast Asia. She added that there are serious questions in both countries about Japan’s ability to assume a larger role.

“On what level does Japan want to be an international player?” Weston asked. “Japan is impeded by passive politicians and bureaucrats who respond to emergencies too slowly, be they international like the Persian Gulf War or domestic like the Kobe earthquake,” she said.